Sustainable Development Using Vertical Farms


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Sustainable Development Using Vertical Farms

  1. 1. Grow Up, Grow Smart 1 Grow Up, Grow Smart:Sustainable Development Using Vertical Farms Mohammad Beheshtaein Jacob Deline Craig Hyatt Wilson Tsan Chris Slafter UNVS 196D Professor Quill December 5, 2008
  2. 2. Grow Up, Grow Smart 2 Table of Contents PageIntroduction 4Section I. Sustainability and vertical farms 5 A. The general problem of sustainability 5 B. Sustainability and agriculture 6Section II. Problems with current methods of farming 7 A. How is it unsustainable? 8 1. Soil 8 2. Water 10 3. Energy and Transportation 11 B. Urban farming 11 1. Vertical farms boost crop yield 12 2. Vertical farms make water use sustainable 13 3. Vertical farms improve waste management and distribution 14Section III. How vertical farms will help San Jose State University 15 A. Spartan Dinings current environmental and business practices 15 B. Green rooftops and vertical farms are the next step for SJSU 16 C. Our proposed model 18Section IV. Integration of a vertical farm into the San Jose State University campus 19 A. Potential structure sizes 19 B. Proposed structure locations 21
  3. 3. Grow Up, Grow Smart 3 C. Estimated construction timeline 23Section V. The nutritional benefits of eating healthy 23 A. Eating healthy is good for you both physically and mentally 24Conclusion 29References 30
  4. 4. Grow Up, Grow Smart 4Introduction Our purpose is to examine, in the words of Thomas Friedman, what we can “do inresponse to the truly massive challenge that we face to preserve the natural world that has beenbequeathed to us.”1 San Jose State has a long history of innovation and progress. Our plan is tocontinue San Jose State University’s history of innovation by growing vegetables and fruits oncampus for use by the campus. We will utilize once unused land while taking advantage ofsustainable practices. Our proposal is to begin with rooftop gardens and then progress toconstructing a vertical farm on campus. Our ultimate goal is to demonstrate the utility of vertical farms and develop their usage inSan Jose and beyond. This urban farming technique offers many benefits including: sustainablefarming techniques, low cost food production, a new sense of civic pride, more nutritious eatinghabits, and an innovative plan that could make SJSU and San Jose an even better place to live,work and play. Beyond these benefits, we feel that urban farming offers San Jose a chance tosystemically address the problems facing the environment and the community. We do not aimmerely at a solution to fix an isolated problem. By asking San Jose to accept our proposal we aregiving San Jose the opportunity to embark on a path of real change. Already, we have garneredsupport from Associated Students, Spartan Dining, and Professor Mathur. A change in behaviorwill go a long way toward finding solutions to our environmental problems. John Gardner, thefounder of Common Cause, remarked that, “today’s energy – climate challenge is a series ofgreat opportunities disguised as insoluble problems”.21 Friedman, Thomas L. Hot, Flat, and Crowded. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York. 2008. Pg 397.2 Ibid. 170.
  5. 5. Grow Up, Grow Smart 5Section I. Sustainability and vertical farms The purpose of our paper is to clearly define the problem with which the human speciesis confronted and to offer an answer. The proposed solution to this problem will be a proactiveapproach that addresses the issue systemically rather than an approach that only addressestechnical problems as they arise. Solutions which solve individual technical problems do notaddress the core issue. An examination of the history of how western thought3 has come tounderstand the relationship between the human species and nature will reveal that the westernoutlook has lead to the creation of methods of production that are not sustainable. A lack ofsustainability is the systemic problem that we are faced with and any proposed solution to themyriad problems facing the human species needs to address this directly. This lack ofsustainability needs to be addressed first conceptually, and then at a technical level.A. The general problem of sustainability Our civilization cannot currently provide for itself without utterly exhausting the naturalresources that it uses. Derrick Jensen notes: Industrial fishing practices have decimated every one of the world’s biggest and most economically important species of fish….Fully 90 percent of each of the world’s large ocean species, including cod, halibut, tuna, swordfish, and marlin, have disappeared from the world’s oceans in recent decades….[F]ishing has become so efficient that it typically takes just 15 years to remove 80 percent or more of any species unlucky enough to become the focus of a fleet’s attention.4The Earth’s resources are finite; therefore, we must live in a manner that is sustainable.According to Jensen, a lifestyle “is sustainable if it does not damage the capacity of the landbase3 We say ‘western thought’ because though there are many other ways of life, the way of life determined by western thought hasbecome the dominant paradigm in the world. Therefore, if we are going to address problems that have arisen within our culturewe need to discuss how our world view came to be.4 Jensen, Derrick. Endgame. Seven Stories Press, 2006. 235-236.
