Vertical farming

Higher topic: Gardening
Underlying topic(s):

Potential designs for vertical farms
Topic in Gardening courses. By John Eagles.

Vertical farming is a form of agriculture that uses vertically inclined surfaces or is practiced in skyscrapers. Although different concepts have been developed, no large-size vertical farm has been built yet. Vertical farms would be meant to increase food production inside crowded cities. Not only food and vegetables but also poultry and fish could be cultivated.

Vertical farms would have to make use of advanced greenhouse technology such as drip irrigation,[1] hydroponics,[2] aquaponics [3] and aeroponics.[4]

The most cited idea for vertical farming comes from Dickson Despommier,[5] a professor of environmental health and microbiology at Columbia University in New York, who developed the concept in 1999.

Characteristics of a vertical farm

Despommier believed that a vertical farm occupying the place of a city block, 30 storeys high, could feed 10,000 people. Farms of at least 200 vertical meters (30 to 40 storeys) are technically plausible. Water transpirated by plants could be collected to produce pure water. Basements could be used to cleanse waste water. A device for biogas would produce carbon dioxide that can be reused as a gas fertilizer for plants.

The vertical farm would produce fruit and vegetables, as well as edible mushrooms and algae the year round. Some projects include animals and animal products (chicken and eggs, fish or pork).


Because natural light would not be sufficiently come, artificial lighting would be necessary. In addition to this, artificial heating may be required in some climates or seasons of the year. Critics say that these energy costs would be too high. Notable are the energy costs for construction, heating the building, recycling water, generating artificial light.[6] However, on the positive side of this calculation are savings in transport costs.

Productivity for some plants could be higher as the cultivation can take place the year round.

It also remains to be shown that this type of agriculture would be resistant against particular pests and plant diseases.

Personally i am worried about the quality of the vegetables and fruits produced. Thanks to the working of micro-organisms in the soil, plants that grow in rich soils are fed with much more than a few chemical nutrients. Also, there is a distinct difference in quality between crops grown in natural sunlight compared to synthetic light. Maybe the idea is more feasible not in big production units but on top floors of already existing sky scrapers or on balconies of apartments in high buildings. --JE

See also


  1. Drip irrigation is an irrigation method that saves water and fertilizer by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants. See also Drip irrigation - Wikipedia
  2. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. See also Hydroponics - Wikipedia
  3. Aquaponics is a sustainable food production system that combines a traditional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. See also Aquaponics - Wikipedia
  4. Aeroponics is the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium. See also Aeroponics - Wikipedia
  5. Dickson Despommier - Wikipedia
  6. Adam Stein - Cities are for People: The Limits of Localism; August 8, 2008

External links

  • The Vertical Farm
  • Vertical farming "Vertical farming is a concept that argues that it is economically and environmentally viable to cultivate plant or animal life within skyscrapers, or on vertically inclined surfaces." - Wikipedia