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The Need for Urban Farms

Currently, half the world’s population lives in cities and by 2030 the number of urban dwellers is expected to reach 70 percent of the entire population.

Because of the constant population growth, in total cities will swell up to well over 9 billion. Meanwhile there is an ever persistent need to feed this growing population. This can pose problems in dense areas of limited space.

As we come closer to realizing this reality, urban farming becomes more than experiment in sustainability and will soon be a necessity if we wish to have a balanced flow of the consumption and production of resources. Not only will inner-city farms enable for the self sufficiency of a city, it will also cut down on the cost and emissions from importing.

Utilizing Wasted Space
In midst of urban decay, vacant lots are a common fixture in all cities, fine examples in the U.S. being Detroit and to a lesser extent St. Louis. In both these and other cities, vacant lots are beginning to have life and opportunity  sown back into them as they provide residents with a staple food source in the form of urban crop fields and community gardens. This past year in Detroit, Hantz Farms secured 140 acres of vacant land near a blighted neighborhood. Unfortunately, plans to create the largest urban farm, brimming with vegetables and orchards, are no longer. Instead, a mix of hardwoods will be planted. This is still an improvement as trees lend beauty and absorb carbon dioxide, turning it into oxygen. As far as crop production goes, cities may be better off letting local producers buy and utilize the vacant land that cities currently spend large amount of money on just to maintain. In addition to revitalizing the area and increasing food supply, green jobs would be created.

Feed Millions Using Limited Space
In some areas, vacant lots are either scarce or their soil less inhabitable. This is when green roofs and balconies come into play. The average New Yorker eats an annual 100 kilogram’s worth of vegetables. If every rooftop in New York City had a garden built in for growing crops, there would be two times the needed amount of produce to feed the entire city. Now to get all the landowners on board….

Building Vertical Farms
Dickson Despommier, a professor at Columbia University, has written incessantly on the benefits and future need of building vertical farms, in some cases even skyscraper farms. In this scenario each story would be designated to a specific crop, with higher levels used to grow hydroponic crops. Cascading down from lawn to lawn of seasonal produce. Creating a vertical cornucopia of crops to provide year-round resources to the city’s residents. Vertical farms would recycle all water used and implement LED grow lights. Because all growing and harvesting takes place indoors, it is possible to have reliable, year-round supply of crops and, as no pesticides are used, the crops would be healthier. Another improvement would be the reduction of CO2 emissions, as grown crops would need only to be shipped to local businesses, markets, and restaurants. All these would benefit, too, as ingredients sold or used would truly be fresh, possibly grown on the same street as the restaurant. This urban ecosystem would also employ people to sort seeds, care for and harvest crops.

Farms Above Parking Lots?
Efficient City Farming, a company based in Berlin, offers turnkey city farms, and make it possible to have urban farms on rooftops, in containers, and even hovering over parking lots in an almost awning-like form. The latter is made possible with the assistance of stilts, creating a green canopy above otherwise mundane auto parks. ECF creates greenhouses as well, not just open air gardens, and their urban farms offer similar benefits to cities as vertical farms.

Sources:
City, P.D. Smith, Bloomsbury Publishing, Copyright 2012 by P.D. Smith
Hantz Farms, Detroit, http://www.hantzfarmsdetroit.com
Efficient City Farming, Berlin, http://www.ecf-center.de/
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