Vertical farming and TerraSphere Systems’ alternative agriculture are two really wild proposals for feeding the world, which will eventually reach a shortage of food and land to produce food.



Both were outlined at the New York City Agriculture 2.0 Global Investments Conference for agricultural innovators and investors. It is quite a juxtaposition to be attending the Farm Progress Show at Boone, Iowa, and then two weeks later this investment conference in New York City.



At one conference, most attendees think global warming is a make-believe concept, and at the other conference, attendees are positive that changes in global weather are obvious and not a theory. At the farm show, tripling the yield per acre by 2050 was a typical discussion goal, and at the conference, a goal was to find financing for a demonstration seven-story greenhouse-type building to show how growing food crops in 2050 in the middle of a city will occur.



The vertical farming concept was presented by Dickson Despommier, who is on a mission to have a tall building constructed in a densely populated urban center. The upper levels of the structure would be the food growth center with air locks and sanitation to keep diseases out so that no pesticides will be needed. The food grown on top would be sold at the first-floor street-level market.


Despommier’s book, “Vertical Farm: the world is growing up,” is scheduled to be available as of this month. A demonstration vertical farm is planned to open to show how to grow food without commercial fertilizers, which results in no runoffs or erosion that can occur from land, and will produce crops year round, the way that the author foresees it. Despommier has a doctorate in microbiology.

The author also sees that the vertical farms would overcome “climate change as our biggest challenge” in food production by 2050. He contends that one indoor acre of food production will equal 10 outdoor acres of production. He contends that food production in the future will be in cities where 80 percent of the world’s population is expected to live.



If this all sounds too space age, then you probably haven’t heard of TerraSphere Systems LLC, which is already designing and has plans for building more vertical growth systems. Its first facility is operating in Vancouver, Canada.



The company is expected to be acquired by Converted Organics, subject to board approval. Converted Organics’ main business is converting food waste into organic fertilizer. The acquisition will not reduce the TerraSphere Systems’ need to raise money from investors that will be paid off from licensing fees and royalties, sale of equipment and product sales.



The Agriculture 2.0 conference also opened my eyes to the number of agricultural companies looking for “socially conscious” investment — investment made without the investor earning a high level of return — to assist not-for-profit companies working in undeveloped countries.



It is amazing to see the photos of agricultural production by the rural poor in countries where the income for a family is equivalent to $1 per day. Even when doing their best at trying to assist, farmers’ organizations still have to recover some costs. An example is $150 per acre for low-tech drip irrigation. This is about half the yearly income of those poor farmers, but return on the $150 has been shown to quadruple the return on investment with higher food production in the first year.



All I can say is that attending such conferences really opens my eyes to what is happening and being proposed outside mainstream U.S. agriculture.