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The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century Hardcover – October 12, 2010

3.5 out of 5 stars 101 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From AudioFile

Citing the pollution problems that traditional agriculture creates in the environment, the author proposes bringing crop and animal farms into the cities, stacking them into tall buildings like Lego blocks. Armed with dozens of reasons for concentrating food production in urban areas, Professor Despommier stays loose on the fine details of his proposal. Narrator Sean Runnette inflects his soft voice in response to the meandering message. While some nonfiction readers just plug on no matter what, he demonstrates a skillful sensitivity to the information, much of it sobering. Runnette neither hurries nor drags and enunciates every word, some of which would challenge a speaker less capable with technical terms. The writer avoids the trivialities of cost and admits that no one has ever built a vertical farm. J.A.H. © AudioFile 2010, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“A captivating argument that will intrigue general readers and give policymakers and investors much to ponder.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“A visionary known the world over, Despommier believes that the ‘vertical farm is the keystone enterprise for establishing an urban-based ecosystem' and for ‘restoring balance between our lives and the rest of nature.” ―Booklist (starred)

“Despommier has quickly become the central figure in what could be a worldwide revolution.” ―Scientific American

“Nobody has ever dreamed as big as Dr. Dickson Despommier.” ―New York Magazine

“Despommier's . . . ingenious idea . . . could ultimately ease the world's food, water, and energy crises.” ―The Huffington Post

“Dickson Despommier is a futurist, an architect, and an intellectual in the same vein as Leonardo da Vinci, I. M. Pei, and Buckminster Fuller. Vertical farms will be remembered as one of the preeminent breakthroughs of the early 21st century, and Despommier will be remembered as the man who brought them to us.” ―Josh Tickell, director of Fuel, winner of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary

“This book makes the case that urban agriculture can go vertical as well as horizontal, putting all those expanses of pretty glass to some actual use!” ―Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

“Cities of the future must generate their own food supply. Dickson Despommier's elegant, simple answer for achieving this goal is vertical farming. Welcome to the third green revolution.” ―Peter Diamandis, Chairman of the X Prize Foundation and Co-Founder of the Singularity University

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312611390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312611392
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #441,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Scott Keating on November 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Pure drivel" is how I would describe this book. Absolutely no content. I heard about this book when its author was interviewed on NPR radio. I was intrigued by the idea of vertical farming, and thought the book would tell me something about it. The book completely failed me.

The first 131 pages of the book (out of a total of 268 pages) do not discuss the vertical farm AT ALL! Instead, the first 131 pages consist of a directionless wander through the history of the planet and of mankind, including discussion of ecosystems, "technospheres" (whatever they are!), the dustbowl of the 1930s, the spread of infectious agents, the Bible and the Reverand Billy Graham, John Steinbeck and "The Grapes of Wrath", the US Civil War, the oil industry, dynamite, the Atomic Bomb, injustice and inequality, climate change, Charles Darwin and the Galapagos Islands, genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), and HIV/AIDS. Most of these subject have little, if anything to do with vertical farming.

I got excited when I reached the 2nd half of the book and Chapter 5 entitled "The Vertical Farm: Advantages." Finally, I thought, a discussion of the vertical farm. Alas, no such luck. Very little of the second half of the book addresses vertical farming. What discussion there is about vertical farming addresses either technologies most of us know about -- such as hydroponic growing and photovoltaic cells -- or about ideas that are so far-fetched they are hardly worth discussing. The words "could", "would" and "should" are a prevalent as rats in a sewer.

If you want to get the entire content of the book, refer to pages 145-146 where a list of eleven advantages of vertical farming are given (double-spaced, I presume, to take up more space than they deserve).
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Format: Hardcover
I regularly read business books of various genres and was extremely disappointed in "The Vertical Farm". After a hundred pages that labor over the history of world agriculture and endless environmental rants, Dr. Dickson Despommier doesn't offer the reader even a shred of economic or cost and return data to substantiate the vertical farm. Nothing. After 256 pages, he simply closes his book by literally asking the reader to "suspend your own sense of reality and imagine along with me" of what could be. Holy smokes, sounds like Dr. Despommier has had some particularly fine success with hydroponic growing!

However, let's just do a back-of-the-envelope feasibility. The only economics presented by Dr. Despommier is the assertion that hydroponic farming can produce 10 to 20 times the crop output per acre than that of a traditionally maintained farm field. Let's run with that and assume an acre of Iowa farmland costs $10,000 or around $.25 per square foot. Assuming a median of 15 times the efficiency of the traditional farm, the hydroponic equivalent cost would be $3.75 per square foot, which will be our baseline comparison to solely the construction cost of the vertical farm. As you read through the book, no expense is spared in the vertical farm concept. It has at least the cost of a high rise office building shell (say, $75 per SF) plus essentially a hermetically sealed, clean room environment, tons of growing equipment, photovoltaic panels, and artificial illumination (easily an additional $225 per SF). Let's add land cost, design cost, financing costs, and other fees and the vertical farm is around $375 per SF compared to the Iowa farm equivalent of $3.75 or around 100 times more expensive before a seed has been planted!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
News stories, I was taught in school, always include "who, what, when, where, why". And science stories, the old joke went, always include "who, what, when, where, wow". For green tech, authors tend to trade the "why" for a "woe". And then, of course, there's the "woo".

The book starts with the woe:

The history of agriculture (starting with the Neanderthals), the technological fall from grace, and then heart wrenching descriptions of the coming agricultural apocalypse. Is it correct? I don't know. But I'm pretty sure that, despite the provocative mental picture it evokes, restaurants in New York don't necessarily put out food waste in green plastic garbage bags (there are multiple composting programs), and the author's claim that "the Spanish troops received the lasting 'gift' of syphilis ... undoubtedly acquired from raping and pillaging sorties, which they then introduced into Europe" is hyperbole (unless he meant that they introduced raping and pillaging sorties to Europe? I'm pretty sure Europe had those already). But in this book's universe, there are wastrel societies, and steward societies, and nary the twain shall meet. (Except for those Conquistadors).

The over simplification of history leads into an oversimplification of science. "<GMOs have> come under attack because of a perception on the part of the public that GMOs are potentially harmful and should not be allowed. In fact, they have been modified to resist droughts, attack from a variety of plant pathogens, and increased amounts of herbicides." (page 130) (Try googling "roundup-ready" for why this isn't such a hot idea).
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