  6. 6. Grow Up, Grow Smart 6to support its members.”5 From a western perspective, the practice of unsustainably gatheringresources has its roots in how the relationship between human beings and nature has beendefined. Clive Ponting, author of A New Green History of the World: the Environment and theCollapse of Great Civilizations, discusses the history of how human beings have articulated theirrelationship to nature. According to Ponting, there is a tendency to place human beings in aposition of privilege over nature; nature is seen as a resource to be used. Classical Greek thought,Judeo-Christian thought, modern economics, science, and philosophy have all given weight toarguments in support of anthropocentrism. Within these systems of thought, the unrestrained useof natural resources has been justified and encouraged. Human beings now find themselves in aposition where their civilizations are using more resources than the natural world can provide.Derrick Jensen points out, in Endgame, that this is evidenced by the historical fact that everycivilization, with the exception of hunter-gatherer communities, imports its resources once it hasexhausted the resources immediately available to it. “[C]ities must import resources, a processalso known as conquest, colonialism, and these days, the global economy.”6B. Sustainability and agriculture As an example, the agricultural industry currently does not preserve the very naturalsystems upon which it depends. Global growth is causing more land and resources to be used foragricultural purposes. Friedman notes that “Global growth is driving up commodity prices,prompting companies to put more land under agricultural cultivation for food, fiber, andbiofuels”.7 In an echo of Ponting’s statement that the problems we face cannot be solved bysimply coming up with new resources or technological fixes, Thomas Friedman in his book, Hot,5 Ibid, 233.6 Ibid, 104.
  7. 7. Grow Up, Grow Smart 7Flat, and Crowded, points out that this lack of a systemic approach to the problem of resources“is why we need a strong ethic on conservation. There have to be limits to how much and wherewe encroach on the natural world.”8 If we do not approach the problem in this manner “we willcontinue to lurch from single response to single-issue response – without ever developing asystematic approach”.9 The lack of resources is the problem facing the agricultural industry andit is emblematic of the problem facing all aspects of our civilization. However, there is anotherway to grow as a population and a civilization. Among, and in conjunction with, other solutions“you can grow more food per acre”10, says Friedman.Section II. The problems with current methods of farming Citizens of the developed nations enjoy a wide range of foods. It is not until a detailedlook at the resources and systems needed, before the food even arrives into a person’s kitchenthat we begin to understand the enormous effect food has on industrial infrastructures and on theenvironment. Environmental experts Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins in theirbook Natural Capitalism, point out the inefficiency and linearity of conventional agriculturelifecycle, from the use of raw material to the method in which food waste is disposed of.Pioneers such as Dickson Despommier of Columbia University have too, noted these inefficiencies by the agricultural industry, anddeveloped a new system called a Vertical Farm, that can be non-polluting, energy efficient, andan overall more effective way of feeding people. This new system of food production anddistribution can be the counter to the perilous method of agriculture that we have grown used to.To understand the benefits of a Vertical Farm, we must first look at the techniques of modernagriculture.A. Current Methods6 Friedman, Thomas L. Hot, Flat, and Crowded. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York. 2008. Pg., 148.7 Ibid, 148.10 Ibid, 70.
  8. 8. Grow Up, Grow Smart 81. Soil According to J. P. Kimmins in Forest Ecology: a Foundation for SustainableManagement, soil is “those upper layers of the unconsolidated surface of the landscape thatprovide forest plants with the following necessities: water, nutrients, and a firm anchorage”.11Samples of “healthy” soil can reveal two types of nutrients: primary nutrients and secondarynutrients. Primary nutrients include nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium which is scarce in thebeginning of a plant’s growing stage. This is because the plant uses a large amount of thesenutrients in the beginning, to grow and survive. As the plant matures, the absorption of primarynutrients decline and eventually, a state of homeostasis is reached between the plant and thesoil.12 The problem, however, begins when a farmer decides to grow a single species of crops, inlarge amounts, also known as a monoculture. Year after year of growing the same crop will eventually render the soil to be non-arable.To counter this, conventional farming methods add chemical fertilizers primarily consisting ofnitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium to “replenish” the soil nutrients. However, commercialfertilizers focus on only primary nutrients, but do not provide much else in regards to thesecondary nutrients. This practice oversimplifies the biochemistry of the soil, which willeventually diminish the soil’s ability to retain water and allow for a healthy microbepopulation.13 The inability to retain and filter water by the soil has led to various waterpollutions, as exemplified by the creation of a Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico due to fertilizer11 Dr. James, Danoff-Burg A. "The Terrestrial Influence: Geology and Soils." SEE-U: Module 10. 2000. Columbia University. 29Nov. 2008 <>.12, 3 "Plant Nutrients." Mineral Nutrients & Soil. North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. 29 Nov.2008 <>.
  9. 9. Grow Up, Grow Smart 9run off by nearby farms into the Mississippi River.14 A Dead Zone is a body of water where algalgrowth is increased by the nitrogen-rich fertilizer runoffs enough to where it depletes the area ofany oxygen, rendering it uninhabitable for fishes, plants, and other types of organisms.15 Inaddition to polluting water, cultivating monocultures also cause farmlands to be non-arable. Soilthat is not replenished naturally, with the right combination of components is susceptible toerosion. According to a study from Cornell University, “around the world, soil is being sweptand washed away 10 to 40 times faster than it is being replenished, destroying cropland the sizeof Indiana every year...”16 which leads to, “60-80% of farmland around the world is ‘moderatelyto seriously degraded’ and harmful to agricultural productivity”.17 Soil erosion reduces theamount of arable land for farming which can prove to be disastrous because as populationsaround the world increase, the demand for food will also increase.18 In order to meet food demands, agribusinesses have chosen to develop monoculturesbecause of its ability to produce high volumes of crops.19 However, one of the residual effects ofa single-crop farm is pests. The single-crop mentality both ignores natures’ tendency to foster diversity and worsens the ancient battle against pests. Monocultures are rare in nature, in part because they create paradises for plant diseases and insects – as science writer Janine Benyus puts it, they are like equipping a burglar with the keys to every house in the neighborhood.2014 Susan, Lang S. "Soil erosion threat." Chronicle Online. 20 Mar. 2006. Cornell University. 30 Nov. 2008<>.15 "Dead Zone in the Ocean." Harm From Conventional Farming. 2004. Om Organics. Nov.-Dec. 2008<>.16 Susan, Lang S. "Soil erosion threat." Chronicle Online. 20 Mar. 2006. Cornell University. 30 Nov. 2008<>.17 "Degraded Soil" Harm From Conventional Farming. 2004. Om Organics. Nov.-Dec. 2008<>.8, 9 Despommier, Dickson. "The Vertical Farm Essay I." Vertical Farm-Essays. 2008. The Vertical Farm Project. 28 Nov. 2008<>.20 Hawken, Paul, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins. Natural Capitalism. New York, NY: Bay Back Books, 1999. 195.
