I’ve said it in a few previous posts, I think vertical farming will become important. I don’t think that we will run out of land, but vertical farms will allow for better controlled conditions and higher yields per acre, as well as make better use of resources by controlling inputs and outputs. In addition, vertical farms will allow for crops to be grown closer to population centers, reducing food miles.
Archive for the ‘Sustainability’ Category
Population control is not a new idea, but it has recently been discussed in the context of the environment, some articles with tact and some not. China’s one child policy was instituted in 1979 to address social, economical and environmental issues. While the policies of the Chinese government were not because they were green, and I don’t condone them, they illustrate the reality of scarce resources. Because of the population density, more people led to poverty, poor living conditions, disease and famine. There simply were not enough resources in some areas to sustain the population. Fortunately, the world is not to the point where we cannot sustain its current population. However, we may be soon.
One article with good coverage of some of these issues is in a recent Scientific American Earth 3.0. The article discusses Malthusian limits, where population growth outpace the growth in agriculture. Since the Industrial Revolution, where production of all types increased, world population has exploded. Most people are aware of issues caused by increased energy consumption, like climate change. Climate change can have various effects on agricultural output, changing weather patterns make areas previously suitable to grow crops completely desolate. Many people are also aware of fresh water issues, especially if you live somewhere like Australia. Fewer people are aware that peak phosphorus could limit fertilizer production, severely reducing agricultural output.
There is not a question of if these issues will limit the growth of the population, it is a matter of when they will limit growth. Whether population control is mandated and enforced or not, environmental factors will limit the population. If sustainable practices are adopted, and resources are used wisely, maybe we can avoid another Malthusian catastrophe.
The book “Without Hot Air” by David JC MacKay, was featured on NPR’s Science Friday list of summer books. It discusses some of the challenges for the future in Sustainable Energy and supposedly provides good non-technical explanations for technical concepts. Rather than killing a tree to get the physical book, you can download it in PDF form on the books website:
I have not read it yet, but it appears to be getting decent reviews on Amazon. I’ll write my own review if I get a chance to read it, but I thought I’d tell everyone about the free book.
A recent Treehugger post on Plantagon illustrates some of the concepts and explains some of the challenges of vertical and urban farming.
While I agree with some of the commentary that using urban real estate may not be the best option, I do believe that enclosed vertical farming will be important in the future. As climate change sets in over time, a lot of the land currently being used for crops will no longer be suitable because of either drought or increased temperatures. Enclosed farms have to potential to control the growing environment and will allow crops to be grown in places that would not be able to otherwise.