Rooftop gardens have recently become all the rage in urban environments, making use of space that has access to sunlight and is otherwise wasted to grow delicious, nutritious food. But what if you don't have a roof?
A recent article in The New York Times highlights a developing trend: vertical farming. By creating edible walls, which are essentially panels of metal, filled with soil and seeds, you're doing more than growing food. Edible walls, like green roofs, provide insulation to the building, reducing the cost of heating and cooling. And they have one really big advantage over rooftop gardens: they're able to grow food in far less space than traditional gardens.
In the past few months, vertical farming has garnered a lot of attention for this reason. Edible walls can utilize graywater, recycling it to water plants. With vertical farming methods, you can grow plants organically, without the use of fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. It eliminates the potential for weather-related crop failures if done indoors, and it minimizes pests and other diseases that can cause damage to plants as well. Most saliently, it allows otherwise unused space in cities to produce high-quality, organic, quintessentially local food.
While some vertical farming advocates foresee a future with skyscrapers full of high-tech edible walls growing food en masse for, well, the masses, right now the technology available is fairly simple. Simple doesn't always mean cheap, though, and The New York Times reports the cost of edible walls at "about $125 a square foot, or $500 per planted panel." Although it's an investment up front, just think about picking lettuce for a salad right off the wall of your fifth-floor walkup in the city. Sounds delicious to me.