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The Doctor of Vertical Farming

17 Nov

Dr. Dickson Despommier, known as the father of modern day vertical farming, has been busy promoting vertical farms (and his book, The Vertical Farm) this month.

Interested in learning more about vertical farming, but only have a minute or two to spare? Here’s the cliff notes version of Dickson’s Vertical Farming vision.

Not enough? Check out the unabridged podcast:  Dickson Despommier on the Rise of Vertical Farming featured on Treehugger.

What was that you said? You want even more?  You can’t get enough of Despommier explaining the many benefits and possibilities of vertical farming? You got it!  Check out the Dr. on Dylan Ratigan’s show on MSNBC:  Rethinking the Future of Farming.

We’re  so glad to see vertical farming getting some well-deserved attention, but we’re a little disappointed that mostly foreign vertical farms are catching Despommier’s attention. While he does mention The Plant in Chicago, there are other companies sprouting up all over the U.S., such as yours truly, that are well on their way to becoming commercially viable.  Either way, we’re grateful vertical farming is gaining traction. Thank you, Despommier, for bringing vertical farming into the spotlight.

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Movers and Shakers

26 Aug

The recent earthquake in Virginia and Ms. Hurricane Irene that is threatening the East Coast at the moment has led me to start thinking about the extreme weather that has been plaguing the world over the past several years and climate change.  Sure, we’ve always had hurricanes, tsunamis, quakes and tornadoes in the past, but this decade it feels different.

Perhaps, it’s because it’s hard to ignore the increasing consistency and severity of mother nature’s wrath, or because we’re all becoming a little more aware of the consequences that our carbon-rich lifestyles have on the climate. I, for one, see our extreme weather patterns as a direct result of society’s greenhouse gasiness.

I don’t think I’m alone here. I’m sure there are plenty of others who think that we’ve pushed mama nature’s buttons to her tipping point. I’m not suggesting this is armagedon, but it could be the glimpse of a very grim 10-50 year forecast. Unless of course, we start getting serious about cutting out carbon from our diets.

Our current infrastructures for just about everything – from food production to transportation – are heavily reliant on fossil fuels, the lifeblood of our national and international economy, and trying to cut back on carbon emitting habits is difficult when there are ways to cheat with the temptation of convenience all around us.  Which is why I salute the movers and shakers (and you thought I was referring to the earthquake) of this decade and decades past that are pushing to ingrain sustainable practices, technologies, awareness and foresight into the heart of our society and our economy, in order to make it possible for all of us to get on a low-carb(on) diet.

When I think about the real movers and shakers of environmental sustainability, my mind drifts to the iconic environmentalists of the past – Rachel Carson, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and even this generation’s Al Gore.  These individuals realized the value of our natural resources, and sought to  protect them through their own means.  There is no doubt that these figures have influenced, either directly or indirectly, a large population of today’s environmentally conscious citizens.

Rachel Carson: Biologist, Conservationist, Mover & Shaker

As people become more concerned with the state of our environment and the hard to ignore realities of climate change, so must business.  In today’s capitalist society, corporations and organizations are starting to reflect the role of the individual environmentalist, building their business on the principles of environmental responsibility. After all, we vote with our dollars and if there’s a way for us to have our cake and eat it too – indulging in the pleasures and convenience of the 21st century’s culture and innovations, while being a responsible citizen to the earth – then we’re willing to pay a little extra for it.

More and more companies are making it their mission to incorporate environmentally sustainable business practices into their daily operations. Large and small, from Stoneyfield Farms to  Starbucks, companies are listening to their customers, leading with their conscience, and making a difference.  International companies like GE and Honda are putting energy efficiency and emission reduction at the top of their agendas, all in the name of curbing climate change.

Yet, today’s real movers and shakers might just be the everyday Joe and Janes that buy organic and support sustainable agriculture,  spend extra money for products and services that reuse and recycle materials, bike to work, or invest in companies that are committed to using clean energy. In whatever form it may be, it’s the average consumer that is really pushing to make a difference. Just as Thoreau and Carson have influenced us to be environmentally conscious, we too can influence companies and, perhaps even the global economy, to  move to a low-carb(on) diet, and begin to curb climate change together.

At it’s worst, “sustainability”  is a buzz word. At it’s best, sustainability is a movement – a rise in public consciousness, which puts the health of the environment and every living being on earth at the forefront of our daily thoughts and actions.  You are a mover and a shaker – so let’s shake things up so that our climate doesn’t have to.

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.”  http://articles.boston.com/2011-06-16/bostonglobe/29666344_1_greenhouse-gas-carbon-emissions-local-food

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.

Can Vertical Farming Help Achieve Zero Emissions?

7 Mar

Bill Gates on energy and climate change.

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In order for our planet to survive (and thrive) Bill Gates argues that we must work towards a zero carbon emissions society.  His Goal? Zero carbon emissions by 2050.

How do we innovate to zero?  Our solution:  bring the farm to the people! Growing food close to where the majority of people live, using vertical farming systems, greatly reduces CO2 emissions caused from extensive distribution and transportation.  Vertical farming further reduces CO2 emissions by eliminating the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides (which rely heavily on petroleum for production).

While vertical farming alone may not be able to achieve a zero emissions society, we believe it’s one step towards doing so.  What other agricultural innovations will help us to innovate to zero, while providing enough food for the rapidly growing population?

TerraSphere Haiti Relief

22 Sep