Monday, December 14, 2009

Space Jam (I prefer Raspberry)

Vertical Farming makes sense on this planet, right now. But I digress.

If you're one of those people who disagrees, who'd rather continue to depredate this planet, maybe we can find common ground in outer space.

Mitchell Joaqim, Friend of Vertical Farms, Announced as a TED Fellow

Today, Mitchell Joaqim, whom I've mentioned here, has been chosen as a TED Fellow for the upcoming 2010 TED Conference in Long Beach, CA. Here's a list of all the Fellows. Here's the short bio on Mr. Joaqim:
Architect and co-founder of Terreform ONE, a non-profit design group that promotes green design in cities.
If you aren't familiar with TED, you're missing out. Go to and watch presentations given by all the brightest people around on the most interesting topics you can imagine, for free.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Why Have the Climate Talks Neglected Food?

Seriously? It's no longer a secret that agriculture is a major contributor of greenhouse gasses. Reuters reports:
When that indirect effect [of deforestation] is included, farming accounts for
nearly a third of global greenhouse gases.
This report from Iowa State University (can't get enough of the Hawkeye state) tells a different story, but it still puts agriculture's impact on greenhouse gas emissions at a very noteworthy level.

Why would the Climate Change Summit ignore it?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Root for Local (Vertical) Produce

GOOD, a group the Vertical Farmer loves, published this infographic (an image created to illustrate boring numbers data, see more here) showing how far "local" produce travels from plant to plate compared to that distance for "conventional" produce. The results are shocking.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Climategate: Bad News For Vertical Farms?

In case you haven't heard yet, Global Warming (GW) is a big hoax and Al Gore is a liar, a thief, a hypocrite, and soon to become the world's first carbon billionnaire. Oh, and he also has big socks and big feet...or at least a big footprint of carbon. The billionaire part is cool (can we have some?), but the other parts...not so much.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Vertical Farming Makes the TIME 50 Best Inventions List

Valcent Technology's VertiCrop System, which I wrote about here, was just announced as one of TIME's 50 Best Inventions of 2009. It is number 16.

Congratulations to Valcent for this recognition for its work in sustainable agriculture!

But is this really a Vertical Farm?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The UN Committed to Solving Global Hunger? Don't Be Fooled

We must give money to farmers in developing countries. It is, according to Jacques Diouf*:
“The most effective way to eliminate hunger from the face of the Earth.”
Bloomberg News published that in an article today that expounds the UN's commitment to curing the global hunger problem through, essentially, financial aid. The article almost convinced me that the UN is doing everything within their power to rectify this horrifying injustice.

But then I thought about subsidies.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Floating Vertical Farm

Small ports, Grub Hubs, dot the city's seaboard, serving hospitals, schools and restaurants, receiving and distributing food day and night. Floating Farms run on Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), which produces electricity and also turns seawater into fresh water, and underwater wind turbines that capture the power of tides (see: Verdant Power.) River Gyms act also as shipping vessels, bringing workers to the Vertical Farm, and delivering food to the dozens of Grub Hubs (also the name of a great website). Subways and Eco-vans further distribute the food, running fully on clean energy. Everyone is healthier. Everyone is happier. It's one vision; do you like it?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Today's Sciene Fiction Is Tomorrow's Science Fact

Some wonder whether Vertical Farms are too pie-in-the-sky. Some, like me, believe the idea is too good to pass-up. The true value of Vertical Farms, according to Cliff Kuang at Fast Company, may be the jolt of creativity it delivers to a bored world:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Through the Looking Glass

If you don't already know the term "ethylene tetrafluoroethylene," listen up. A light-weight, durable, self-cleaning, transparent alternative to plastic that was introduced years ago may prove to be useful in Vertical Farms, whenever and wherever they pop up.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Vertical Your Bedroom?

You want the benefits of local food production but you don't want to wait for Vertical Farms? How about Home Farming by Philips Design? Intrigued by the consequences of long-term social trends such as "the growth in popularity of organic produce, implications of genetic modification...and rising food prices," teams at Philips developed a way to grow some of what we eat for dinner in our own kitchens.

Read more about the Food Probe, as Philips dubbed this design project, on Treehuger, Inhabitat or Designboom.

(photo from Philips)

There's a Movement Afoot

It was a night to hobnob with farmers of the urban variety. In honor of Jane Jacobs, the writer and activist to first articulate the need for humans to live in cities, the Municipal Arts Society of New York City hosted its 2nd annual panel discussion last night, featuring five authorities on urban sustainability, entitled Re-Imagining New York: Designing Urban Farms to Feed Our City. Over 300 attendees prodded and applauded the panelists, who covered issues from politics to biology over the brief one and a half hour forum (and a reception afterward.) Here's a rundown, in reverse-alphabetical, of who last night's panelists are and what they said.

