The 21st century has seen rapid urbanisation and the global population is now expected to grow to more than 8.3 billion by 2050. Currently, 800m hectares – 38% of the earth’s land surface – is farmed and we’ll soon need to give over another 100m hectares if we continue to use current agricultural methods. That’s not additional fertile land that actually exists though, so some are investigating the potential of vertical farming.
It has been suggested that a 30 storey 27,800,000 m2 vertical farm could be achieved within one New York City block. That farm could feed 50,000 people, providing 2,000 calories for every person each day. With results like that as a prospect, it’s easy to see why enthusiasts see vertical farms as the future.
Vertical farms are still very much at the conceptual stage. The idea is to cultivate crops on multiple levels within high-rise buildings in urban areas. It’s not an entirely new proposition, with architect Ken Yeang suggesting a vision of high-rise plant cultivation in mixed-use skyscrapers as early as the 1980s. Professor Dickson Despommier, the leading international advocate of vertical farms, describes them as “a global solution” to the world’s urban food needs.
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