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Urban agriculture is on the rise – demand for allotments in London has become huge in recent years, but how about this; a new revolutionary way to feed the masses, but without the need for vast expanses of land?

Forum for the Future yesterday published a document proposing the notion of Vertical Farming – high standing buildings built in urban areas with limited plot space, filled with stack upon stack of food and energy crops, generated using hydroponic technology. On one hand it makes sense – food grown in such buildings could be deemed local to the community it is grown in, which of course means a reduced carbon footprint. The obvious advantage is the lack of space needed, and the hydroponic system’s water could be recycled to minimise waste. Proposed energy consumption would also be much lower due to the lack of traditional farming methods – i.e. no big tractors dependant on fossil fuels.

Artist impression: vertical farming

I particularly like the idea of farm ‘pods’ designed to sit on people’s rooftops to capture maximum sun rays – much like a rooftop greenhouse and I think this is a concept which could easily catch on were the funding from the government available. However, on a more commercial scale, I think a wide scale rollout operation may be risky. It is currently not a widely known system, and therefore if anything were to fail, our whole food system of this country may become extremely unstable with us falling back on imported goods to sustain the people.

Additionally, I would like to know exactly where and how these ‘nutrient rich solutions’ on which the plants would be feed are coming from – it is all well and good the building minimising waste but are these supplies upon which it relies also sustainable?

It sounds like something from science fiction and an exciting one at that, but is it a good idea the future for our food industry? I guess we will just have to wait and see.

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