Author Archives: Jessica Piccolino

Posts by Jessica Piccolino

Memo 3: Annotated Bibliography, Vertical Farming

1. Cox, Stan, and David Van Tassel. “‘Vertical farming’ doesn’t stack up.” Synthesis/Regeneration, 2010.

In this source, the authors begin to describe Dickson Despommier’s concept of vertical farming as a proposal to substitute soil-based agriculture with a system of manufacturing food crops in tall urban buildings to grow crops indoors, under meticulously controlled conditions, in vertical farms. This idea develops out of the apprehension that there is not enough bare horizontal planes available in most urban areas to harvest the magnitudes of food required to feed urban populations. Cox, Stan, and David then go on to point out that if vertical farming were achievable, it would only push the dependence of food production on industrial inputs to even greater heights, rather than solve any agricultural concerns. In systems of vertical farms, the crops are being deprived of soil as well as sunlight, the most plentiful energy source of them all. The authors explain that plots of crops cannot be layered one level above the other without providing a substitute for the sunlight that has been cut off by the ceilings and walls, so the majority of the light used in the farms would have to be supplied artificially consuming resource-intensive power rather than open and plentiful free sunlight. Based on their calculations, to manufacture wheat in the US for one year, vertical farming would obligate eight times as much electricity as all US utilities generate in one year, just for lighting and producing artificial sunlight for the wheat. They then proceed to discuss the additional energy requirements involving climate control in order to achieve suitable growing conditions.

In this source, Cox, Stan, and David provide very clear and unfavorable information and statistics related to the energy consumption required for vertical farming to be feasible. This source can be useful to my research because it is important that I am aware of not only the positive outcomes produced by vertical farming, but of the many detrimental downsides of the idea. This article called attention to several expenses to be incurred when undergoing the vertical farming process that hadn’t been brought to light in previous articles I have read, such as the high energy cost of humidity and air circulation, the inconveniences and energy requirements for producing and carrying artificial growth media, fertilizers, water and other resources, thirty or so stories up and getting harvests out of the towers and bringing them back those thirty stories down, and the stake of manual labor called for. This information can be useful when considering whether the advantages brought about by vertical farming are worth all of the extra expenses and obligations that come along with it.

2. Despommier, Dickson, The Vertical Farm: Feeding The World In The 21st Century. New York Thomas Dunne Books, 2010.

In this book the author, Columbia professor, Dickson Despommier, introduces his idea of vertical farming to solve America’s food, water, and energy crises. He explains that moving our agricultural systems into high-rise city buildings would renovate the way we grow fruit, vegetables, poultry, and fish, and lighten many of the intense environmental problems we are currently facing. In his book, Despommier stresses the beneficial outcomes of vertical farming including the ability to cultivate food 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the opportunity to protect crops from unpredictable and destructive weather, to recycle and reuse water gathered from the indoor environment, increase the availability of jobs for local inhabitants, excludes the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and other harmful chemicals, reduces dependence on fossil fuels, prevents crop loss due to disease, and stops agricultural runoff. He introduces several different feasible designs for the vertical farm providing stunning illustrations and sketches of the designs, such as the “VF Type O,” proposed by Oliver Foster which takes the shape of a cylinder, the “Pyramid Farm,” proposed by Eric Ellingsen and Dickson, which blatantly takes the shape of a pyramid, and the “Aberrant Agriculture,” proposed by Scott Johnson which forms almost a dome shaped greenhouse.

The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century, by Dickson Despommier contains the basic structure of my research, as the creator of the vertical farming concept gives a detailed and illustrated interpretation of his idea, sharing his thoughts and insights with readers. This source will be helpful when compiling my research because it hold the main purposes for vertical farming as well as the countless advantages that can be achieved if the system is implemented effectively and efficiently. This information is reliable and dictated by Despommier himself; therefore I will have accurate considerations and expectations regarding the vertical farming system.

3. Fletcher, Owen. “Innovations in Agriculture (A Special Report) — The Future of Agriculture May Be Up: Advocates of ‘vertical farming’ say growing crops in urban high-rises will eventually be both greener and cheaper.” Wall Street Journal. October 15, 2012.