UPDATE: Listen to the entire panel discussion here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Love from Lancaster

Tracy Sutton, an editor at The Lancaster Daily News, wrote a piece about Vertical Farming on Friday. Thoughtful and informative, the article addresses concerns raised by Cornell Controlled Environment Agriculture research director, Dr. Louis Albright and quells each of them with excerpts from her phone conversation with Dr. Dickson Despommier.

One issue that Dr. Albright does not have with Vertical Farms is the matter of taste, and for good reason. Ms. Sutton explains:
The space age of hydroponic technology is all very fine and good, but what about the taste of hydroponic vegetables? Isn’t dirt primal? Doesn’t it give our food some essential flavor that water-soluble nutrient solution can’t?

No, says Despommier and gives a recitation of the chemical compounds that go into plant physiology. “What makes a plant taste good? Flavanoids. Too much water dilutes flavanoids, too little concentrates the sugars. With vertical farming you can control these variables.”

Control everything or control nothing? If you want the best tasting produce you've ever eaten, the choice is Vertical Farms.

Thanks, Tracy, for spreading the word.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Read My Lips: Vertical Farms Can Solve Hunger

For some reason, lots of people have stopped caring about words. From movies and music to cell phones and laptops, it's never been easier to get by without careful consideration of what exactly one communicates than it is now. WTF, BRB, ROTFL: we effort more to do life quickly rather than well, it seems. But most of us are not law-makers and shakers (at least yet), and so this is not where the intoxicating disregard for words is troublesome.

The troubling thing is that those in positions of social influence have fallen victim to this perfidious use of the English language as well; theirs is perhaps more insidious because it is more subtle.

Is "Wow Big Idea" a Bad Thing?

In response to the general public's fascination with, and support of, Vertical Farms, some people have recently written rebuttals of the idea. At least two blogs have attacked the economic viability of Vertical Farming, echoing one another in an empty whimper suggestive of unimaginative minds plodding along with a vague conviction that the status quo is a heaven-sent utopia.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bamboozled: Vertical Biofuel Farms in Croatia?

Croatian architecture firm UPI2M has proposed growing bamboo and algae in Vertical Biofuel Farms in that country's capital, Zagreb, that would be placed on top of existing gas stations, turning these notoriously hard-to-find locales into international landmarks. As treehugger puts it:
It is a clever idea. We all support the idea of local food, why not local fuel?

NY Times on Urban Farming

The New York Times ran a story today that adds nutrients to the solution of urban renewal and sustainable food out of which a Vertical Farm will one day sprout. In another of the long line of press that urban agriculture in general, and Vertical Farms in particular, has received, this piece highlights someone new to the Vertical Farm Blog, but someone seasoned in the hydroponics world, Jennifer Nelkin, and her company, Gotham Greens.

Ms. Nelkin has a Master's degree in Plant Sciences from the University of Arizona, where she honed her hydroponic skills in the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (CEAC) while working with CEA all-stars Merle Jensen and Gene Giacomelli.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dear Mr. Bill Gates...

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in an effort to beget the second Green Revolution, as it is called, has decided to pour $120 million into organizations that will work to assuage hunger in Africa. The particularly noteworthy part of the Foundation's generosity is this: it believes technology can and should be integral in addressing and solving this problem. The Gates Foundation has a history of pursuing these kinds of solutions, and its choice to fund organizations that share its vision speaks to the growing body that rejects the notion that technology and nature are somehow inexorably opposed:
“Productivity or sustainability — they say you have to choose. It’s a false choice,"

Monday, October 19, 2009

Vertical Zoo-topia

Valcent Products Inc., a subsidiary of, and fully-owned by, Valcent Products EU Limited, has developed and installed VertiCrop (top), a "vertical growth system," at the UK's Paignton Zoo Environmental Park in Devon. Even though this Vancouver, B.C.-based company won't be feeding its local population or even feeding humans at all, this is further proof that verticality in hydroponics is catching-on. The "vertical growth system" is a step in the right direction, both in thinking and in doing, towards the goal of sustainable food production that a Vertical Farm will achieve.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Global Warming: Political Alarmism or Scientific Certainty?

Dr.s William Gray (pic. @ bottom), Professor Emeritus of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, and Kevin Trenberth (pic. @ top), head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, recently participated in an in-paper debate on climate change.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vertical What!?

Farm. Restaurant. Hotel. Amusement park? Absolutely! says Dutch design firm, Tjep. Plans for the "huge people processor," as the website puts it, have recently hit the 'net, and, ladies and gentlemen, it is something to behold:
Oogst 1000 Wonderland is a self-sufficient farm, restaurant, hotel and amusement park for 1,000 people per day. All food for the restaurant comes from the central structure and directly adjacent fields. Oogst 1000 combines extreme fun with extreme usefulness.
Well, it certainly does look fun, even if its usefulness isn't its most evident quality. Take a virtual tour of the complex with this fly-through.