  10. 10. Grow Up, Grow Smart 10The manifestation of pests has led agribusinesses to resort to using pesticides. The unexpectedeffect, however, is that using pesticides frequently actually helps pest species to evolve to bemore resilient “as most pesticides tend to affect the weaker pests, thereby leaving the stronger,more resilient pests alive to reproduce.”21 Farmers in return will use more quantities or moretoxic forms of pesticides to kill those pests, which creates a cycle of stronger pests and increasepotency chemicals.2. Water Studies found in Natural Capitalism revealed that conventional methods of watering haveled farms to be the number one leading cause of water waste, in the United States. Agriculture is responsible for about twice as much of total U.S. water withdrawals as all buildings, industry, and mining combined. It accounted for 81 percent of all 1995 consumptive use. Eighty-eight percent of the nation’s 1995 irrigation water went to 17 western states, where the great majority of all water districts were mining groundwater faster than it was being recharged.22What had led to this trend was not necessity or the biology of the crops, but lack of incentives touse water efficiently because of government subsidies. A 1997 study by researchers at CornellUniversity suggests that more than 50 percent of irrigation water never reaches crops because oflosses during pumping and transport.23 Current watering technology and methodology reflectsthe linearity of practices in farming: The current technology is able to dispense water but notreclaim it. Once the water is used, it is allowed to be lost because recovering it would cost morethan using newly drawn water.3. Energy and Transportation21 Ibid, 195.22 Ibid, 214.23 Ibid, 193.
  11. 11. Grow Up, Grow Smart 11 The lifecycle of delivering food from a farm to a kitchen is quite significant. Most of theenergy needed in the lifecycle of getting food goes towards other areas besides the actualcultivation of food. Two-fifths of the energy needed is used to process, package, and distributethe food, and another two-fifths is used by the end user to refrigerate and cook the food. Onlyone-fifth is actually used on the farm, in which half of that is used to apply chemicals to thefarmland.24 Hawken the Lovins note that the process to get strawberry yogurt, in Germany,totaled to 7, 250 miles of transportation, “enough in all to bring the yogurt to Germanyfrom New Zealand”25 Although this case study highlights the process of Germany, themethodology of their food processing industry is not too different from that of the UnitedStates. These problems associated with current farming methods can be solved byadopting vertical farming practices.B. Urban Farming Our current agribusiness industries operate in a linear fashion: raw materials andresources are used to cultivate food, the food is transported to the end user and the leftovers orwastes from the farm and the end user are not recycled, but discarded. According to a reportdone by the New York Times, In1997, in one of the few studies of food waste, the Department of Agriculture estimated that two years before, 96.4 billion pounds of the 356 billion pounds of edible food in the United States was never eaten. Fresh produce, milk, grain products and sweeteners made up two-thirds of the waste.2624 Ibid, 193.25 Ibid, 200-201.26 Martin, Andrew. "One Country’s Table Scraps, Another Country’s Meal." 18 May 2008. The New YorkTImes. 30 Nov. 2008 <>.
  12. 12. Grow Up, Grow Smart 12In order to make significant changes in food production, we must change the entire model. PaulHawken, Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins put it simply in Natural Capitalism that, Because farms are (or used to be) natural systems, they offer major opportunities to combine the resource-productivity first principle of natural capitalism with the loop-closing second principle.27Part of what the authors mean by “Loop-closing”, is a design-integration strategy that reuses thewaste generated by a system, as a resource to be utilized by that system. Trying to implementthis on a conventional farm can be difficult, and does not necessarily remedy the components ofthe agribusiness system that withdraws the most energy: crop cultivation, water use, and wastemanagement and distribution. A vertical farm can provide a way to implement these changes.1. Vertical farms boost crop yield One benefit that a vertical farm provides is protection of crops from external factors suchas floods, droughts, and other weather factors.28 Since the construction of a vertical farm is in acommercial grade building; it will not be susceptible to the changes in weather. Conversely,Despommier suggest that vertical farms equipped with a climate control system could even bebetter for growing crops. In an interview with Scientific America, while refuting skepticism thatindoor crop would be subjected to genetic modification, a controversial practice of agriculture,he also promoted the abilities of indoor climate control for crops. None of these crops has to be modified further for life indoors. In fact, they’ll do much better because we can match their growth characteristics with temperature and humidity conditions and nutrition profiles.29In addition to protecting crops from weather variability, an indoor farm will also prevent diseasesand insects infestation by virtue of being indoors and having an air system that circulates the27 Hawken, Paul, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins. Natural Capitalism. New York, NY: Bay Back Books, 1999. 201.28 "The Vertical Farm Project." Home Page 2008. The Vertical Farm Project. 28 Nov. 2008 <>.29 . Fischetti, Mark. "Growing Vertically." Scientific American: Earth 3.0 Sept. 2008: 74-79.
