Rooftop Farming: The Food Supply Re-modelled

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation forecasts that 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, and as such, utilising urban space to create food production appears to be a no-brainer.

New York itself boasts at least six urban farms along with countless numbers of smaller private gardens, as more and more urban farmers are looking to upwards to sow their seeds. These vertical farms are appearing on unused rooftop spaces across the city.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation forecasts that 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, and as such, utilising urban space to create food production appears to be a no-brainer.

In addition to New York, cities such as Tokyo, London, Singapore and Berlin are embracing the vertical ideal. Urban farmers are arguing that this type of integrated agricultural approach will help improve the environment of our major cities whilst carbon emissions are reduced significantly. Furthermore, food is fresher and therefore lasts longer.

The urban farm revolution will almost exclusively be powered by solar greenhouse technology, with produce grown in optimum conditions and temperatures. The vertical farms will optimise space in increasingly crowded urban centres, as they are predominantly located in disused or underused locations.

Dickson Despommier, a former professor of microbiology believes the technology is there to take advantage of urban farming opportunities;

“We’ve overcome virtually every technical difficulty which comes across from growing food indoors.”

He believes that as US weather conditions become progressively more erratic, vertical farming is on the cusp of becoming an important cog in the food supply chain;

“The flooding that’s occurring (in the US), its occurring at a terrible time as the farmers have already planted their seeds, hoping for a great spring, and this torrential downpour will just wash everything away. With rural farming you can’t predict the weather.”

Job creation is another added bonus to the rooftop revolution. A whole new generation of technical posts and “green collar” employment will sprout up in conjunction with the new green industry. Developing countries who adopt this approach early could even begin to combat predicted food shortages, says Despommier;

“Teach developing countries how to build an urban farm, and you could help solve the ongoing food crisis.”

Although the rooftop revolution is still in its infancy, a great 14th century proverb put it best;

“Great oaks, from little acorns grow.”