In addition to all of this, apparently the operation utilizes waste-to-energy technology, exactly the kind of thinking that full-scale Vertical Farms will demand. They say:
Oogst 1000 Wonderland toilets are also linked to to a bio-gas energy system, so Oogst 1000 offers the worlds first toilets were you actually get paid Euro 0.50- per visit.
As Dickson Despommier says in the movie FUEL, by Josh Tickell, "Power to the poopers."

Read more about Oogst 1000 here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Shenzen, China: City In the Sky

Much more than a Vertical Farm, the Vertical City is a proposal for integrating all aspects of our lives into one behemoth building that incorporates farming, shopping, working, sleeping and eating, according to the pictures. The architects responsible think that they've created something reflective of the communities we desire:
“We had to realize that to make a vertical city is not to make a tower. A city offers a complex set of social and spatial interactions while a tower offers mostly one condition: an elevator to connect a series of repetitive floors. The elevator is the link to everything and therefore your only chance to meet anyone. It is for that reason that we don’t live in towers,” explains [JDS Architects].
What do you think? Check out more pictures and the full story here.

Everybody, Meet Will Allen

In case you don't know him already, the Vertical Farmer is pleased to introduce to you Will Allen, an urban farmer in Milwaukee. He has recently made the GOOD 100 list of people, products and ideas that are making our world a better place. Mr. Allen was awarded the prestigious $500,000 MacArthur grant in 2008, nearly 15 years after founding Growing Power, a community farm aimed at providing healthy, local produce for an inner city food desert, bringing salubrious diets to the malnourished.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Bucknell University students have shown that when it comes to changing the world for the greener, it may be up to the young'ens to lead the charge:
"It's really important to make the commitment to change, even if it's small things," said [Ali] Blumenstock, [20], one of the drivers behind the Sustainable Cooperative at Taylor House, a green residence project formed by the environmental club at [Bucknell]. "It's more than energy efficiency. It's a whole lifestyle."

Vegetarians Save the Planet...?

From a report on Earth Save, the "Healthy People Healthy Planet" website:
Global warming poses one of the most serious threats to the global environment ever faced in human history. Yet by focusing entirely on carbon dioxide emissions, major environmental organizations have failed to account for published data showing that other gases are the main culprits behind the global warming we see today. As a result, they are neglecting what might be the most effective strategy for reducing global warming in our lifetimes: advocating a vegetarian diet.
What do omnivores out there have to say?

Read the report here.

Vertical Algae Bio Reactor: Huh?

Höweler + Yoon Architecture has proposed a temporary vertical algae bio reactor built from prefab pods--Eco Pods--in order to stimulate Boston's downtown area. According to the story:
The pods will serve as bio fuel sources and as micro incubators for flexible research and development programs. As an open and reconfigurable structure, the voids between pods form a network of vertical public parks/botanical gardens housing unique plant species a new Uncommon for the Commons.
So, Vertical Fuel Farms? What do you think?

Read the whole story here.

How Can I Help?

As a follow-up to the last post, here's something from the Mayors Climate Protection Center:
Throughout the nation there is clear evidence that mayoral leadership is producing business and community support for policies that reduce emissions. While progress is already being made in many cities, our goal must be to increase the number of cities involved in the effort, and to equip all cities with the knowledge and tools that ultimately will have the greatest impact on undo the causes of global warming...

...The establishment of the Mayors Climate Protection Center takes us a giant step beyond advocacy of a stronger federal role in reducing emissions. It acknowledges that while mayors recognize the need for a federal partner in this effort, they cannot and will not wait to act until Washington is ready to move on this problem.
Want to know if your mayor is part of this? Check out the list.

And if you fall on the side of those who think that the food crisis is in fact a crisis of governance, and if you think pursuing Vertical Farms is the answer, maybe you should let your mayor know. Write a letter, demand it.

The Vertical Farmer says: change requires only that the next step be taken.

The Hunger Problem: Whose Is It?

European farmers protested low milk prices last week, saying poor governance is to blame for the global food crisis. "Hunger is a political problem," said farmer Sieta van Keimpema, the leader of one protesting group. Others agree:
"It is not the free market that is perverted, but the players in an imperfect free market," says Michiel Keyzer from the Centre for World Food Studies in Amsterdam. He points the finger at governments that created chaos by stimulating the use of biofuels and limiting trade by putting export barriers in place. "Institutions like the G20 don't pay enough attention to the problems that it, meaning the governments themselves, creates."
But some suggest that dumping milk in protest is a waste, and that the milk should have instead been used to make butter that could be sent to Africa.

What do you think?

Read the whole story here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Jakarta Crop Failures: "Use Hydroponics," says Ag Expert

An agriculture expert from IPB recommends using hydroponics methods to protect against crop failures in Indonesia. Warning that El Nino and La Nina threaten national food self-sufficiency efforts,
Herry Suhardiyanto [An agriculture expert from IPB]...recommended [that] farmers should increasingly use glass-houses and hydroponic methods to help prevent crop failure due to unstable weather patterns.
Read the whole story here.