Vertical Farming: A Viable Option for Future Food Production?

Is the idea of "farming up" really taking off? Vertical farming could yield long-term environmental benefits, but still faces many obstacles.

October 18, 2012, 5:00 AM PDT

By Erica Gutiérrez


"Want to see where your food might come from in the future?", Owen Fletcher asks, "Look up."

The potential environmental benefits of vertical farming are extensive, claim industry advocates, who believe it can help solve some of the world's most pressing environmental issues, such as contributing to slowing climate change and land reclamation. Abandoned farmlands could improve ecosystem functioning, for example. Advocates also claim that if food is grown closer to cities, trucking transport will not be as necessary, reducing carbon emissions. Indoor farming could also curtail the use of pesticides, and protect crops against traditional weather disruptions, possibly allowing for earlier harvests.

Urban farming pilot projects, and other experimental growth methods and techniques, are sprouting up as far off as Sweden and South Korea, and as close as Chicago and New York. Plantagon, for example, a Swedish company at the cutting edge of vertical farming, plans to create a 12-story, triangular farm in Linköping, Sweden, and other facilities in Shanghai or Singapore.

Still, as a business model, vertical farming has yet to prove itself, and some experts claim that the energy required to operate such facilities may cancel out some of their purported environmental benefits.

Dr. Dickson Despommier, a microbiology professor at Columbia University who developed the idea of vertical farming with students in 1999, and chief adviser to Plantagon, remains optimistic despite acknowledging evident obstacles. "You have to start small and you have to start at the research level before you jump into the commercial aspect of this thing, but that's the way all these ideas start," he says. "Everything we have in this world of ours started out crazy."

Monday, October 15, 2012 in The Wall Street Journal

Chicago Commute

Planning for Congestion Relief

The third and final installment of Planetizen's examination of the role of the planning profession in both perpetuating and solving traffic congestion.

May 12, 2022 - James Brasuell

Twin Cities

Minneapolis Housing Plan a Success—Not for the Reason You Think

Housing advocates praise the city’s move to eliminate single-family zoning by legalizing triplexes on single-family lots, but that isn’t why housing construction is growing.

May 13, 2022 - Reason

Single-Family Housing Construction

New White House Housing Initiative Includes Zoning Reform Incentives

The Biden administration this morning released a new program of actions intended to spur housing construction around the United States.

May 16, 2022 - The White House

Complete Street Vancouver

Study: Most of Vancouver Is a ‘15-Minute City’

A large majority of Vancouver residents can access a grocery store in 15 minutes or less by bicycle or on foot.

3 hours ago - Vancouver Sun

Montreal, Quebec

Urban Design, Transport, and Health

The Lancet medical journal published a series of articles that explore how to evaluate and guide urban planning decisions to create healthy and sustainable cities. Live long and prosper!

4 hours ago - The Lancet - Urban Design, Transport, and Health

MoGo Bikeshare Bikes

Detroit Bike Share Celebrates Five Years

In its five years of operation, Detroit’s MoGo bikeshare has added electric and adaptive bikes to its fleet of more than 600 bikes.

5 hours ago - MoGo

HUD’s 2022 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Expanding HUD’s Eviction Protection Grant Program

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.