Is Tomorrow’s Farm Going to be a Building?

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In the future, some of our food may be grown in high-rise buildings. It’s already happening in a former meatpacking warehouse in Chicago and in many other locations on the east and west coasts.  A story in the Journal Report, a section written for investors in the WSJ, detailed a plan to build a 12-story vertical farming plantation, where the plants are grown on a conveyor belt that goes from the top to the bottom in thousands of rows.

The costs are high, but there are many advantages say these vertical farmers. The Swedish project, being developed by a firm called Plantagon, will use bio gas produced by organic waste to heat the building. In the Chicago set up, a three-story former meatpacking plant grows vegetables on rafts floating on water, fertilized by nutrients from waste produced by fish growing in a nearby tank.

Other vertical farms such as ones in upstate New York and NJ use water instead of soil as a medium to grow the plants. The roots hang in the air and are sprayed with water and nutrients.  While many people are excited about these new ways to supply society with food, others say that the energy needed to heat and light the plans dwarfs the savings in trucking realized by growing crops in cities.  But there are other costs that indoor growing saves, like crop insurance costs for large scale traditional agriculture, and damage from the combination of bad weather, lack of rain or insect infestation.