  13. 13. Grow Up, Grow Smart 13indoor air with the air outdoor. Disease and insect prevention translates to an increase in overallcrop yield. Disease already damages or destroys 13 percent of the world’s crops, insects 15 percent, and weeds 12 percent; in all, two-fifths of the world’s harvest is lost in the fields, and after some more spoils, nearly half never reaches a human mouth.30Eliminating the issue of pests, diseases, and weeds would conversely eliminate the need forherbicides and pesticides. Preventing crop loss due to disease and insects ultimately means ahigher yield of crops per production cycle. In the vertical farm, having a higher crop yield can bequite significant as Despommier and his researchers propose that year-round crop production canoccur, with a possible indoor to outdoor acre ratio of 1:4 or 1:6. This means that every acreinside a vertical farm is equivalent to 4-6 acres on a conventional, outdoor farm. Depending onthe crop, such as strawberry, Despommier and his researchers note that the ratio can be as highas 1:30.31 An estimation of yield, as Despommier mentioned in Scientific American, is that “a 30-story farm that covered a city block could feed 50,000 people year-round.”32 Additionally,Despommier and his researchers mention that smarting growing techniques such as a hydroponicsystem, organic farming, and diverse crop culture, the use for fertilizers are become obsolete.2. Vertical farms make water use sustainable Circle of Blue, a nonprofit affiliate project of the Pacific Institute noted that the benefitsvertical farms can provide for the water industry, In present day hydroponics farms outside of Phoenix, for example, water use is about 90 percent less than in traditional farms. Why? Because traditional outdoor farming loses thousands of gallons of water daily to runoff, evaporation, and transpiration — water “breathed out” by the plant’s leaves. Indoors all this water is captured and reused. The end result is closed system, where the only water leaving is the water in the produce itself.30 Hawken, Paul, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins. Natural Capitalism. New York, NY: Bay Back Books, 1999. 195.32 . Fischetti, Mark. "Growing Vertically." Scientific American: Earth 3.0 Sept. 2008: 74-79.
  14. 14. Grow Up, Grow Smart 14This exemplifies the closed-loop system that is non-existent in conventional farming.Despommier, in his website, expands on a system that could make watering a closed-loopsystem. “A cold brine piping system could be engineered to aid in the condensation andharvesting of moisture released by plants.” Additional water needed for the vertical farm can alsocome from black and gray water by collecting the water of evapotranspiration.Evapotranspiration is the process by which plants expire water as a by-product of metabolism.This not only gives a vertical farm a double use as a water treatment facility,33 but it ultimatemeans that a vertical farm system can be virtually water-self-reliant: drawing little or no waterfrom natural resources.3. Vertical farms improve waste management and distributionDespommier discusses the issue of current waste management practices: One of the toughest challenges facing urban planners is trying to incorporate the concept of sustainability into waste (both solid and liquid) management. Even in the best of situations, most solid waste collections are compacted and relegated to landfills. In a few rare instances they are incinerated to generate energy. Liquid wastes are processed, then treated with a bactericidal agent (e.g., chlorine) and released into the nearest body of water34What vertical farm advocates suggest, is that food waste generated by the end user (i.e.individuals, restaurants, and grocery stores) could be sent back to the vertical farm, where it canbe treated and broken down into compost and reused for the crops inside. In addition, a “verticalfarm [can] add energy back to the grid via methane generation from composting non-edible partsof plants and animals”.35 A vertical farm system has the potential to not only affect theagricultural production model, but from the example of recycling solid and liquid waste, asecond infrastructure advantage of waste management is created.21,33 25 "The Vertical Farm Project." Home Page 2008. The Vertical Farm Project. 28 Nov. 2008 <>.34 Despommier, Dickson. "The Vertical Farm Essay I." Vertical Farm-Essays. 2008. The Vertical Farm Project. 28 Nov. 2008<>.
  15. 15. Grow Up, Grow Smart 15 Besides the benefits of managing waste, locating a vertical farm within an urban settingchanges the conventional model of food processing and distribution. Producing food in abuilding, as Despommier and his researcher suggest, will not require the use of tractors or plows,which could significantly reduce the use of fossil fuels. Additionally, producing food in abuilding and locating the building within an urban area will reduce or eliminate the need totransport the food to the consumer.Section III. How vertical farms will help San Jose State UniversityA. Spartan Dinings current environmental and business practices Spartan Dining is a non profit organization which means the students receive fair pricesuninhibited by a desire for large profits. Spartan Dinning also has other great practices, such as:providing nutritional facts for all food served by Spartan Dinning, using potato based plasticcontainers which help the environment, sourcing local ingredients when possible, changing themenu with the seasons to allow more local ingredients to be used, much of the food is trans fatfree to help student and faculty health, a majority of food waste is composted into fresh soil, andwaste fry oils are turned into bio-diesel. Additionally, Spartan Dinning is currently working with the schools Nutrition Departmentto provide healthier food to SJSU. Spartan Dining plans to have a fruit cart sometime in 2009 toprovide low cost fresh fruit to students. Spartan Dinning has also agreed to work with our projectto bring most fresh locally sourced foods to SJSU. Having Spartan Dinning on board makesdistributing our harvest much easier and is beneficial to all parties involved.
