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Vertical Farming Touted as Answer to Air Pollution and Food Shortages

Futuristic-Farming-Greenhouse.jpg Twenty years ago, critics scoffed at the ideas of cell phones and plasma-screen television but today they are common place around the world.  Like those innovations that spawned billion-dollar industries, proponents of vertical farming today say their idea will do the same 50 years from now or sooner.

But critics, like those two decades ago, don't see that happening. Still, it is happening already in several U.S. cities, Canada, Sweden, South Korea and shortly in Shanghai and Singapore. Large populations are necessary for the vertical farming concept to grow.

The vertical farming concept is simple: Instead of trucking food from farms into cities, grow the food closer to the customer. That is done by constructing large vertical greenhouses. The immediate impact, say pro-vertical farmers, will be the elimination of truck fuel exhausts and easier access by customers to fresher food.

Additionally, vertical farming needs less ground area, less water consumption and won't need soil at all.

By eliminating traditional farm properties, those sites are expected to be gobbled up real estate developers for new residential, commercial or industrial communities. Or they may even be turned into non-development usage such as public parks and natural green zones. That would greatly help the environment, argue the pro-vertical farm groups.

Anti-vertical farming sources quickly counter that constructing large greenhouses to grow fresher food will be far more expensive than traditional farming costs. The expense of artificial light and other special equipment to aid the indoor food growing process will also make vertical farming non cost-effective, critics argue.

But the pro-vertical farming forces come right back and argue that new revenues from indoor growing will lower greenhouse energy costs. They also note the greenhouses will use waste from various sources, including heat from a nearby power plant and bio-gas produced through converting the greenhouse's own organic garbage.

Although production from vertical farming to date is small, proponents point to Seattle, Chicago, New Buffalo, MI, Ithaca, NY and other upstate New York locations and New Jersey were vertical farming is under way.  In Canada, Qualicum Beach, British Columbia has a vertical farm.

In Sweden, what is believed to be the largest vertical farm in the world to date is under construction in Linkoping.  The 12-story building is called Plantagon. Developers plan to lease non-food-growing space on the building's upper floors.

Columbia University microbiology professor Dickson Despommier is credited by many as he father of the vertical farming concept.  He is supposed to have developed the idea with his students in 1999.

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