Thursday, September 29, 2005

Factory-grown organic produce

I'm not quite sure what to make of this.

On one hand, there's something appealling about a controlled environment for growing lettuces which produces an exactly predictable yield, regardless of weather and which, by growing hydroponically and maintaining positive air pressure in a sealed environment is insect-free and therefore pesticide-free.

On the other hand, the author talks about "vertical" factories (multiple stories, or utilising a pile of disused shipping containers) in which case all of the lighting and heating must be provided for by means other than direct solar energy. In light of the mounting crises that most of the world is facing with respect to energy sources, this seems a little infeasible. The closing quote sums it up nicely:

If the cost of energy comes down enough to make artificial lighting and heating affordable for agriculture, Hessel's vision of automated skyscraper farms could one day be a reality, too. "Agriculture is a very wasteful industry right now," he says, pointing out that in regular farms, the majority of water, fertilizer, pesticide and herbicide used is wasted as runoff. "It might turn out that the only way to make agriculture truly sustainable is to stop farming the crops and start manufacturing them."

Addressing waste in current farming practices is certainly a desirable goal, but "if the cost of energy comes down"? Hmm. This seems a little improbable to me.