  16. 16. Grow Up, Grow Smart 16B. Green rooftops and vertical farms are the next step for SJSU The urban and vertical farming idea is the next step of progress for Spartan Dining andSJSU. One great example of rooftop gardening is mentioned in Kym Pokornys article,RocketScience – An edible rooftop garden in Portland”(2007). In the article, Pokorny explains how thegarden atop the Rocket building successfully grows vegetable for the nearby Rocket restaurant.Changing what is planted with the seasons allows the garden to produce a variety of vegetables.It is the first of its kind in Portland and has drawn new attention to the idea of rooftop farming. Inthe article Pokorny says, “All of this saves money for Rocket co-owners Leather Storrs andMukund Devan.” The garden is relatively new, but its ability to provide the restaurant with avariety of fresh vegetables shows promise that urban farming can be applied successfully inbusinesses. The rooftop garden in Portland Oregon
  17. 17. Grow Up, Grow Smart 17 Possibly the best example of what we are proposing is located at Trent University inPeterborough, Ontario. “In from Rooftop to Restaurant: A University Café Fed by A RooftopGarden” Blyth and Menagh explain how the garden supplies an on campus café called TheSeasoned Spoon Café, with fresh ingredients grown on campus. In the article Blyth and Menagh(2006) say, “the price is easy to swallow as The Spoons food is often less costly than other foodserved on campus.” This shows that rooftop gardens at universities can not only provide Roof top garden at Trent University grown on campus with a neutral or negative carbon footprint, but they can also do soat a lower cost than vegetable and fruits traditionally sourced. Trent Universities rooftop is agood example of our proposed project at SJSU.
  18. 18. Grow Up, Grow Smart 18C. Our proposed model Our initial plan at SJSU is to establish rooftop farms in order to provide students with oncampus grown, cheaper food. This project can benefit SJSU in many ways and make SJSU moreself reliant. It can also lower the carbon footprint of SJSU while helping to create healthier,lower cost food choices to students and staff. We plan to establish the initial roof top gardens toresearch growing techniques and other factors with the next step being to establish a verticalgarden at SJSU and eventually several throughout the city of San Jose. The initial project shouldbe able to provide low price high quality produce since it will be exempt from several costs. Extensive use of volunteers will allow labor costs to be extremely low. The use ofrooftops rather than land that would normally have to be purchased or leased eliminates landcosts and the project has the ability to receive grants and donations that could allow it to providefood to SJSU nearly cost free. Since it will be a non-profit organization it will sell at cost or at asmall profit margin to allow for expansion and the purchasing of other materials, but thesemargins will be much lower than what is typical of the agriculture industry. Another benefit of the rooftop garden would be the natural evaporative cooling plantsprovide, Jeff Sonnes (2006) article “Evaluating Green Roof Energy Performance” goes into thedetail about the energy savings associated with green roofs, which would be similar to ourrooftop garden. Summertime data indicate significantly lower peak roof surface temperatures and higher nighttime surface temperatures for the green roof. The maximum average day temperature seen for the conventional roof surface was 130°F (54°C) while the maximum average day green roof surface temperature was 91°F (33°C), or 39°F (22°C) lower than the conventional roof.
  19. 19. Grow Up, Grow Smart 19All of this adds to the potential viability of the project and its ability to bring healthier lower costfood to SJSU. The next step is to discuss how a vertical farm can be integrated into theuniversity.Section IV. Integration of a vertical farm into the San Jose State University campus San Jose will require an innovative strategy to successfully implement a verticalfarming project throughout the city. This section will address how to implement the project,making urban farming a reality. Relevant considerations include the possible sizes of verticalfarm structures, the process of choosing a proper location for the pilot project at San Jose StateUniversity, what costs would be involved with construction, and how long the project shouldtake to get off the ground. These estimates and plans are tentative and based on data gatheredfrom existing research and urban development expert analysis.A. Possible structure sizes The objective of this project is to develop a farm that suits San Jose State’s needs aswell as its current landscape. Photo: Craig Hyatt - © Chris JacobsVertical farms have great potential for increasing production well beyond traditional farmingmethods and can reach as heights beyond fifty stories (Despommier et al., 2006); however, weare proposing a much smaller design. By farming indoors and upwards, it is possible to grow
  20. 20. Grow Up, Grow Smart 20continuously year-round and compact a great deal of land currently used for farming into asmaller area. Wheat, one of the foods that can be grown indoors, is an excellent example of thismethod. Suppose the project requires a vertical farm structure that sits on one acre of land and isbuilt with standard ten feet tall ceilings. Using National Institute of Standards and Technologyconversion standards and average crop heights of wheat as found in the Blaes and Defournystudy published by Remote Sensing of Environment, the average height of wheat crops arebetween 1.54 and 1.91 feet tall. By farming wheat on one floor of a vertical farm, we can achieveup to 5 times the amount of wheat grown on one acre on a traditional farm, (Despommier, 2007).The same can be achieved with other crops as well. By farming upwards, we are substantiallyreducing the amount of necessary land needed to produce food. These numbers demonstrate the potential for even a small structure at San Jose State.The suggested height for farms throughout San Jose is 3 stories above ground, based onrecommendation of Dr. Shishir Mathur, an associate professor of San Jose State’s college ofSocial Sciences urban and regional planning department. This height would prevent residentsfrom rejecting the farms as intrusions on the city’s skyline, (Mathur, personal communication,November 10, 2008). We recommend the structure at San Jose State be similar in height in orderto demonstrate the efficiency of the design and minimize initial costs. Though constraints on the above ground height of these farms create limitations on thetotal output of the farm, there are several processes that are possible below ground. By buildingfarms both skyward and earthward, the production of the farm can remain high while theintrusion on the skyline can remain low. Fish farming, water filtration, and composting are primeexamples of functions that can take place below ground in 1 to 3 basement levels.
