Magazine Sneak Peek!: Skyscraper Farms and Other Architecture of the Future


Some people are claiming that these Japanese plant factories are the wave of the future. They boast no dirt, no insects, no fresh air, and no contaminants (the farmers wear gloves, surgical masks and dust-repellant body suits!). The idea is simply to use the perfectly controlled conditions to product perfect germ-free veggies.

Seeing this photo of Japanese plant factories at The Cellar reminded me of our own piece on the architecture of the future from this month's new issue of mental_floss. The piece covers things like the new, glass pyramid that will have 80-story skyscrapers dangling (DANGLING!) from the top, how scientists are actually growing islands from seawater and even what the skyscraper farms of the future will look like and how they'll feed entire cities. Here's the scoop:

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Skyscraper Farms

In most countries, you have farms and you have cities. But what if you could combine the two? Columbia University professor Dickson Despommier is one of the many architects who believes figuring out a way to bring agriculture inside metropolises could save the environment and create more places to live. He imagines 30-story glass greenhouses scattered across city skylines, growing crops on their balconies and inside their labs. According to Despommier, one building could grow enough food annually for 50,000 people, which means that 160 of them could feed all of New York City. Skyscraper farms would also reduce the massive carbon emissions that come from transporting produce across the country and eliminate the threat of weather-related crop failures.
Of all the plans on this list, skyscraper farms are the closest to becoming a reality. Farmers are already planting crops that thrive year-round in greenhouses. And Valcent, a corporation that specializes in green technology, is perfecting ways to grow vegetables on a rotating conveyor system so that each plant receives sufficient sunlight and nutrients. Valcent also hopes to take advantage of municipal wastewater by converting it into recyclable irrigation water.

Of course, there are still obstacles to the implementation of skyscraper farms, including how to ensure that the buildings are biologically secure. One bacteria outbreak could potentially wipe out an entire city's food supply. There's also the question of who would fund these massive greenhouses and how they would afford expensive urban real estate. Despommier's vision of a Manhattan skyline awash in vegetation may have to wait a few decades, but the first vertical farm could be rising soon in a city near you.

But that just scratches the surface! Curious what else is in the magazine? Then pick up the new issue of mental_floss magazine here. Or take advantage of our latest offer and pick up a t-shirt with your subscription for just a couple of dollars more.