Welcome Dickson Despommier (Columbia University) (The Vertical Farm) and Host Paul Hardej, a co-founder of FarmedHere, the first commercial scale USDA organic vertical farm in the US. (HuffingtonPost)

The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century

The Vertical Farm, written by Dickson Despommier couldn’t have been published in a better time. The American food system is broken and the “good food revolution” is well on its way.

During the recent decade or more, thousands of the “irate minority” (urban farmers, locavores, small organic farmers, co-op growers, independent organic grocers, local restaurateurs, non-for profits) began challenging the food system in many different ways. The spur of urban farms began well before Dickson had written his book, but somehow they have not been able to make a real dent in the hyper-centralized food system. Coincidentally, the market has spoken as well. When consumers became more educated about their food choices and began demanding better, healthier and fresher food, local grocers and restaurants responded to growing demand by providing what is left of the local food to fork. Many good food activists and promoters have been searching for an economically sustainable solution to developing a healthy, thriving local-urban food system. Some failed, some struggle to maintain their operations, while many still search for that ultimate blueprint for a successful Urban Farm.

The Vertical Farm by Despommier is a call to action.

Despommier provides the reader a vision which is grand. But in the way he lays it out, this vision appears achievable. In a well organized fashion, almost like a business plan or executive summary, Despommier defines the problem, outlines a solution and articulates a path for the execution of the revolutionary way to grow food. The book provides commonsense reasoning for one to pursue Despommier’s ideas. For example, the author has done enough research regarding the Vertical Farm configuration, function and plant cultivation technology for someone to get started developing a detailed model.

That’s exactly what happened with me in 2010 after reading this book and meeting him personally. I am an architect with two decades of real estate design, construction and development experience. To me, the idea of vertical farming felt simply brilliant yet grand. Growing plants inside buildings equals enclosing living organisms in a controlled environment. Vertical Farm effectively captures water (hydroponics) + fire (artificial or controlled sun-light distribution) + earth (growing medium and fertilizer from aquaponics) in an enclosed miniaturized environment which can be located in almost any city across the Globe.

FarmedHere is the first large scale commercial indoor Vertical Farm located in Bedford Park – Chicago, IL. Our mission is to change the way produce is grown, harvested, and distributed throughout the world, while helping our customers and team members live healthier, more productive lives. Effectively, we have taken Despommier’s idea into reality.

Vertical Farming provides an innovative, unique approach to sustainable, urban farming.

The innovation behind FarmedHere began with a fundamental change to traditional farming – we took farming indoors. What makes FarmedHere unique is our use of a growing technique called vertical farming where plants are grown in vertically stacked grow beds, creating a perfect utilization of space.

To grow better, tastier produce, our plants are grown in nutrient-rich water instead of soil. Our process begins by mechanically controlling air temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure, and ends with sophisticated multi-layer hydroponic growing systems. FarmedHere uses the underlying hydroponic technologies – Aquaponics and Aeroponics. This process delivers an optimum amount of nutrients and oxygen to the plant’s root structure while also constantly recycling fresh water. A series of mechanical pumps circulate water between tanks filled with healthy tilapia fish, natural bio-filters and six layers of grow beds stacked almost 30 feet high and 200 feet in length. FarmedHere operates the most technologically advanced and proven commercial scale vertical farm in the U.S.

FarmedHere is….just like Dickson predicted

Safe: We grow indoors away from the bugs, diseases, pesticides and inclement weather that impact most produce today. In fact, our produce is grown without soil, which greatly reduces the risk of contamination from infectious diseases, since soil is one of the quickest routes for pathogens to contaminate our food supply.

Fresh: FarmedHere provides the freshest local produce since it’s grown indoors year-round. We deliver our produce directly to each store no later than 24 hours from harvest. On average our greens last 3 to 4 days longer than the competition.

Reliable: Our indoor vertical farming process provides optimal growing conditions in any climate, regardless of season, and safeguards produce against weather-related crop failures due to droughts, floods and pests. This ensures consistent quality and food security as well as the same price year-round. Our innovative approach also allows us to achieve more than a 90 percent crop success rates – compared to 70 percent from traditional farming. Our yields and operating costs have been proven.

FarmedHere is….

Sustainable: Our innovative, vertical farming method delivers tremendous water and energy savings and is a sustainable, long-term model for urban agriculture. We grow up to 20 times the yield of a traditional farm while also conserving 97 percent of the fresh water used per farmed acre.

Environmentally Friendly: Our proprietary green paper packaging is 100 percent compostable, biodegradable, and uses 90 percent less plastic than traditional “clam shells” used in supermarkets, cutting down on waste. FarmedHere’s farm is zero organic waste through a co-development of an urban composting program with the Chicago Resource Center.

Community Focused: FarmedHere is committed to supporting the communities where we live and work by creating jobs, providing on-site education and training, and other community-strengthening initiatives. Since May 2012, we’ve created almost 50 new jobs. From start to finish, everything at FarmedHere is done locally – we hire local, sell local, and grow local.