  21. 21. Grow Up, Grow Smart 21 A very important part of the project is choosing the optimal location to showcase avertical farm at San Jose State. This process is critical to the success of urban farming’s launch inSan Jose. A good location should offer maximum exposure to the public and San Jose Statestudents. A location that is in an area with a large amount of pedestrians will spark interest andpromote the initiative.B. Proposed structure locations San Jose State offers several locations for a vertical farm. The first is near southcampus near Spartan Stadium, (Mathur). This area has three potentials including the track on theeast side on Tenth Street, the field directly beside Spartan Stadium, and the old student housingbuilding property, located on the north side of Spartan Stadium. Though these locations are awayfrom the main campus, the area receives a good deal of attention from motorists and pedestrians.The San Jose Sharks’ practice facility, the San Jose Giants stadium, and Spartan Stadium providea great deal of attraction to the area, so the farm will achieve a high degree of visibility. Theseareas are also currently being used minimally or not at all in the case of the old student housingproperty. If placed at these locations, there will be little displacement of current activities on theland; however, if the property of the old student housing is chosen, the current buildings willneed to be either modified greatly or taken down. Another potential location is on the east side of the main campus beside the BoccardoBusiness Tower, (Mathur). At this location there is currently a ground level parking lot. Thislocation offers great potential because there would be little to no displacement of the parkingspaces and the location is in a heavily trafficked area of the San Jose State campus. This locationwould make the facilities easy for students and local residents around San Jose State to access.The location is directly beside the business school, several ATMs, the career center, the Student
  22. 22. Grow Up, Grow Smart 22Union, and a short walk from the Campus Village housing and the engineering building. Theseare all factors that make this a prime location for the San Jose State vertical farm. The third, and most public of the locations is at the south east entrance to the Dr. MartinLuther King, Jr. Library. This location is ideal for many reasons. The exposure is the mostapparent. It is next to the largest public and college library west of the Mississippi, the downtownarea of the city, and in a great place for students to access the facilities. Construction of a verticalfarm in this location would best serve the initial stage in the plan to introduce urban farming toSan Jose and as a showcase the progressive image of San Jose State and the city of San Jose,which continues the legacy the King library has already started. The library is used greatly byboth students and the community, thus, bringing a meeting of the two to one location. A structureplaced here would receive maximum exposure from both. Beginning this project will require several other considerations. Initial costs to buildthese structures include architectural and design processes with assistance from specialistconsultants with experience building vertical farms, (Mathur). This consideration also requiresthe project managers to determine whether the first structure on San Jose State Universityproperty adheres to city building codes, because the university does not have to comply withthose standards, (Mathur). We submit that the first structure be compliant with city codes toencourage the greatest support for furthering the project’s implementation throughout the city.Other initial costs are environmental impact research, land, and construction.C. Estimated construction timeline The estimated time for the completion of the first structure given that there isacceptance of the project, financial investment, and support from city officials and universitypersonnel is one year, (Mathur). The primary parties on which the success of the project is
  23. 23. Grow Up, Grow Smart 23contingent on are the City Council, Mayor, City Manager, Planning Director, Public WorksDirector, Vice President of Finance, and the University Committee, (Mathur). Without thesupport of these parties, the proposed urban and vertical farm development system within SanJose would be difficult. The most probable impediments other than the previously mentioned arelocation controversy and lack of funding, (Mathur). Now that we have discussed how urbanfarming can be integrated into a community, we will discuss the benefits that will be derivedfrom the fruits and vegetables that the farm supplies.Section V. Nutritional benefits of eating healthy A number of College students now run a greater risk of developing chronic diseases, asituation due, in part, to a low intake of fruits and vegetables (Brown, Dresen, and Effett, 2006).Studies have shown that a healthier diet (consumption of more fruits and vegetables as well aswhole grains) is positively associated with better academic performance (Adams, T, PhD., &Colner, W, BS. 2008). Dr Adams, from the Exercise and Wellness Department at Arizona StateUniversity, and Ms Colner from the Nutrition Department at Arizona State University, followingtheir study on nation wide sample of college students, state that, “predictors of high fruit andvegetable intake for men and women include better: seatbelt and helmet use, physical activity,perceived health, sleep, self-care behaviors, and grades.” (2008). A similar study conducted bythe American College Health Association36, included thirty-seven US colleges in a Spring 2003survey. The data collected was striking. 20,724 surveys were collected, which revealed that only6.9% of college students (n=1,312) ate five or more serving of fruits and vegetables on dailybasis.A. Eating healthy is good for you both physically and mentally36 American College Health Association – is the principal advocate and leadership organizationfor college and university health.
