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Mystery Photo

What in the world is it?

Mystery Photo

Photo Credit: SOA Architects

Is this building a dock for space ships? Or maybe it’s a brand new kind of factory that uses green algae to eat up carbon dioxide and stop global warming (that would be cool, wouldn’t it?) It’s probably just a fancy, futuristic office building that makes all its own energy.

Don’t peek at the answer until you’ve given this a good try! Then, scroll down a bit and the truth will be revealed to you.

This is a vertical farm. All those floors are full of green growing vegetables, fruits, and trees, or at least they will be, if one of these marvellous farms ever gets built. It would cost 84 million dollars! This image is just an architectural design based on the ideas of a Columbia University professor named Dickson Despommier. Last month, he presented vertical farming at the first ever World Science Festival in New York city.

Despommier imagines a future where glass-walled skyscraper farms use the reflection of incoming sunlight and recycled wastewater to provide energy for crops cultivated right in the middle of cities. Now, most of our food grows on acres of flat farms, taking up precious space and vulnerable to natural disasters, pests, and seasons. Meanwhile, the human population continues to increase and crowd into cities. There will most likely be about 9.2 billion people in the world by 2050! There’s simply not enough room on our planet for regular farms to support all those human lives.

Vertical farming could feed all those people using much less land. One indoor acre equals about 4-6 or more outdoor acres, depending on the crop. Thirty acres worth of strawberries, for example, can be grown in one indoor acre! Returning all these extra acres of traditional farmland to a wild state would combat global warming: new trees and shrubs would absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Despommier designed his skyscrapers to produce more energy than they consume. There’s no need for pesticides or chemicals, the farms can recycle sludge from wastewater as topsoil, recirculate water to feed the plants, and produce energy by composting non-edible plant parts. If vertical farms were a part of every city, tons of money and energy would be saved on transportation costs, and city kids would grow up with more fresh veggies and a better understanding of where food comes from. Despommier estimates that 150 of his buildings could feed New York city for a year!

Find out more about vertical farming here.

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