FarmedHere is creating jobs

FarmedHere pays a living wage to its team members and has created a new job type –

vertical farmer – which didn’t exist few years ago. Through partnerships with Windy City Harvest and Growing Home, two prominent Chicago not-for-profits, FarmedHere hires previously underprivileged youth who were trained for careers in urban agriculture by both non-profit organizations. In fact, 12 of the first 15 hires were found from these partnership programs and many team members use these programs for continuing their education. Once the Bedford Park facility is complete, FarmedHere will employ almost 200 vertical farmers.

Taking care of your plant is like taking care of your child. You give birth to the seed and make sure you water your plant, make sure you take care of it, you make sure it does great

– Max Gonzalez, a vertical farmer and FarmedHere team member

 

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

166 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Dr. Dickson Despommier, The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century”

BevW September 29th, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Dickson, Paul, Welcome to the Lake.

Paul, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

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dakine01 September 29th, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Good afternoon Dickson and Paul and welcome to Firedoglake this afternoon.

Dickson, I have not had an opportunity to read your book so forgive me if you address this. I like the idea of indoor gardening, especially in northern Midwest or New England areas but have the people involved been hassled at all by law enforcement? (I know there is a law enforcement myth that the only people growing plants indoors are marijuana farmers)

What do the electricity and heating bills run in these vertical farms? Are the costs recouped with the produce?

Elliott September 29th, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Welcome to the Lake Dr D

Where besides Chicago are these Vertical Farms in operation?

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 2:04 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 2

Hello Dickson, hello All. I am glad to be co-hositng this event. This is Paul Hardej from FarmedHere in Chicago. For the September 29th, we have 71F and sunny, low humidity day. Just like in our in-door vertical farm, 365 day per year.

Dickson, as you know not only I have read your book but also got inspired and took your idea into reality. The mission is not complete, but we have made a major leap forward at FarmedHere. One of the questions I always had for you is: What inspired you to look into and to question the food system and how did you find the real problem?

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:06 pm

I have not heard of any one being hassled because of their indoor farming activities. Energy costs vary tremendously, depending on the kind of lighting (LED, florescent, etc.). One VF in Singapore uses sunlight. The costs also vary greatly, and yes, the one in Singapore is busy expanding their operation to make it 10 times the space now devoted to producing leafy greens. FarmdedHere uses florescent lights and their energy bills are reasonable allowing them to be profitable.

BevW September 29th, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Paul, Dickson, it is great to have you here today.

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 2:08 pm
In response to Elliott @ 3

Elliot, Dickson may have a more complete list, but as far as I know there are over 50 vertical farms in making, operation or under construction across the Globe. Several in the US alone and very successful ones in Japan and other parts of Asia.

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:08 pm
In response to Elliott @ 3

Japan, Korea, Singapore, Sweden, USA (4 VFs up and running), Canada. Many more on the way if I can trust the e-mails I have been getting lately!

dakine01 September 29th, 2013 at 2:08 pm

As a technical note, there is a “Reply” button in the lower right hand of each comment. Pressing the “reply” will pre-fill the commenter name and comment number being replied to and makes it easier to follow the conversation.

Note: if you do a hard page refresh, some browsers do not work properly if you press the Reply before the page completes loading

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 2:10 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 2

dekine01, I completely agree with Dickson. To add more, lighting technology is getting more efficient each year and even in our case at FarmedHere we are progressing from efficient fluorescent to first class LED lighting, where we will increase our margins even further.

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:10 pm
In response to Paul Hardej @ 4

My students wanted to work on roof top gardening as a potential solution to urban food deserts. That did not work out, so I suggested that they take their idea indoors and do the entire building. The rest evolved from there. That was in 1999!

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Dickson, at FarmedHere we do also operate an aquaponic greenhouse in Illinois, close to Chicago. It does not work well, that proves your point. Its a misconception, that free sunlight is good for plants in an greenhouse. Too much sun and temperature fluctuation in ambient air and water are a major impediment for consistent crop production, just like out door farming.

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Some ideas from your book:
SCALABILITY FRO M HOME GARDENS TO BUILDINGS “A TRANSITION”

ETFE & GLUES: BUILDING MATERIALS LIGHT WEIGHT PLASTICS

WATER SUPPLY PROTECTION AND RECYCLING

BUSINESS MODEL NP & FORPROFIT INCENTIVES

ORGANICALLY GROWN USDA CERTIFIED ADVANTAGES

SITE SELECTIONS

SAVING THE CARBON FOOTPRINT AND SEQUESTERING CARBON

THE ODYSSEY FROM SINGLE CELL ORGANISMS TO PLANT

400-700 NANO RED BLUELIGHT SPECTRUM

AIR BLANKETS AS INSULATION

POLLINATION

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

FROM SMALL ORGANICS: OM MERCHANTS IN THE 1960-70S S.F. NEW AGE NATURAL FOODS, FRED ROHE PIONEER TO GIANTS LIKE WORLD FOODS http://www.naturalhealthyellowpages.com/health_ebooks/eat_fat/index.html

