Perhaps some of y’all have heard about a cool concept called Vertical Farming.  Basically the idea is exactly as it sounds, building agricultural infrastructure vertically in dense urban applications.  This may sound a bit wacky in theory, but the ideas behind vertical farms are valid and address serious issues that we may be facing down the road.  For starters, more and more people are moving into cities around the world.  Experts anticipate that 80% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050 with an additional 3 billion mouths to feed.  We’re already farming over 80% of our land’s capacity… Vertical farms have a long way to go before they reach a production state, but several concepts have been developed to help us visualize the idea.  Here’s a rockin’ rendering by SOA Architects.

Primary benefits of bringing food production into the city include:

  • Drastically reduces fossil fuel use.. ie transport, tractors, plows, etc.
  • Food is fresher
  • Year round crop production increases profitability
  • All food is grown organically
  • No weather related crop failures: droughts, floods, wildfires, pests.
  • Composting non-edible parts of agriculture can be used as methane biomass energy production
  • Can convert abandoned urban properties into food production centers
  • Municipalities can become more self-sufficient

Small scale experiments are suggesting that farming in controlled indoor environments can dramatically increase efficiencies.  1 indoor acre is the equivalent to 4-6 outdoor acres or more, depending upon the crop.  Strawberries can be as much as 30 times more productive than traditional outdoor farming.

Here’s another out of the box concept, this one by Blake Kurasek.  Above is the macro scale of the building, and below is a close up of its production opportunities.

A key element to effective vertical farming is access to solar energy.  Erik Ellingsen and Dickson Despommier determined that a pyramid is a pretty fab structure for solar exposure.  Ironically, desert environments like Egypt, Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates might benefit the most from indoor agriculture.

I’m totally jones’n on this concept… It’s like a farmers market to the extreme!  Imagine being able to walk to your local vertical farm and load up on fresh produce, picked earlier that day.  It’s still years out before we see a building used exclusively for agriculture… this should give me ample time to teach myself how to cook!


About Joshua Foss

Joshua is a leading voice for transformational change. He is the editor of Metro Hippie, co-founder and director of development of the Ecala Group, and adjunct faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He is also an ambassador for the Living Building Challenge and is a frequent speaker at national conferences, trade shows and summits.