Professor Dickson Despommier, Columbia University -New York City, The United States
Dr. Dickson Despommier is a microbiologist, an ecologist, and emeritus professor of Public and Environmental Health at the Columbia University. For 27 years he conducted research on cellular and molecular parasitism and held lectures and courses on Parasitic Disease, Medical Ecology and Ecology. From one of these courses, in 1999, he founded the root for this idea of raising crops in tall buildings; so called vertical farming.
The Vertical Farms are hi-tech hydroponic greenhouses stacked one on top of the other, thus making it possible to farm crops in a city. Although indoor agriculture has been around for a long time, nobody before Despommier had thought of making it vertical. Despommier thinks that vertical agriculture is one of the best solutions to counter population increase, urbanization and infectious diseases caused by parasites that spread when human feces is used as a fertilizer for traditional farming methods.
In 2010, Despommier published his widely received book: “The Vertical Farm: feeding the world in the 21st Century”, St. Martin’s Press, New York. Two years ago vertical farms were regarded as a utopia, but one year ago the first prototypes were built. Among those prototypes are: a three-story VF Suwon, South Korea, over 50 (plant factories that qualify as vertical farms) in Japan, a commercial vertical farm in Singapore that opened in 2012, and another in Chicago that was built in an old industrial building.
Vertical farms have many advantages: food is organically farmed, urban space is saved, it is possible to farm all year round and in any place, and use of agrochemicals is eliminated. His idea was regarded as visionary several years ago, but today it has become a beacon for all countries where food imports are high.
Despommier claims that even developing countries could use this technique to fight one of the most dangerous plagues of the world: hunger. Vertical farms serve as the basis for re-designing cities as technological equivalents to functional ecosystems.