STORAGE AND TRANSPORTATION SAVINGS

GROWING YOUR OWN…SUPPLEMENTING WITH VERTICALSUPPLIERS

COMPUTER CONTROLLED ADJUSTMENTS

GONE: CROP ROTATION, SOIL RESTING, ORGANIC MATTER ADDITIONS, SOIL DEPLETION, DUMPING IN THE OCENANS, RIVERS, LAKES AND AQUIFERS PETRO CHEMICAL TOXIC BY PRODUCTS

GRAVITY FLOW GENERATORS

USING BIG OIL SUBSIDY TO FINANCE VERTICAL FARMS AS A TAX /CARBON CREDIT p.255?

CREATING A STRATEGIC MODEL FOR SERVING HUNGRY POPULATIONS p.246

PLANT FIBER PRODUCTS INDUSTRY FROMTHESE “CLEAN” PLANTS

JONATHAN TODD’S MODEL FOR RECYCLING HUMAN WASTE, PLANT MATERIAL AND GREYWATER, p.197 p.233

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 2:15 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 13

Any thoughts?

BevW September 29th, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Did your students build a working prototype? Was it successful the first time?

Jane Hamsher September 29th, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Thank you so much for the truly fabulous introduction Paul, and thank you Dr. Deapommier for writing such a truly compelling book.

I am only a short ways into the book, but already it has sparked my imagination. I imagine the same thing has happened to others. Can you tell us how the response to the book has been?

CTuttle September 29th, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Aloha, Dr. D and Paul…! Welcome to the Lake…!

I’ve seen several different Aquaponic/Aeroponic systems, and it seems the only inputs needed(besides the seeds) is the fish food for the tilapia…!

Is there any other viable fish that could be used…?

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Dickson, since your book, how man cities (I mean governments) have you presented your idea to so far and what was the overall response? Do you see a role the government may play in Vertical Farming?

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:21 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 13

Roger all that!

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:22 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 14

Looks like we would have to have a weekend together to discuss all those queries!

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Have been Organic Gardening 33 years. Insects, fungus and other diseases are hard on the home gardener. I tried recycled windows and doors, awkward to put together. Does help to wind proof and slow trans evaporation of precious water. I have a low budget grey water system for watering the plants. Soil piles for mushroom compost, horse manure anf organic matter.So who wants to be tied to that?

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 2:23 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 13

Out of the 20 or so benefits of vertical farming outlined in Dickson’s book we have achieved about half so far. Its a start. I like the analogy of a telephone. Barerly 2 decades ago we used to talk over a hard wire phone line, now we have smart phone hand held computer. Each year our vertical farm will get better and provide more benefits. Dickson, you have raised the bar high, but as I said in my intro post, pretty much all the points are achievable today, with existing technology. Its a matter or time, capital and determination.

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:26 pm
In response to BevW @ 15

No, this was all theoretical, although they did all the work of determining how many acres of roof top and which crop(s) would be appropriate. It didn’t matter. There is this thing called winter! Roof tops were just not enough to keep the supply of food coming to those who needed it most. Indoor farming won the day in the end.

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Under your chapter social benefits a moveable model was discussed. The UN Refugee program should be all over that. p.213

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:27 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 21

I hear you. There are lots of good reasonably priced indoor growing systems out there that will get you started.

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 2:28 pm
In response to Paul Hardej @ 22

Can production produce competitive pricing?

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 2:28 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 17

Many types of fish thrive in aquaponics, just like in nature. Its a matter of choice and the preference of a local market. Some are more difficult to raise than others. Tilapia is a tough fish, so its easy to raise. But vertical farming is not only about aquaponics. This is just one of technologies that works well and provides organic fertilizer.

Elliott September 29th, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Is most of pest control then managing the microclimate?

and how does air pressure factor in? To keep insects, etc. out?

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 2:29 pm

What kind of profits do vertical farms get compared to factory farms? Compared to organic farms?
Do vertical farms get the same tax subsidies and same amount of tax subsidies that regular farms do?

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:29 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 24

I agree. I taught at a school of public health for 38 years! Its a good solution to the refugee problem. It needs to be invented: modular, cheap, safe, durable. Lets get on it!

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:29 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 26

Ask Paul!

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 2:29 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 26

Yes, we have proven that, by selling to almost 70 local grocery stores for over two years. Its all about scale, proper use of technology and hard work!

Phoenix Woman September 29th, 2013 at 2:30 pm
In response to Paul Hardej @ 12

Would it be possible to, say, have fans circulate the humid air into someplace where higher humidity may be desired? Such as an office building in winter?

