Saturday, August 16, 2008

Vertical Farming - Will It Work?

Vertical Farm

Vertical Farm

I have been asked several times lately what I think of vertical farming - the proposed practice where crops are grown in skyscrapers. The idea is being pushed by academics and enthusiasts.

My big doubt about vertical farming is based on the economics of building a superstructure with sufficient structural capacity to hold crops, water, soil (in the non-hydroponic proposals) humans and machines. Plus the live loads associated with rain, snow and wind. The structure would have to be at least as robust as what we currently build for offices and the infrastructure would be just about as expensive as any other building. So, based on current costs for construction, the cost of a vertical farm could be about $100.00 per square foot.

The cost of Georgia farm land is $2,074 per acre, average (University of Georgia Study), which is about 5 cents per square foot. This gives the Georgia farm a serious advantage. The rent on a $100.00 per square foot structure is about $21.00 per square foot per year, so space on a vertical farm might go for $10.00 = $21.00 per square foot. Corn brings in about $259.00 per acre ( www.profitablefarming.com) or about 7/10 of one cent per square foot. And corn is considered a profitable crop!

I can't see the economics of vertical farming working out.

Check out: Sustainable Design Update

Check out this very cool video of an advocate for vertical farming on the Colbert Report.

Via: AIDG Blog

1 comment:

roxsen said...

There is a less high tech and more economical way to integrate crop production into the built environment. It is a franchise-ready farming system called SPIN-Farming. SPIN makes it possible to earn $50,000+ from a half-acre by growing vegetables on land bases under an acre in size. SPIN farmers utilize relay cropping to increase yield and achieve good economic returns by growing only the most profitable food crops tailored to local markets. SPIN's growing techniques are not, in themselves, breakthrough. What is novel is the way a SPIN farm business is run. SPIN provides everything you'd expect from a good franchise: a business plan, marketing advice, and a detailed day-to-day workflow. In standardizing the system and creating a reproducible process it really isn't any different from McDonalds. So by offering a non-technical, easy-to-understand and inexpensive-to-implement farming system, it allows many more people to farm, wherever they live, as long as there are nearby markets to support them. By utilizing backyards and front alwns and neighbhorhood lots, SPIN farmers are are recasting farming as a small business in cities and towns and helping to "right size" agriculture for an urbanized century. You can see some SPIN farmers in action at www.spinfarming.com