For thousands of years, human beings have fed themselves by growing a huge variety of vegetables and grains. In more recent years, technology has helped increase harvests, shorten growing time, and make growing crops indoors feasible. Genetic engineering has brought about strains of plants that are resistant to various diseases. These plants also grow more quickly and spoil less easily. Indoor farming helps to lengthen the growing season and decrease the effect of weather on crops. Now, there is another way of growing the food the world needs. According to Dr. Dickson Despommier, professor of environmental sciences and microbiology at New York’s Columbia University, food production increases, the effects of global warming decrease, the production of clean-burning fuel increases and waste water is made cleaner by creating vertical farms. Despommier is concerned with the fact that the world’s population will increase to nearly 9 billion by 2050. He also is concerned that nearly 80% of the world’s suitable farming land is already in use. How can we cultivate enough food to feed everyone in the future? With current farming methods it would take an area larger than the country of Brazil to create enough food to feed the population of nearly three billion additional people by the year 2050. Realizing that current farming methods will not be adequate in the future, Dr. Despommier has thought about taking current indoor farming methods several steps further. He has explored the concept of vertical farming—using multi-storied buildings and tiers of planters to grow a variety of crops. He envisions skyscrapers in the middle of large cities providing fresh produce yearround for the cities’ inhabitants. Since population trend estimates predict that by the year 2050, nearly 80% of the world’s people will dwell in cities, having food sources close to where people live will provide a number of important advantages. First, vertical farming will save enormous amounts of money on gasoline because produce will not be trucked miles across the county. Without the need for farming equipment, there will be significant savings in oil and gas used by tractors, threshers, harvesters and other types of farm machines. Decreasing the use of gasoline also will help decrease the dependency on foreign oil and reduce air pollution. Second, vertical farming will make growing crops organically more simple and inexpensive. Since plants will grow indoors, pesticides will not be needed to protect plants from insects. In addition, fertilizers won’t be needed because the indoor methods will provide enough nutrients for plants without having to resort to added chemicals. Third, this new type of farming will greatly decrease the chances of spreading infectious diseases such as rabies, West Nile virus, malaria and salmonella. Currently, many of these diseases are transferred to food by wild animals and by farm animals that have grazed where the food is being grown. Fourth, mass indoor farming will produce crops that are more productive since plants will not be affected by changes in climate or by rain, hurricanes, floods, monsoons, hail, ice or droughts. In addition, the food grown will be used quickly and consumed locally, so spoilage will be at a minimum. Land in vertical farming also will be used more productively than it is now. Depending on the type of crop grown, an acre of indoor farm can produce as much food as four to six acres of outdoor farming, without the huge losses that outdoor farming can sustain. With vertical farming, crops can be grown year-round, increasing the land’s yield. Another significant benefit of vertical farming is that current farmland will revert to its original purpose. Forests and grassland will begin to be replenished in areas that were used for farming, returning the ecosystems to their natural states. The world’s supply of oxygen will increase, helping to protect the ozone layer. How will these vertical...
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