The Locavore’s Dilemma? Not With Vertical Farming.

20 Jun

In his Opinion piece “The Locavore’s Dilemma”, published in the Boston Globe on June 16, 2011, Edward L. Glaeser contends that “farm land within a metropolitan area decreases density levels and pushes us apart, and carbon emissions rise dramatically as density falls.”

Glaeser’s assertion is true when “farm land” is defined as two-dimensional field agriculture, but false for “vertical farm land,” a nascent market where efficient technologies are being deployed to achieve high density, three-dimensional crop production with a small geographic footprint.  Glaeser is either unaware of this technology, or failed to investigate it.

Companies like TerraSphere Systems are building and operating “vertical farms” – super indoor farms in tall buildings in cities, close to where most consumers live.  They’re providing a year-round supply of fresh, locally-grown, pesticide-free produce that meaningfully reduces the energy- and water-intensity of field agriculture.

It has the promise of complementing, not substituting for, field agriculture in areas of the world that can’t grow crops due to climate constraints, or in densely populated urban areas that are far from where produce is grown.  For certain crops and in certain locations, vertical farming is viable, both economically (lower cost produce) and environmentally (lower carbon footprint).

If the First Lady and Edward Glaeser want to help the environment, they should campaign for high rise apartments, with vertical farms on top.


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