How Will Vertical Farming Work?
According to scientific calculations, a single vertical farm that will occupy about one square block of a city and elevated up to 30 stories can provide enough food to supply the needs of about 10,000 people. Constructing these vertical farm units will develop a closed in system where waste products, air, water and minerals, needed by plants and vegetables to thrive, will be recycled within the building. It aims to generate energy, maintain a pesticide-free farming technology, effective waste management as a means of sustaining food production all within one vertical farm building. Channeling the city's wastes into its system which will undergo bioremediation process makes it a feasible integration to the farming technology.
There is still a long way to go in constructing these vertical farms, since the aim is to generate greater yields for every square foot that the system uses. Therefore, it requires intensive researches in various fields, like industrial microbiology, hydrobiology, engineering, physics, plant and animal genetics, waste management, public health and urban planning, to name only a few.
The researches have to support the concept of addressing food production in a modern city, where urban wastes, like black water will be composted, recycled and used for farming inside a standard tenement-like building. This will be expected to improve the living conditions since transportation costs in handling food supply and wastes will be greatly reduced.
Hydrophonic methods which denote raising plants using water instead of soil will come into focus. This is a system already in use by some small industries. Hydrophonics was developed by a German scientist out of concern for the depleting effects of commercial agriculture over the land used.
The city's sewage sludge will enter a machine called “SlurryCarb", to break down the sludge into carbon and water. The remaining slurry will be burned like coal to power steam turbines that will generate electricity. Part of the sludge will be treated with chemicals to kill the bacteria and will undergo heating and drying process that will convert the treated sludge into topsoil. Water extracted will undergo bio-remediation processes using cattails, sawgrass and zebra mussels, until it becomes clean enough for agricultural use. It can also be subjected for further refinement until safe enough to be used as drinking water.
Vertical Farming Advantages and Disadvantages
Aside from the main objective of giving the damaged agricultural resources the chance to rehabilitate and re-develop biodiversity, vertical farming as a self-sustaining method of food production will also bring the following possible benefits:
1. Crops will be protected from harsh weather conditions and disturbances like typhoons, hurricanes, floods, droughts, snow and the likes. Food production as well as food transport will not be affected.
2. Crops will be consumed immediately upon harvest since there is no need to transport them to far-off places. Spoilage will also be lessened.
3. The use of chemicals as pesticides will be eliminated; hence, even vector borne diseases can be prevented.
4. Waste reduction, especially those coming from fast foods and restaurants will be composted in every vertical farm building; this will also result to less garbage for rats and cockroaches to thrive on.
5. Reduction in vehicular transport is also foreseen; there will be less demand for delivery trucks, garbage trucks and other utilities.
6. Overall wellness because city wastes will be channeled directly into the farm building's recycling system, hence, less bacteria can find its way in the environment and the atmosphere.
7. Abandoned or unused properties will be used productively.
It cannot be helped that there will be skeptics who will not be easily convinced about the benefits of vertical farming. In fact, the advantage of providing additional employment cannot be cited as such, since the system will require much automation. On top of that, other occupations like farming, delivery drivers, garbage collectors and even garbage scavengers will be placed at a disadvantage. Other possible disadvantages are:
1. The initial phase will be cost intensive, and certain flaws integrated in the system that may appear during its initial run can still dampen efforts for its full maximization.
2. There will be fewer variety of foods to choose from because not all plants and vegetables are suitable in a controlled and limited environment.
3. The public will find it hard to reconcile with the idea of using black water for food production.
The whole idea may seem too ambitious and there are mixed reactions about the concept of vertical farming and the recycling of black water. The current state not only of our environment, but also of the world population's general health conditions leave us with no other choice but to try anything that offers even just a glimmer of hope. Vertical farming offers more than a glimmer, because its premises are all based from lessons of the past.