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:31 pm
In response to Jane Hamsher @ 16

I think the majority love the book, but Amazon has listed a few malcontents that feel it is their duty to trash everything new! Hm…….

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 2:31 pm

FarmedHere is not subsidized by the taxpayers, we are a true market driver for-profit company with a social mission. It works. Its not easy, but the model has been proven.

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 2:32 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 33

Yes, we are doing that now.

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 2:32 pm

What crops are the most profitable to grow vertically? Obviously crops with small size and quick growing seasons mushrooms for example do all that and you save the expense of growing lights. I guess what I’m asking is is there a chart of this information in the book?

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Dr.Despommmier in the first sections of your book you show how to save our eco systems and biodiversity. Wonderful goals. Imagine game preserves in hardwood forest that will cover the dust bowl that Petro AG has created!

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:33 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 17

I guess it depends on where you are. I think that Growing Power is considering walleye and perch. Good eating fish and they love worms. Verimculture is part of their scheme.

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Dickson, in your book Chapter 8, you mention plants as living machines to be used for environmental cleanup of cities air or grey water. I know technologically its possible all the way today, however have you seen any examples of this yet?

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 2:35 pm
In response to Paul Hardej @ 35

Its great you are making money but can you get money from the government? If you have the numbers and comparisons thats what I’m most interested in.

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 2:36 pm

What are the wages you pay your lowest paid workers and how does that compare to the wages regular farmers pay.

Phoenix Woman September 29th, 2013 at 2:36 pm

I imagine indoor farming makes sense in terms of using as much of the land’s footprint as possible. Instead of crops, just put solar panels or wind turbines on the roof (in fact, the higher the turbine is from street level, the better it will operate), or perhaps check out transparent solar panels that use IR and UV light while allowing visible-spectrum light to pass through: http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/149163-mit-startup-makes-transparent-solar-cells-that-will-allow-your-smartphone-to-power-itself

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:36 pm
In response to Elliott @ 28

I would suggest that maintaining a positive air pressure in the facility helps to keep out airborne pathogens and flying insects. This works well for intensive care units at hospitals. keeping the humidity down helps to discourage fungi from settling in!

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Speaking of animals, I part of your idea I have struggled with it to visualize the potential for animal farming in a vertical farm. Lot’s of our Urban Ag friends in Chicago have chicken in their back yards, but tend to loose them to rats. Can you share some ideas on the concept of raising animals in vertical farm with the readers please?

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:37 pm

I think its too early in the game to make those kind of comparisons.

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 2:37 pm

You talk about growing corn, avocado and other long growing season crops! Year round no out of season. So when soil producers are out of season we don’t have to import!

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 2:38 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 43

In the book he discusses horizontal blades that are quite and very efficient.

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:38 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 33

Why not!

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Getting money for the government mean getting money from the taxpayers. Its not free money. I agree, that in many cases the only way to get the scientific progress is to get government grants, but try to realize that farming has been done for thousands of years with no government subsidies. And some how it worked. The problem is that we are subsidizing wrong crops like soy beans instead of organic food.

Elliott September 29th, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Paul, do you use tissue culture for starting your plants? Or are all seeds or cuttings?

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 2:41 pm
In response to Paul Hardej @ 12

Dickson, at FarmedHere we do also operate an aquaponic greenhouse in Illinois, close to Chicago.

Where is near Chicago I’m in Forrest Park? Are you hiring?

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:42 pm

No, I did not list one because I do not know the answer to that question. I assume its a regional issue. Cuisines vary greatly from place to place. Hence, the kinds of things you choose to grow will vary accordingly, as well. In Asia,leafy greens rule, but in UK, maybe root vegetables would fetch a higher price or herbs of various kinds.

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 2:42 pm
In response to Elliott @ 51

We only use organic seeds and start them in-house. We tried cloning and it works great, we just did not get to it yet in larger scale.

Phoenix Woman September 29th, 2013 at 2:42 pm

My guess is that anything that is highly perishable (and non-freezable) by nature — salad crops and most produce — is suitable for vertical farming, for much the same reason that small grocery stores can compete with Walmart on pricing: It’s impossible to buy up tons of something like lettuce and store it for months on end without having it go bad on you. If a highly perishable item can be grown and produced in the same area where it will be eaten, that’s advantageous to the local producer.

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Take it Paul!

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:43 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 47

You got it!

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 2:43 pm

The architecture and the new building materials are very interesting instead of glass and steel aluminum, glues and and light plastic. are stronger and easier to construct reducing labor cost and earthquake and other hazards. Compared to today’s green houses a better model. You mention the Florida strawberry farmer destroyed by hurricane he reduced his footprint 30 to 1 and raised his production through year round harvest. Wonderful solutions.

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:44 pm
In response to Paul Hardej @ 50

I agree!

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:45 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 55

Here, here!

Phoenix Woman September 29th, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Makes sense to me!

