I once thought food towers or ‘Vertical Farms’ were a good idea. Shame. If we ever discover “Mr Fusion” or some other equally magical form of energy, then maybe we can revisit this idea.
So if we want to feed the 9 billion people expect mid century, then maybe we’d better get cracking with Rezoning our cities around New Urbanism principles and restoring our soils. Over to Monbiot on the problem of light in Vertical Farms.
But the real issue is scarcely mentioned in his essays on the subject: light. Last week one of my readers, the film maker John Russell, sent me his calculations for the artificial lighting Despommier’s towers would require. You can read them in full below the references on this article. They show that the light required to grow the 500 grammes of wheat that a loaf of bread contains would cost, at current prices, £9.82. The current farm gate price for half a kilo of wheat is 6p12. That’s just lighting: no inputs, interest, rents, rates, or labour. Somehow this minor consideration – that plants need light to grow and that they aren’t going to get it except on the top storey – has been overlooked by the scheme’s supporters. I won’t bother to explain the environmental impacts.