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

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]

Book SalonCommunity

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

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. (more…)

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