In this source, the author Owen Fletcher introduces us to several examples of urban greenhouses developing throughout the world today. He mentions a twelve-story triangular building being constructed in Linkoping, Sweden, in which plants rotate on mechanical tracks from the top floor down to the ground floor taking full advantage of the sunlight while evenly distributing it in order to make harvesting simpler. He also discusses a three-story meatpacking plant in Chicago, in which vegetables are grown on floating rafts sustained by aquaponics, using waste from close by fish tanks for nutrients. Fletcher briefly goes over the benefits of vertical farming including apparent ones such as fewer delivery trucks consuming gas and emitting exhaust and simplified access to fresh, healthy food for city residents; as well as less obvious ones including reducing the use of pesticides, preserving more natural ecosystems to help slow climate change, and the less vulnerable we are to environmental catastrophes that disturb crops and send prices skyrocketing. He then goes on to mention a few unique farming methods used across the country implemented to save space, diminish water consumption, and avoid the need for soil. He also provides core arguments against vertical farming including opposing opinions by agricultural experts who aren’t convinced growing food indoors is simpler and more efficient than conventional farming.

This source provides useful information that supports the possibility of vertical farming as it draws from examples of urban greenhouses implemented across the world. The actual existence of the structures discussed by Fletcher in his report prove that the idea isn’t farfetched and that it is possible to employ such a vertical farm here in one of the many towering skyscrapers of New York City. This source is valuable because it is unbiased, as Fletcher considers the many benefits that can arise from vertical farming and the appraisals the idea has received as well as the critiques made by those who argue that vertical farming expends more effort, energy, and expense than the easier and more efficient method of conventional farming.

4. Murray, Peter. “Towers Of Vegetables Go Up As Singapore Builds First Vertical Farm.” Accessed March 18, 2013.

In this source, the author Peter Murray discusses the first erected vertical farm constructed in Singapore, called A-Go-Gro, which was created by the company Sky Green. The system consists of a series of aluminum towers, up to 9 meters high, with troughs where the vegetables are grown, which are rotated using a hydraulic water-driven system to ensure that all the crops receive equal distributions of sunlight. A-Go-Gro will produce 3 types of vegetables, producing an estimated 1-ton of vegetables every other day which are sold in local supermarkets. The production yield of the A-Go-Gro system is 5 to 10 times more per unit area compared to traditional farms while the greenhouses facilitate year round production protected from pests, winds, and floods, and producing consistent and reliable harvests.

This source is useful towards my research paper because it records the application of a vertical farming system that produces many benefits to its local residents and no obvious disadvantages. A-Go-Gro is a model farming system demonstrating that farming vertically is possible to be preserved at low energy and water usage, while working with nature to achieve sustainability. Patented low carbon hydraulic green technology is used to power the rotation of the towers at very low energy costs while the troughs are irrigated using an innovative flooding method, using very little water; so they are maintaining environmentally friendly technologies. The A-Go-Gro system proves that by using minimal land, water, and energy resources, we can use green urban solutions to achieve enhanced production of safe, fresh, and delicious vegetables.

5. Platt, Peter. “Vertical Farming: An Interview with Dickson Despommier.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 7 (2007): 80-87. Accessed March 18, 2013. .

In this source the author, Peter Platt, is interviewing Dickson Despommier, the father of the vertical farming concept. He reveals that the idea of vertical farming was essentially conceived in 2001 as a class project when Despommier inspired his medical ecology class to “think globally and act locally” in New York City. Despommier expresses the limitless amount of plants that are capable of being grown indoors, considering the parameters necessary for growth are met. Various kinds of different and exotic crops would be grown inside these vertical farms, such as fruits and vegetables ranging from bananas and coconuts, to corn and wheat, so that we would be able to exceed consumer demand with such a variety. Despommier goes on to explain the positive effects vertical farming can produce such as restoring the hardwood forests that were sacrificed in favor of crops, while planting trees to be available for the re-absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere in the form of carbon reserves. He also demonstrates the potential dangers and risks of vertical farming and how these hazards can be mitigated, as he stressed the importance of surveillance and security in order to ensure no diseases spread throughout the farm. The water recycling process was also discussed, where Despommier explains that untreated human sewage is the initial source of energy for plant life. The system depends upon the capture of transpiration at each floor level of the farm.