And if you’ve got a lot of computers in your computer closet, the heat they generate can be sent to other spots as well. There’s a municipal swimming pool in Switzerland that’s been heated that way for a few years now.

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:45 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 58

Thanks!

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:46 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 61

Right you are. Waste not want not!

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Yes, we do hire. Go to farmedhere.com and like our Facebook, we post job info there and send your resume through our website.

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Worms eat dirt I wonder if it would be economical to grow worms to feed to pigs? Also cities like Chicago got lots of restaurants and grocery stores that throw away old food that could be fed to pigs or if the food is to bad then fed to worms. Chickens like worms also but I don’t think they will eat the range of food pigs do.
If we are worried about disease give all the foods to the worms first I don’t think many human diseases can infect worms.

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 2:48 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 55

Yes, Yes, Yes!!

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 2:48 pm
In response to Paul Hardej @ 64

Thanks:)

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:49 pm
In response to Paul Hardej @ 45

Indoor poultry is common and can be done without concern for rodents if its constructed in the right way. Fish crustaceans, molluscs, no problem. Four legged animals are a no no. I cannot envision them indoors. I know some people like to think of pigs inside, but, for me they are free-range animals.

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 2:50 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 55

East of Eden, Steinbeck, was made into a movie. James Dean was the “Bad Kid” brother who wanted to help his father’s effort to refrigerate a lettuce crop with ice which failed. The scene was quite vivid water running out of the cars. No need for cold storage with consumption on harvest.

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:50 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 43

Yup!

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:52 pm
In response to Paul Hardej @ 40

Absolutely! John Todd is the expert here.Check him out! He has championed this idea since the 1960s!!!! Just type out his name on Google search and enjoy!

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 2:53 pm

I guess I am asking about tax funding because this sounds like a perfect project to create jobs in the inner city food deserts which would be a natural market for you.
If I were in the WH and wanted to create jobs in the inner city plus had a wife who wanted people to eat healthier well I’d be turning over empty buildings the banks foreclosed on to people like you and getting you some kind of government support

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:54 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 38

Bravo!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Nice!

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 2:55 pm

How is the nutritional value of your food compared to commercially farmed food, compared to organic food?

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Physics come into play using gravity water pressure like water towers less pumping energy and energy production. Can the blue and red spectrum be produced efficiently?

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 2:56 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 69

Some greens need to be refrigerated, good food safety practices. However, since we grow with no soil, our greens go to your home unwashed. There is no need for us to wash them, which removes essential oils off the leafs, takes aroma and vitamins away, crashes the plant cells and takes flavor away. Many greens shipped from CA to Chicago have “triple washed” on the box. They are washed in 100 ppm chlorine solution, three times.
In-door farming eliminates this issue.

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 2:57 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 76

Yes to both. Our grow systems, as we call them for lack of better word, rely on gravity flow in many ways. It saves lots of energy and provides a soothing water dripping sound. Seriously, its relaxing to grow in-doors.

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 2:57 pm

I heard bees pollinate crops and this increases crop yields do you have bees on site indoors?

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 2:59 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 76

Yes, Philips has just announced a new LED system that is 68% efficient at converting electricity into light. Up to then, it was only 28% effcient.Game over, man!

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Yes, we tried that in our greenhouse, works well. We are not growing plants that require pollination in our 90,000 sf farm yet, but will soon and we are developing an entire program to control and benefit from all kinds of beneficial bugs. My daughter is not happy about it :((

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:00 pm

A lot of indoor growing facilities use bumble bees. It really works.

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 3:01 pm

The Todd’s came to our community to address wastewater concerns. His ideas made treatment sustainable. Instead our county chose to ship solids rather than produce energy with them. His floating gardens removed the nitrogen overload and aeration met the Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD). Solar panels and wind energy were excluded. We are stuck with aan oxidation ditch and expensive and invasive gravity sewer collection system. In a decadeit will be leaking sewage into out aquifer below. The WW industry has regulatory capture and powerful lobbies.

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Researchers claim artificial lighting in warehouses could produce year-round growing
Experiments being carried out using ‘pink’ lights – actually a mix of blue and red LEDs

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2329017/Is-pink-lighting-future-farming-Researchers-reveal-breakthrough-growing-using-artificial-lights.html

Does the color of the light really matter that much in plant yield and speed of growth? Is pink the best color?

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Dickson, In writing your book, you probably did not realize how difficult it will be to challenge the food distribution system by growing locally. Did you ever look at this problem? Based on our experience, most of large retailers have their own distribution centers, which are not designed to handle smaller local producers, but they still want local growers to use these centers.

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Yes it does.

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 3:03 pm
In response to Paul Hardej @ 81

What kinds of bugs is there a section in the book on it?

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 3:03 pm
In response to Paul Hardej @ 78

Let’s record that sound for the sleepless! I want a CD.

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Why bumble bees and not regular bees any special reason?