  24. 24. Grow Up, Grow Smart 24 In a research article published by the American Dietetic Association (2006) Richards,Kattelmann, and Ren (2006), studying the consumption of fruits and vegetables in 18- to 24-year-olds, the authors suggested that there was a strong positive correlation between theconsumption of adequate amount of fruits and vegetables (5 servings of fruits and vegetables)and a decreased in the risk of chronic disease. In addition, Amy Richards (2006), who is a childnutrition program specialist, suggested that consuming a healthy diet that contains a variety offruits and vegetables can prevent up to 20% or more incidences of cancer. During college years, the consumption of a healthy diet is not a high priority for manystudents; an unfortunate situation that, due to heightened stress levels, contributes to ill health.According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) “fruits and vegetables are a natural source ofenergy and are one of the best eat-on-the-go foods.” (2008). Furthermore, the CDC (2008)suggests that consumption of more fruits and vegetables may help protect you from chronicdiseases, including stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, as well as certain cancers. According to a study by Florence, Asbridge, and Veugelers, a healthy diet does make animpact on students over all health and their academic performance (2008). In this study Florenceet al. (2008) surveyed 5,200 fifth grade students and their parents as part of the children’sLifestyle and School-performance study in Nova Scotia, Canada. In this survey, the researchersmeasured information on weight, height, dietary intake and other important factors such associodemographic status. In addition, to make sure they collected enough information on dietaryintake, the participants Diet Quality Index – International (an effective tool for cross- nationalcomparison of diet quality) was used to sum-up the participants over all diet quality, and rateeach participants food intake based on their over all nutrition needs. The survey was intended toillustrate the correlation between healthy food and literacy (Florence et al., 2008). The results of
  25. 25. Grow Up, Grow Smart 25this study suggested that the students with poor dietary habits (reduced consumption of fruits andvegetables and increased fat and sugar intake) were likely to perform poorly on the assessment. In addition, a healthy diet is not only good for your mind, but it is also good for ‘personalwell-being.’ According to another study conducted by Jyoti, Frongillo, and Jones, six- to twelve-year-old children with food insufficiency37 had poorer math scores, higher grade repetition,absenteeism, and tardiness (2005). In addition, this group paid frequent visits to psychologist,reported higher anxiety, aggression, psychological dysfunctions, and difficulty getting along withother children in their age range (13-15 years old). Finally, amongst the adolescent participants,who were fifteen to sixteen years old, food insufficiency was positively correlated withdepressive disorder and suicidal symptoms despite their family income and other factors such aslow-socioeconomic status that could affect their food sufficiency. Thus this study suggests thatfood nourishes your psychological state and that the availability of healthier and affordable foodoptions would result in better mental and physical stability as well as an improved academicperformance.Based on the 2006, National College Health Assessment, published by the American CollegeHealth Association, which analyzed 94,806 student from 117 schools in the U.S., the followingdata was revealed: Table 1. General Health of college Students (117 campuses in the U.S) Anorexia 1.9% Anxiety disorders 12.4% Bulimia 11.2% Chronic fatigue syndrome 3.4% Depression 17.8% Diabetes 0.9% High blood pressure 4.5%37 Food Insufficiency – Restricted availability of, or incapability to acquire nutritious, safe, andacceptable foods, due to financial instability.
  26. 26. Grow Up, Grow Smart 26 High Cholesterol 4.0% Other Health Related issues 43.09%In addition, the National College Health Assessment (2007) was also performed for San JoseState University which revealed the following: Table 2. General Health of college Students (San Jose State University) Anorexia 1.4% Anxiety disorders 7.5% Bulimia 1.1% Chronic fatigue syndrome 2.0% Depression 15.0% Diabetes 0.9% High blood pressure 5.2% High Cholesterol 4.1% Other Health Related issues 62.8%Given these figures, it is obvious that over 50% of students (nationally) and approximately 37%of students at San Jose State University, are suffering from health issues that are related to theirpoor eating habits. Thus, all efforts should be taken to make nutritious food available ataffordable prices for students. College years for many are often the start of independent living, and students at thisperiod are faced with different food choices, which often results in an unhealthy diet (Brunt, B,PhD., Rhee, Y, PhD., Zhong, L, MS. 2008). Brunt et al. (2008) state that consumption of fat,sodium, and sugar is higher in these groups. Furthermore, for students to control their weight,skipping meals is a common habit (Brunt et al., 2008). According to Racette, Deusinger S, Stube,Highstein, and Deusinger R, the weight that is gained and behavioral patterns during college,account for obesity and overweight in adulthood and beyond (2005). In their study Racette et al.(2005) examined 764 freshman and sophomore college students with an even number of men andwomen, for weight and exercise assessment as well as dietary patterns. According to this study,
  27. 27. Grow Up, Grow Smart 2729% of the participants did not exercise regularly, 70% ate fewer than 5 servings of fruits andvegetables per day, more than 50% consumed high-fat fast food three times in the prior weekbefore the testing and assessments, and by the end of their sophomore year, 70% of the 290participants had gained weight. These startling statistics suggested these students’ unhealthyeating habit (high-fat and sugar diet), together with lack of exercise and inadequateconsumption of vegetable and fruits (5 servings per day) contributed to overweight, which couldlead to future health problems. A well-balanced and wholesome diet is a proven way to improve and maintain successfulacademic scores. According to the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion38 at least 5servings of fruits and vegetables are recommended per day to develop a healthy diet. However,referring to the previous study conducted by the American College Health Association for SanJose State University (2007), approximately 65% of students are consuming 1 or 2 servings offruits and vegetables on daily basis, while only 8% of students consuming the minimum amountof 5 servings per day. In addition, in the same study, it has been reported that large number ofstudent (25%) at San Jose State University, are considered overweight, with an estimatedaverage Body Mass Index of 25-29.9. In comparison, in the national level, it is shown thatapproximately 57% of students consume 1 or 2 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, whileonly less than 8% are consuming the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day(2006). Also, approximately 22% of students are considered overweight, based on this report(2006). In addition to poor eating habit, it is indicated that a large percentage of students at bothnational level and at San Jose State University, practice healthy and unhealthy ways of losing theexcess weight that has been gained, due to an unhealthy diet (illustrated in Table 3.)38 The Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion – is an organization of the U.S. Departmentof Agriculture, established to improve the nutrition and well-being of Americans.