This source provides a detailed and authentic interpretation of the concept of vertical farming, as it is expressed and analyzed by the creator of the idea himself, Dickson Despommier. I intend to use this source to assist me in my research paper with the clarification of the process of vertical farming including the origins of the idea and the process that is followed, as well as the main purposes it aims to serve and the benefits it seeks to produce for the environment. Not only does Despommier outline the positive outcomes of the idea, but he also points out the possible negative consequences of vertical farming, accepting that there are flaws to be found in just about any organized system, and suggests methods of mitigating or avoiding these dangers and risks. Despommier projects that a vertical farm of thirty stories and one square city block producing commercially available products such as produce, poultry, fish, and shellfish, after all expenses are paid, would end up with 80 million dollars profit. Such calculations about the parameters and profits suggest that a vertical farm in New York City can exist in reality, creating an image in our minds of a soaring tower of forests in the future of our own city.

Exploring holes and chasms of NYC

Drawing from Anderson’s “Social Infrastucture As A Means To Achieve The Right To The City,” Lefebvre discusses two propositions that must be considered in order to achieve the right to the city. One of those propositions includes experimentation with models and spatial forms of urban times in which inhabitants are encouraged to explore the “holes and chasms” existing between planned and formal structures of the dominant society. Think of some “holes and chasms” such as empty lots, abandoned buildings, closed off plots, etc that are overlooked as valueless because they do no represent the main interests of the society. How can such spaces provide an opportunity for the study and development of the new production of space to be used socially for the benefit of your community. Can you envision these spaces as serving some other purpose that can work towards reforming NYC, or the city it’s within?

Memo 2: A Timeline of Vertical Farming

600 BC – King Nebuchadnezzar of ancient Babylon constructed the Hanging Gardens of Babylon for his homesick wife, Amyitis. The Hanging Gardens encompassed an array of plants and trees, imported from Medes, overhanging the terraces within the city’s walls and up the sides of the mountain. Since the area suffered a dry climate, the gardens were watered using a chain pull system, which carried water from the Euphrates River and streamed it to each landing of the garden (Krystek).

1150 AD – Aztec Indians created chinampas, which were floating gardens of rectangular plots built on swamps. Since they were incapable of growing crops on the lake’s marshy shore, they built rafts out of reeds, stalks, and roots, topped the rafts with soil and mud from the bottom of the lake, and then drifted out to the center of the water. Crops would grow on top of the rafts as their roots grew through the rafts and down into the water. The rafts often attached together to form floating fields the size of islands (Turner).

1627 – Sir Francis Bacon first introduced the theory of hydroponic gardening and farming methods in his book Sylva Sylvarum, in which he established the idea of growing terrestrial plants without soil (Saylor).

1699 – English scientist, John Woodward, conducted water culture experiments with spearmint and found that plants would grow better in less pure water than they would in distilled water and that plants derive minerals from soil mixed into water solutions (Turner).

1909 – The earliest drawing of a vertical farm was published in Life Magazine, depicting an open-air building of vertically stacked stories of homes cultivating food for consumption (Jurkiewicz).

1915 – American geologist Gilbert Ellis Bailey coined the term “vertical farming” in his book, “Vertical Farming,” in which he introduced a method of underground farming contingent on the use of explosives. Multiplying the depth of fertile land, such explosives allow and enable farmers to farm deeper, while increasing area and securing larger crops. Bailey focused on less land rather than expanding as he observed it was more profitable to double the depth than double the area (Globacorp).

1922 – Seeking efficient techniques to house sizeable communities of people, Swiss architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, “Le Corbusier,” developed Immeubles-Villas, his project consisting of five-story blocks into which one hundred singular apartments are stacked on top of one another. The plan’s basic unit is the single-person apartment, each isolated from its neighbors, giving them all secluded open space imbedded with greenery (Gallagher).

1937 – In a scientific journal article, William Frederick Gericke coined the term “hydroponics,” the process of growing plants in sand, gravel, or liquid, with added nutrients but without soil combining “hydro” meaning water, and “ponos” meaning labor (Jones).

1940 – Hydroponic systems were used in the Pacific during World War II, where US troops cultivated fresh lettuce and tomatoes on barren islands (Jones).

1972 – SITE (Sculpture in the Environment) proposed the concept “Highrise of Homes,” which calls for a conventional steel tower framework accommodating dirt plots, as it supports a vertical community of private homes (SITE).

1975 – Allan Cooperman introduced the nutrient film technique in which a thin film of nutrient solution flows through plastic channels, which contain the plant roots (Jones).

