When agriculture conquers the sky – Part 2
The rising human population leads to increased demand for optimised agriculture. “Vertical farming” is one very promising method within many new approaches.
According to the ideas of scientists and planers, vertical farms grow into enormous heights. A building with 30 storeys could supply 50,000 people with vegetables, fruit, eggs, fish and chicken. Agricultural crops raised in such highrise greenhouses would only require one tenths of the water and five percent of the area needed for plants grown on conventional fields. The top floors would be used for hydro-cultures, whereas the bottom would house chicken farms and fish basins. Wind turbines, solar panels and even tidal power are planned to supply such mega-farm with energy.
A vertical farm would largely be self-sufficient: Animals would eat plant waste; nitrogen and other fertilisers could be obtained from manure or sewage from the surrounding towns. But, experts warn that this is still a far cry from reality: The technological innovations for these ideas do not exist yet. A multi-story hothouse requires extensive lighting and air-conditioning, and the construction costs would have to be covered by the sales of food – an economic feat requiring a lot of time and support. Additionally, it has to be clear that these urban farms cannot provide all food staples. Grain, wheat, maize and rice cannot be cultivated inside because they need space for growing. Storage and transport of these cereals is also not very costly. Vertical farming would be especially profitable for fast growing plants like lettuce or herbs. Although this may all seem like the distant future, many inquiries into this project have been made by interested parties in China and the USA. The next projects are to be launched in Shanghai and, close to us, in the quaint town Linköping in Sweden. There, a greenhouse shaped like a glass cone is in planning. Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of small transport carts will transport plant pots for more than 50 meters on conveyors from the top to the bottom of this highrise building. Mostly Asian vegetables will be grown on about 4,000 square meters. The Swedes have targeted to bring in the first harvest in 2014.
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