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Check out the spectrum of light needed for photosynthesis (any of these Google search terms will get you there). Blue and red are best.

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:07 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 88

Excellent. I have a problem sleeping also, as after reading Dickson’s book I can not stop working for the last 3 years.

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

My local hydroponics aquaculture warehouse guy would love to market that. Where can we get it? I just installed grow lights he provided high pressure sodium light. Most indoor growers do too. Will this invention change that?

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:09 pm
In response to Paul Hardej @ 85

Yes, I did, and surprisingly, companies like Whole Foods came right on board after they saw how good it was for business to buy and sell locally. FarmedHere is another good example. Lots of progress. Food born diseases helps to keep the public focused on safety as well as locally produced.Its changing, make no mistake about it. Give it another 5-10 years and it will really be a force to be reckoned with.

Phoenix Woman September 29th, 2013 at 3:09 pm

There you go. You can now run vertical farms anywhere.

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Plants do not need white light in the photosynthesis process. Its a waste of energy to use white light in growing plants. Deep blue (almost UV 420 nm to 460 nm and red to deep red are best spectrums.

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:10 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 92

Absolutely. LED grow lights will revolutionize the indoor growing industry in another 2-4 years.

Phoenix Woman September 29th, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Yup. Keeping it local = shorter supply chain = less vector points for contamination.

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 3:10 pm

A landmark study on the topic by Donald Davis and his team of researchers from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was published in December 2004 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. They studied U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional data from both 1950 and 1999 for 43 different vegetables and fruits, finding “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C over the past half century. Davis and his colleagues chalk up this declining nutritional content to the preponderance of agricultural practices designed to improve traits (size, growth rate, pest resistance) other than nutrition.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=soil-depletion-and-nutrition-loss

I assume with the way you grow things this is not a problem?

BevW September 29th, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Have you seen issues with Zoning or Not-In-My-Backyard arguments? pushback from communities or industries?

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:12 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 83

You can lead a politician to water, but you cannot make him/her think!

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Thanks Dickson. I did hear, that you may be working on a second book to follow up on the Vertical Farm. Can you tell us more about it?

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 3:13 pm
In response to Paul Hardej @ 85

The entry level is at Big Marketers like Safeway. All the retail outlets are competing now with the very profitable Big Organics like World Food. They have organic sections where you might find space. Especially if you supply their smaller competitors. New Frontier foods growing soil crops on their farm. The cleaner Vertical farmed should have appeal to us fussy consumers.

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:15 pm

My information on that comes form Gene Giacomelli at U. Arizona and Cary Fowler at the FAO of the United Nations. I think what goes in must come out. If you include all the nutrients in a water-based plant diet for both the plants and for us, too, then that is what you will harvest! If not, then its too bad for both kingdoms!

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:16 pm
In response to BevW @ 99

Not yet to my knowledge.

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 3:16 pm
In response to Paul Hardej @ 91

Paul you and Dickson are making history thank you for taking the next step in our evolution. Without food and water wars we will become better stewards of our planet. Thanks.

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Perfect timing as I have an answer. At FarmedHere, we have recently conducted an independent lab study on the vitamin and micronutrient content in our greens versus other leading organic growers offered at major retail outlets. Our greens were higher in vitamin c by 161%, Iron by 147% and lower on sodium, etc. Soil erosion is a big problem so is the climate change, which puts stress on plants. The supply chain is broken and vegetables and fruits are picked before they ripen and complete their genetically program process of ripening.

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Thats what I thought myself I just asked to make sure I admit I’ve got a problem with being sure about stuff.

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:18 pm
In response to Paul Hardej @ 101

Hm. rumors travel fast! Yes, Mitchel Joachim and I are putting together a book proposal on the New City; a radical look at making city life reflect natural process and become truly sustainable.

CTuttle September 29th, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Do you address the grains like barley, rice, rye, and/or wheat…?

Also, have you ever considered the native american tradition of planting beans, corn and squash together…?

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 3:20 pm
In response to Paul Hardej @ 106

Our greens were higher in vitamin c by 161%, Iron by 147% and lower on sodium, etc.

This is impressive I hope there is more information on this topic at the website. What do you add to get such results?

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:20 pm
In response to BevW @ 99

I have not seen not-in my back yard issues, but yes most zoning codes have been written in 1950′s, so there is a big need to update in many cities. Farming is defined in a traditional way, what we do it very different.

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:22 pm

You grow crops in ideal conditions. Controlled Environment Agriculture – CEA. Watch for this term becoming the next big thing.

Elliott September 29th, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Paul, Do you grow Chlorella & Spirulina or other algae?

Mushrooms?

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 3:22 pm
In response to Paul Hardej @ 106

California Central Valley, a breadbasket for a lot of the world, has been applying toxic petro chemicals to crops for 70 years or more so says Rachel Carson (Silent Spring). Now the polluted water tables are nearing the root zone of crops.A disaster in progress. They tried to pipe the selenium to dump in the Pacific. Vertical Farms can solve this AG problem.