  28. 28. Grow Up, Grow Smart 28 Table 3. Nutrition and Exercise Nationally San Jose Practices (117 U.S State Campuses) University (%) (%) Exercising to lose weight 55.2 45.4 Dieting to lose weight 34.5 23.0 Vomiting or taking laxatives to lose weight 2.5 1.2 Taking diet pills to lose weight 3.6 3.2 Doing none of the above 37.6 38.6 In summary, College should not only be about academic learning but also aboutdeveloping healthy eating habits for life. With obesity being at the clinical level andapproximately 24 million Americans (7.8% of the U.S. population) being diagnosed withdiabetes (CDC, 2007), the food that is available at college campuses should be carefully selectedand healthy foods should be more available at lower costs. San Jose State and other colleges inCalifornia should make the choice to have healthier foods available and reasonable price, thussetting an example for other college campuses in the United States.Conclusion Vertical farms offer a solution to the problems that we face due to a lack of sustainability.A vertical farm can be distinguished from simply a technological solution and can becharacterized as a systemic solution because the purpose of a vertical farm is to facilitate aprocess by which more food is grown per acre while preserving the resources of the naturalworld. Additionally, a vertical farm provides business opportunities, efficient city planning, andeasy access to essential nutritional food. We have come to understand that a change in behavior is necessary to overcome thesustainability problem and must come in the form of a change in resource acquisition and
  29. 29. Grow Up, Grow Smart 29management. We cannot look at this world as something merely to be used for our purposes. Thelives we lead, no matter what our personal convictions are regarding humanity’s relation tonature, are dependent on the systemic health of Earth. Civilization, as it is currently organized, isunsustainable because it exhaustes natural resources and/or harms the environment with themethods of resource use. In order to address this problem we need to change our behavior, weneed to become sustainable. ReferencesAdams, B. T, PhD., & Colner, W, BS. (2008). The Association of Multiple Risk Factors With Fruit and Vegetable Intake Among a Nationwide Sample of College Students. Journal Of American College Health, 56, NO. 4: 455 – 461.American College Health Association. (2006). Reference group executive summary. American College Health Association – National College Health Assessment. Retrieved November 24, 2008, from College Health Association. (2007). San Jose State University executive summary. American College Health Association – National College Health Assessment.
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  32. 32. Grow Up, Grow Smart 32Narain, Sunita. "The politics of inefficient irrigation technology." Subsidy Watch. 2007. Global Subsidies Intiative. 03 Dec. 2008 < watch/commentary/the-politics-inefficient-irrigation-technology>.Pokorny, K. (2007). Rocket Science – An edible rooftop garden in Portland. Retrieved Nov. 29th 2008 from garden-in-portland/"Plant Nutrients." Mineral Nutrients & Soil. North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. 29 Nov. 2008 <>.Racette, B. S, PhD., Deusinger, S. S, PT, PhD., Strube, J. M, PhD., Highstein, R. G, RN, PhD., & Deusinger, H. R, PT, PhD. (2005). Weight Changes, Exercise, and Dietary Patterns During Freshman and Sophomore Years of College. Journal Of American College Health, 53, No. 6: 245 – 251.Richards, A, MS, RD., Kattelmann, K. Kendra, PhD, RD., & Ren, C, PhD. (2006). Motivating 18- to 24- Year-Olds to Increase Their Fruit and Vegetable Consumption. Journal Of The American Dietetic Association, 106: 1405 – 1411.Sonne, J. (February 2006). Evaluating Green Roof Energy Performance. Retrieved Dec. 3rd 2008 from, Lang S. "Soil erosion threat." Chronicle Online. 20 Mar. 2006. Cornell University. 30 Nov. 2008 <>.
  33. 33. Grow Up, Grow Smart 33The American Journal Health Association. (2008). The American College Health Association National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA), Spring 2003 Reference Group Report. Journal Of American College Health, 53, No. 5: 199 – 210.United States National Institute of Standards and Technology. Conversion Standards [Data file]. Retrieved from enc.pdfYale University. (2008). Yale sustainable food project. Retrieved on Nov. 29th 2008 from