Vertical Farms for the developing world

August 4, 2009

We wonder if the vertical farming methods devised by Dr. Dickson Despommier of Columbia University can be adapted for use to help alleviate suffering in nations such as Haiti, Nigeria, Sudan, and Pakistan; all these countries, and many others in the developing world, suffer from high rates of deforestation and soil depletion. I believe these methods are adaptable, but I am neither an architect nor a biologist.

Dr. Despommier has claimed that his vertical farming methods can dramatically increase yields (30 times for strawberries, for example), and it seems to me that these technologies might be more beneficially applied in an environment such as Haiti’s, with their depleted soils, than to provide frisée to gourmet diners in Paris and New York. Despite the demographic evidence that suggests the majority of the world’s population will be living in urban centers within the next 50 years, we cannot escape the fact that many of the world’s most impoverished peoples still live in rural areas where environmental damage has been great. It would also seem that investment in these methods would have more bang for the buck than traditional methods of aid.

Perhaps low-rise structures using this technology are more suited to places like Nigeria in its dry season, so that solar energy production can be maximized. Could this be combined with other projects, such as WatAir, for use in desert regions (Sudan)?

It would also seem that introducing these sorts of sustainable projects will be better for humanity as a whole, in the long run, than the continuing mass migrations of people from the undeveloped world to Europe, Canada, and the United States, and the concomitant social unrest those migrations will cause (or indeed are already causing, most notably in Spain, France, and Italy).

We have spoken to Pierre Leroy, director of the Haitian People’s Support Project, and Mr. Leroy has expressed interest in seeing how this technology might be adapted for use on land that the Haitian People’s Support Project already owns.