Image credit: Valcent
There's already been a lot of buzz around Valcent's VertiCrop vertical farming systems. And while some of the more fanciful vertical farm concepts are derided by many as unrealistic, and while there's some debate as to whether soil-less growing systems can be regarded as organic, making optimum use of growing space can only help in the quest for truly sustainable agriculture. Now Robert F Kennedy Jr is putting his weight behind vertical farming—presenting on vertical farming and urban agriculture featuring Valcent's VertiCrop system at the U.S. Conference of Mayors.Kennedy's presentation focused on the contribution that vertical farming systems like VertiCrop can play in making urban agriculture a viable economic and ecological proposition:
"Contrary to traditional farming, "VertiCropTM behaves like an ecosystem as waste is recaptured and water is used over and over again," stated Mr. Kennedy. "Substitution of this technology for conventional food production can revitalize agricultural land damaged by traditional farming, rejuvenate abandoned city properties, and help combat health problems such as Type II diabetes and obesity that result, in part, from lack of quality produce in our diets.""
Of course criticisms of vertical and urban farming still shave some merit—namely that urban real estate is generally expensive, and best used for high-density residential and commercial use, with the surrounding farmland being used to feed the city. But such criticisms ignore the fact that formerly industrial sites in cities like Detroit are now lying derelict and are being eyed-up by potential urban farming operations.
A combination of lower real estate prices, higher-efficiency soil-less growing technologies, a lack of manufacturing jobs in our cities, and a workforce that could increasingly work from home—freeing up the need for office space in the process—could mean that urban farming really does have a role to play.
I doubt that we'll ever see a world of high-rise urban farms, but an urban environment that includes efficient, sustainable food growing capacity can only be a good thing in my book. And even if the farms remain in the surrounding countryside, getting the most bang for your buck from each square foot of greenhouse space is still a valuable goal, as this California greenhouse/vertical farm has shown.