1989 – Architect Kenneth Yeang envisioned mixed-use buildings that move seamlessly with green space in which plant life can be cultivated within open air, known as vegetated architecture. This approach to vertical farming is based on personal and community use rather than production and distribution matters (Mulder).

1999 – American ecologist Dr. Dickson Despomierre reinvented vertical farming, as it emerged at Columbia University, promoting the mass cultivation of plant and animal life for commercial purposes in skyscrapers (Globacorp). Vertical farms, several floors tall, will be sited in the heart of the world’s urban centers, providing sustainable production of a secure and diverse food supply, and the eventual restoration of ecosystems that have been sacrificed for horizontal farming (Despomierre).

2006 – Nuvege, the forerunner in technology for the innovative growth method of hydroponically grown vegetables, developed their proprietary lighting network, which increases the return rate of vegetable growth by balancing light emissions that also advance photosynthesis through amplified levels of carbon dioxide (Inada).

2009 – Sky Green Farms built a vertical farm consisting of over 100 nine-meter tall towers in Singapore where green vegetables such as bak choi and Chinese cabbage are grown, stacked in greenhouses, and sold at local supermarkets (Doucleff). Singapore’s vertical farm is the world’s first water-driven, tropical vegetable urban vertical farm that uses green urban solutions to maintain enhanced green sustainable production of safe, fresh and delicious vegetables, using minimum land, water and energy resources,” (SkyGreens). It uses sunlight as its energy source, and captured rainwater to drive a pulley system to rotate the plants on the grow racks, ensuring an even circulation of sunlight for all the plants (Despomierre).

2011 – Dutch agricultural company, PlantLab uses red and blue LEDs instead of sunlight in their vertical farms and grow plants in completely controlled environments. By giving the plants only blue and red light, PlantLab can avoid heating its plants up needlessly, leaving more energy for growth (Hodson).

2012 – Farmed Here, a sustainable indoor vertical farming facility opened in a 90,000 square foot post-industrial building in Bedford Park, IL. Fresh, healthy, local greens such as arugula, basil, and sweet basil vinaigrette are produced here, away from the bugs, diseases, and weather that impact most produce today (Despomierre).

2012 – Local Garden, North America’s first ever VertiCrop farm, was constructed in Vancouver, Canada, shifting sustainable farming and food production practices. VertiCrop, a new technology for growing healthy, natural vegetables in a controlled environment maximizes space usage and eliminates need for pesticides. The garden is capable of growing and harvesting up to 3,500 pounds of a variety of fresh greens every week, such as kales, spinach, arugula, endive, lettuce, bak choi, escarole, basil, parsley, chards, etc. (Despomierre).

Works Cited

Despomierre, Dickson. “Long Road from Farm to Fork Worsens Food Outbreaks.” The Vertical Farm Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.

Doucleff, Michaeleen. “Sky-High Vegetables: Vertical Farming Sprouts In Singapore.” NPR. NPR, 9 Nov. 2012. Web. 16 Mar. 2013.

Gallagher, Dominic. “Le Corbusier.” The Open University. N.p., 26 Nov. 2001. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.

“GlobaCorp.” Vertical Farming. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2013

Hodson, Hal. “Shoots in the Dark: Farming without Sunlight.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 26 Sept. 2011. Web. 16 Mar. 2013.

“The Highrise of Homes.” SITE. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.

Inada, Shinji. “About Nuvege.” Nuvege. Green Green Earth Inc, 2011. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.

Jones, J. Benton, Dr. “Hydroponic Growing.” Growing Tomatoes. Grow Tomatoes, 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2013.

Krystek, Lee. “The Seven Wonders – Hanging Gardens of Babylon.” The Seven Wonders – Hanging Gardens of Babylon. N.p., 1998. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.

Mulder, Dave. “Do We Need to Build Vertical Farming Skyscrapers?” Eating Real Food. N.p., 10 Feb. 2011. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.

Saylor, Donn, and John Allen. “What Is Hydroponic Farming?” WiseGeek. Conjecture, n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.

“Sky Green – Home.” Sky Green – Home. Sky Greens, n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2013

Turner, Bambi. “How Hydroponics Works.” HowStuffWorks. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.