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:23 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 109

We have not tried these crops yet. As you can learn from Dickson’s book, there are many more opportunities. Just read it.

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Would space concerns make growing even dwarf fruit trees unpractical I like blood oranges and grapefruit.

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:23 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 109

I have some thoughts, but more clever individuals than I have even greater thoughts on that topic. Its not too far out to think of how to grow wheat, rice, corn, barley, etc. indoors efficiently and in large quantities, as well!

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:24 pm
In response to Elliott @ 113

We are just starting with mushrooms, other not yet. We are focused for now of several crops we have mastered in growing. We always experiment. Thanks for good ideas.

Elliott September 29th, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Synoia, a commenter, said it can’t work

Can’t work.
Lambert’s cosine law. (Aka: Shadow from building).

Has this ever created an issue?

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:25 pm

I like trees outdoors. Carbon sequestration ids their job!

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:26 pm

No limit on space. Its a technology design issue not a space issue. We have millions of vacant buildings in the US with tall ceilings after we killed manufacturing. Lets turn them into farms and give the land back to nature and future generations.

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:26 pm
In response to Elliott @ 119

Vertical farming is only limited by our imagination and creativity! If an issue arises, it can be addressed!

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Creating hardwoods forests where farmland has been destroyed could include orchards as well. See p.2

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:29 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 114

Roger that!

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:29 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 114

Yes, we are zero organic waste at FarmedHere and zero run off to the fields. Our waste water if any goes into the municipal sewer and is treated at the end. Most of the water (98%) is recirculated all the time. We use zero harmful chemicals. None. Just like Dickson predicted.

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Just ordered the book from the library Given the high cost of fuel how much would vertical farming save in transportation costs for people who live in the cities?
Also some crops lose taste and I assume nutrition the longer they are stored without being eaten how much do crops lose after a week? two weeks being in storage before being eaten?

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Dickson, I am very excited and cannot wait for you next book. Thanks for sharing this information.

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 3:33 pm

I utilize my small space better by setting vertical grow plants. Some on walls, some pole that reach the sunlight. An Apple tree by a fence get the light above the fence shadow on the South side peeping above it. We all can use these concepts even if you only have windows and balconies. Having fresh salads is within most people’s reach. So nutrition can be improved.

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:34 pm
In response to Paul Hardej @ 125

FarmedHere is the gold standard as top what to do with an abandoned warehouse! You both did exactly the right thing employing exactly the right kind of people!!!!!!

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 3:35 pm
In response to Paul Hardej @ 125

So what is not to like here? A business opportunity. 20 years down the road you will look around and see big finance in the game.

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 3:36 pm

How are other countries doing in vertical farming ? Are they developing different approaches than we are?

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:37 pm

We save thousands of gallons of car gas (or diesel) by farming locally. The final destination retailer is located on average 11 miles away from our farm. Our efficient Sprinter vans run full all the time and make 30 deliveries per day. You can do the math quickly. We need to grow the food where we live. We do not build schools for our children or hospitals 1,200 miles away from where we live? So why should we look at food differently?

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Actually, food miles is no big deal. Tons of food gets shipped via our highways every day. Its the freshness and availability issues that vertical farming addresses best! Hour old food is possible! What could be better than that. No spoilage, 100% nutrition on demand!

BevW September 29th, 2013 at 3:39 pm

That as got to be a big plus for local restaurants – fresh, picked the same day.

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:39 pm

I am humbled. Thank you so much Dickson for kind words. This is very motivating.

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Japan is the biggest player right now. Fukashima spawned an rash of new plant factories, most use LEDs, some still use sunlight. Nuvege is one of my favorites. Check them out on their web site.

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:40 pm
In response to BevW @ 134

No question.

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Great point Dickson. Our retailers are very happy with our products, as we have reduced the “shrink” by over 80%. Its a win-win for all.

BevW September 29th, 2013 at 3:42 pm
bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Source wise http://www.alibaba.com/product-gs/1281995407/Plastic_PTFE_thin_sheet.html will this plasticdegrade in sunlight light like greenhouse plastics? And is there source for communities that want to start vertical gardens?

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Isreal and Dubai are using it now.

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Yes, Japan is leading in the number of Vertical Farms (they call them food factories- I do not think such branding will work in the US). The U.S. is not far behind, we will catch up within the next few years or so.

Phoenix Woman September 29th, 2013 at 3:45 pm
In response to Elliott @ 119

Since large-scale vertical farming relies on additional light sources besides the sun, this isn’t that big of an issue. Especially with the use of lights that emit at frequencies other than visible light.

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 3:46 pm

As part of a four-year study, scientists in northern Japan have been bombarding a variety of mushrooms in lab-based garden plots with artificially induced lightning to see if electricity actually makes the fungi multiply.

