Urban Farming: A potential solution for the growing world population?

April 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Plantagon Vertical Greenhouse courtesy of the Plantagon website

With the global population reaching the 7 billion mark late last year the stress on basic resources such as food and land strengthens as the human population creeps closer to its carrying capacity. UN demographers predict that the population may even reach 9 billion by 2045. What does this mean for the future of the planet? Well, even as it is today there are near on a billion people who live in hunger, and in the decades to come this number will triple with most of the numbers coming from poor nations. Also if these poor nations strive to achieve the same luxuries as their wealthier counterparts through the same methods of deforestation, coal and oil burning, and the freely scattering fertilizers and pesticides, the effect on natural resources and the environment could be detrimental. On top of this the percent of people living in urban areas will increase to 80% adding to the growing demand in urban settings. So in order to tackle this problem environmental designers have come up with a possible solution – urban farming.

The use of greenhouses as a way of cultivating crops has been used for centuries and will continue to do so through the use of urban farming, but with a slight twist, growing vertically rather than horizontally. If people can live in skyscrapers, why can’t plants? Through the use of vertical greenhouses less space is required with more yield, and conditions can be controlled easier than outdoors, therefore reducing the risk of spoilage. But is it really plausible to have a vertical greenhouse you ask, well the answer has been given by the Swedish urban agriculture design company Plantagon who have recently started construction on a vertical farm in Linköping, Sweden. Critiques to the vertical farming technique have generally found fault in the possible uneven distribution of natural light where plants in the middle of the building would receive less light than those near the window creating an uneven growth distribution. However Plantagon have mitigated this problem through a rotating corkscrew-like platform that allows for the even distribution of light. The project is due to complete in 2013.

If this project is a success, cities all over the world could be developing these vertical greenhouses and the creation of fully or partially self-sufficient cities could be plausible. Also with the spread of technology and know-how these projects could be completed in poorer nations to help eliminate the destructive methods of agriculture that lead to the deforestation of our precious rainforests. The disastrous “slash and burn” method of removing the trees and large agrobusinesses who require large plantations of palm oil and soya are two examples of such dangers to the amazonian rainforest that could be reduced substantially with the  move towards urban farming. Either way the future of urban farming is within arms reach and will hopefully revolutionize agricultural methods for a more sustainable future.

A video about Plantagon’s urban vertical farming courtesy of the Plantagon website.

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