Engage: Waste Incineration in our Community

Several of the proposals for incineration facilities disclosed in “Incinerators in Disguise,” were challenged by the residents and environmental justice groups of the community, as they formed coalitions against the waste-treatment companies’ claims of “zero emissions,” until they were rejected. The New York City Department of Sanitation’s Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan for 2006-2025 seeks to reduce NYC’s reliance on “out-of-City landfill disposal options” and explores the possibility of new and emerging technologies being sited in New York City. Although case studies have proven that waste-treatment facilities falsely claim that their technology is “pollution-free,” and has “no emissions,” do you think an incineration facility, promoting technologies such as pyrolysis, gasification, plasma arc, and catalytic cracking, is capable of operating pollution-free? And if an incinerator such as the one mentioned by the DSNY were sited in New York City, how do you think residents of NYC would respond? How would you respond to an emerging incinerator in your community?

Memo 1: Vertical Farming in NYC

To: Professor MacBride
From: Jessica Piccolino
Date: 2/13/13
Re: Research Topic Proposal

In a metropolis as distinguished and prosperous as New York City it is essential to design an efficient and effective system of managing the urban food cycle. Along with such a booming population arises the obligation to grow enough food to feed this increase in people and to provide more suitable land for raising crops. However, traditional farming practices require much more land than the earth has to give in order to feed it’s inhabitants. A potential solution to this problem is vertical farming, which involves indoor farming and employing the use of progressive technologies that is inexpensive, safe, and simple to create.

In my research, I plan to focus on the role that vertical farming can play in the future of New York City, and how the concept can provide a sustainable and reliable food supply, as well as restore sites that have been forfeited for traditional farming. In order to conduct my research, I will read Dickson Despommier’s book “The Vertical Farm” on feeding the world in the 21st century and look to his website as well. I will also look into the challenges of vertical farming and watch many talk videos and presentations by speakers on the topic of vertical farming.

Comments by Jessica Piccolino

"Horton's Climate Observations and Projections provide a clear illustration of the fluctuating climate of New York City and how human activities greatly impact the climate system. While there is plenty of evidence supporting the likelihood of intense heat waves, increasing temperature and precipitation, and rising sea levels, and an apparent call to immediate action, Norgaard points out the various factors contributing to the America's apathy and public silence in regards to climate change. I think that fear is a very strong factor to the passive disregard of the climate change, because as Yana had previously mentioned, after Hurricane Sandy, I began to worry that we may have to become accustomed to extreme natural disasters as they have been occurring more and more frequently. I believe that with uncertainty comes anxiety and uneasiness. With every extreme case of weather New York City has encountered within the past year, there has been a frenzy period of panic and fear. This sense of fear goes hand in hand with helplessness; many people are scared the problem of climate change is too large to conquer and as Norgaard points out, we are overwhelmed because although we recognize the seriousness of the problem, we don't know where to start, whether anyone else cares, or if the political system will support us. I agree that guilt is also a major factor contributing to America's apathy because the climate change is a constant reminder of activities we "should" or "shouldn't" be doing to help preserve our society. It may be uncomfortable thinking about climate change for someone who has done little for the society or has in fact contributed greatly to the emission of greenhouse gases. As college students, to make climate change become visible in daily lives we must educate the public, as Yana also mentions, and also reduce the negative effect of hopelessness, which brings down the urgency of the situation at hand."
--( posted on Feb 11, 2013, commenting on the post Climate Change: Why Do American’s Ignore it? )
"In Living in the World Risk Society, Beck emphasizes the "unpredictable and impersonal force" of global risk in the modern world, which provokes the human response to organize sustainability tactics such as the mitigation and adaptation strategies proposed by Yohe and Leichenko. I think that the best approach for the world, as well as New York City, to react to risks and climate change is adopting a risk-based approach, as Jessica L., and Jenny both acknowledged. The dual approach of adaptation and mitigation neutralize one another, as adaptation compensates for the other when mitigation responses don't reflect anticipated climate changes, while mitigation balances adaptation when it is overwhelmed by the fluctuating climate. Figure 2.1, in Adopting a Risk-Based Approach, which shows a graph presenting risk thresholds over decades demonstrates that if we remain on the current risk trajectory, disregarding adaptation and mitigation, the acceptable level of risk is crossed relatively soon. It also indicates that without mitigation efforts, adaption is not enough to sustain and preserve society. Therefore, adopting to a risk-based approach incorporating adaptation and mitigation, is essential when reacting to risks and climate change in the world and in New York City."
--( posted on Feb 11, 2013, commenting on the post Risked-Based Approach in a (World) Risk Society )