(See pictures of Brazilian mushrooms that glow in the dark.)

The latest results show that lightning-strength jolts of electricity can more than double the yield of certain mushroom species compared with conventional cultivation methods.

“We have tried these experiments with ten types of mushroom so far and have found that it is effective in eight species,” said Koichi Takaki, an associate professor in engineering at Iwate University.

Repeated tests have shown that the fungi react best when they’re exposed to between 50,000 and 100,000 volts for one ten-millionth of a second.

Given the right amount of electricity, the shiitake crop yielded double the amount harvested from logs not exposed to an energy burst. The amped-up nameko logs produced 80 percent more mushrooms.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/04/100409-lightning-mushrooms-japan-harvest/

Are you using something similar to this in your own mushroom production?

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:47 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 143

Correct, and to add to your point, lighting technology is getting more efficient each year.

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:48 pm

ETFE (ethylene tetrafluroroethylene) is what most manufacturers recommend for plastic skins on greenhouses and vertical farms (see: The Eden Project). It is not affected by UV radiation, as compared to most commonly used transparent plastics that yellow after long exposures to sunlight.

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:49 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 143

see my answer on efficiency of LED lights (Philips breakthrough)

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Lightning tests are being conducted at other institutions on rapeseed plants, beans, and some varieties of lily, Takaki added.


http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/04/100409-lightning-mushrooms-japan-harvest/

It seems electricity might help plants other than Fungi grow I wonder what the latest results of their tests are?

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:50 pm

No we do not, thanks for sharing.

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 3:51 pm

If I can afford it I will switch to ETFE. Our community garden provider will want to know. He uses wiggle mold plastic now. There may be some chemical leaching saved as well.

CTuttle September 29th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Fiber optic cables can channel the sun’s rays with little loss…!

BevW September 29th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

As we come to the last few minutes of this great Book Salon discussion, any last thoughts?

Dickson, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book, and how vertical farms are in our future.

Paul, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon, and for FarmedHere.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Dickson’s website (Columbia Univ) and book (Vertical Farms)

Paul’s website (FarmedHere.com)

Thanks all, Have a great week. If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Your Welcome!

dakine01 September 29th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Thank you Dickson and Paul for a very informative discussion!

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:53 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 151

I like it! Good one!

ThingsComeUndone September 29th, 2013 at 3:54 pm
In response to BevW @ 152

Thanks for getting this book chat put together I’m going to have to read this again later after I had a chance to think about what I learned more.

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:54 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 154

What fun!!!!!!!!! Thanks for having me, Bev. Great job.

Paul Hardej September 29th, 2013 at 3:55 pm
In response to BevW @ 152

Bev, Dickson and All,

Thank you very much for having me. I hope this session was informative? It was my pleasure to spend part of this afternoon with all the readers and with you Dickson. Keep up the good work please!

Paul Hardej

Dickson Despommier September 29th, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Paul,
We need to get together soon! My best Jolanda!

Elliott September 29th, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Thank you so much, this was a lot of fun.

Dr D – continuing good luck for your efforts to transform the food network.

Paul – - more power to you!

bigbrother September 29th, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Dickson
So bright and positive book was easy to read. Could we network this with big capital to speed the creation of Vertical farms?

Elliott September 29th, 2013 at 3:58 pm
In response to BevW @ 152

and thank you BevW for putting this all together, nobody does it better

CTuttle September 29th, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Mahalo Nui Loa, Dickson, Paul and Bev, for this most excellent Book Salon…! *g*

karenjj2 September 29th, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Thank you so much for a cheerful and solution-based book and discussion of great things to come!

karenjj2
lurkers rep

BooRadley September 29th, 2013 at 7:24 pm

So sorry I missed one of my heroes, Prof. Despommier.

Haven’t read the thread comments yet, but didn’t see a reference to the folks at Bright Agro Tech in Laramie, WY.

On a much smaller scale, they’re employing some of the same techniques with aquaponics.

http://www.brightagrotech.com

They use zip grow towers to grow vertically. They also sell some produce in towers so customers can “self-harvest.”

gmoke September 29th, 2013 at 10:49 pm

“During the recent decade or more, thousands of the ‘irate minority’ (urban farmers, locavores, small organic farmers, co-op growers, independent organic grocers, local restaurateurs, non-for profits) began challenging the food system in many different ways.”

“The recent decade or more….” I’ve been personally involved in local agriculture, the urban/rural coalition, community gardening, the resurgence of farmers’ markets since the mid-1970s as have thousands and thousands others. Please, please, please, learn this history. It’s important. Too many great men and women have worked too hard to be forgotten. Here in MA, Ed Cooper, E Forrest Hallett, Bill McElwaine, and others are gone but not forgotten. Mel King, Charlotte Kahn, Greg Watson, and many others are not and still blazing a trail towards a new conception of food and agriculture.

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