By Mary Landers
For Dickson Despommier and other proponents of vertical agriculture, the future of farming is looking up. Literally.
That’s because vertical farming, as the name implies, aims to raise crops in multi-story greenhouses, even warehouses or skyscrapers built or retrofitted for the purpose.
“If you farm less on land and more indoors in controlled environments, it has a positive effect on the land by sparing it and returning it to nature, and it also helps to provide food for people living in the built environment,” said Despommier, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University.
He’s written a book on the subject titled “The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century” and will lecture at Armstrong State University on Tuesday evening. His work has been featured in Time Magazine, Scientific American and Popular Science.
The idea of vertical farming has cropped up before, but Despommier traces the beginning of the current movement to a 1999 medical ecology class he taught in which he discussed how megafarms feed a huge population but require a huge land mass to do it. The world’s population is now pegged at 7.2 billion, and farms cover an area the size of South America. That agriculture is a major source of polluted runoff.
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