Friday, August 28, 2009


Increasing demand for food for meeting food needs of the ever expanding global population acts as a drive engine for innovations in production technology. Biotechnology has played an important role in bringing about Green Revolution in the past in Asia giving a quantum jump in food production that bought temporary relief for the food starved population in the continent. Genetically Modified crops for which technologies have been developed are still confined to hardly 2-3 crops and it is debatable whether this has achieved any break-through in terms of increased production while the input to yield ratio depends lot on massive use of pesticides, fertilizers and water. Hydroponic and aeroponic agriculture technologies which do not need soil have the advantage of controlled production and minimum waste generation lending themselves to adoption in urban areas already hard pressed for land.

Some visionary people feel that the present agricultural practices cannot be sustained for long and within the next 50 years agricultural productivity in conventional lands is bound to reduce drastically creating famine like situation all over the world. According to them massive urbanization will push the agriculture into urban areas amongst the city dwellers and "a vertical farm would behave like a functional ecosystem, in which waste was recycled and the water used in hydroponics and aeroponics was recaptured by dehumidification and used over and over again. The technologies needed to create a vertical farm are currently being used in controlled-environment agriculture facilities but have not been integrated into a seamless source of food production in urban high-rise buildings".

Probably there is some truth in these prophesies and the advantages of local production by the urbanites are too many to be ignored out of hand. Vertical farming is said to achieve in an acre what conventional agriculture can do in 10-20 acres with almost 90% less water and the large potential for such farms to clean up the highly polluted air in the cities by absorbing CO2 emitted, could be a bonus. What about the investment? Probably very high by to day's standards but may become viable in future.

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