Alexandra Kain

Pyramid Farm is a Vision of Vertical Agriculture for 2060

by , 06/03/09
filed under: Architecture

sustainable design, green design, pyramid farm, eric ellingsen, dickson despommier, green architecture, sustainable building, urban farm, skyscraper, green building, pyramid, vertical farm

The Pyramid Farm is an incredible concept for the future of agriculture envisioned by professors Eric Ellingsen and Dickson Despommier. The design is based on the growing belief (is it fact yet?) that vertical farming will soon become a necessary lifeline in cities throughout the world. The human population is growing exponentially and increasingly more urban while the global food supply is decreasing. Despommier speculates that if nothing is done to advance current farming techniques, 3 billion people could face starvation by 2060. The Pyramid Farm offers a solution in the form of a complete self-sufficient ecosystem that covers everything from food production to waste management.

sustainable design, green design, pyramid farm, eric ellingsen, dickson despommier, green architecture, sustainable building, urban farm, skyscraper, urban

The Vertical Farm Project, grown out of one of Despommier’s class projects at Columbia University, features urban farming concepts and resources in hopes of securing the world’s food supply by design. His vertical farms are intended to be complete ecosystems, capable of producing even fish and poultry while reusing internal waste. The Pyramid Farm, among others, would include a heating and pressurization system separating sewage into water and carbon to fuel machinery and lighting. He estimates that the greenhouses can be made to use only 10 percent of the water and five percent of the land needed by farm fields.

Beyond creating a sustainable and local source for food, Despommier envisions a healing process for today’s horizontal farms. Native plant life will be replaced and allowed to grow wild and replenish the depleted soil for future generations. For more information, listen to Despommier’s vertical farming podcast from the Earth Sky network.

+ The Vertical Farm Project

Related Posts

LEAVE A COMMENT

or your inhabitat account below

Let's make sure you're a real person:


32 Comments

  1. hqtywil October 29, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    I am fascinated and want to learn more. I have been nursing the idea of vertical farming since I was eleven years old,(I am 50 now), I presented the “idea” for “Argo-labs”, for inner-city farming at a science fair as a young adult and was told that it was science fiction. So glad I believed in me. Where can I get more information? I want to do this now!

  2. Sam Rivera September 21, 2013 at 8:19 am

    While I disagree with bthinker’s opinion on our autonomous nature, his other points are well argued.

    I see no reason why ONE wealthy philanthropist could not pursue this venture. All it takes is ONE and then more benefactors would follow suit. I say in the spirit of the future, that I would be such a person when I accumulate enough capital.

  3. bthinker bthinker September 13, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    Wow, after reading these comments, I don’t just know, but I’m fine with our demise. All but a few of you aren’t for the future. You sit there stolid and whiney achieving nothing more than wasted energy of the food I burned off to read it. You rednecks need to stay off the ecological articles or actually learn from them for a change. I really think we need to take technology away from those who don’t believe in it. Go take your bible and live in the jungle of the flat earth you believe in. Curl up and die out of my sight please.
    This is a fine idea, as to the southeast being the only point of sun stated by one commenter, you’re wrong, that’s the reason Nasa uses Pyramid shaped biostructures in spacegrid achitecture, it reflects the light around by design and also maximises radiance and heat concentration to the peak where it can be expelled or put to use. It takes years of reading to get to the point of rational assumptions and decissions and it’s clear we can’t let the uninformed populous choose the future. We wouldn’t even be using alternating current if you bunch of stagnant near omish minded lamens got your way. First 2 steps to your mental growth, realize you’re not immortal, secondly realize you’re an automaton. After you meet those 2 key components realize you are what you eat, sensory wise, intake less trash. Then come back on sites and comment something that’s not garbage, thanks.

  4. jerry dillard March 19, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    What about the needed nitrogen cycle from soil & their microorganisms…Seems one more step in the direction of cutting down the Rain forest…What happened to a Natural future…?

  5. Steve Ugha August 17, 2011 at 8:43 am

    I am steve ugha by name in Benin City, Nigeria, I have a 10 acre of farm I wish to see photos plan of how your tents for relaxing/resting in the farm store/stock of heavested crops and housing, types of tractors machines that are needed for plouring and tilting the soil, planting and havesting. Also livstock breeding. biggery and fishery ponds. modern mthod of watering your vegetable & corns farms in the drying seasons. How do you cultivate your farms for all seasons?

  6. redgz20 May 2, 2011 at 4:38 am

    it would be nice if help together for the construction and design of the structure, in any ways we should not think which country will have the power or benefit for the project, we must think in establishing for the betterment of the worlds future.

  7. Eclipse Now February 10, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    This is the head of ASPO’s reply to the NYT article that criticises him. Note: the head of ASPO is a Professor of Global Energy Systems, and Michael Lynch of your quoted NYT article is an Economist! Interestingly, Kjell Aleklet and Michael Lynch have debated one another many times over the last 5 years. Sadly on this occasion the NYT decided not to publish Kjell’s right of reply. I wonder why there was a bias against a respected energy expert and academic who has published peer-reviewed science respected by the world’s leading geologists?

    http://www.peakoil.net/headline-news/reply-to-nyt-peak-oil-is-not-a-theory-peak-oil-is-the-reality-of-past-and-future-oil-p

  8. Eclipse Now February 10, 2011 at 6:49 pm
  9. Eclipse Now February 10, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Hi Lazyreader,
    Michael Lynch is a well known anti-peak oil ECONOMIST — he’s not even a scientist. He has brushed shoulders with Kjell Aleklett of ASPO on many occasions, and Kjell is well aware of Michael’s *economic* arguments which ignore the fundamental energy systems and physics involved. Michael criticises ASPO, and Kjell is now the head of ASPO and unlike Michael actually is a Professor of Global Energy Systems in a university think-tank. Unlike Michael, he *knows* about energy. Yet the NYT liked Michael’s message, and did not like the raw, frightening physics of Kjell’s message. So the NYT did not give Kjell the right of reply — so he published it on his prestigious university think tank site.

    http://tinyurl.com/nxptdt

    Which ‘expert’ are you going to back in this field, and why? A lying economist who knows how to shmooze the papers and get his *propaganda* published, or an honest Professor of Global Energy systems? ;-) Take your pick. However, it should not be the mere opinion of experts that makes your mind up, but the raw physical realities.

    Fact: the discovery of CONVENTIONAL, easy to pump oil peaked in 1965 and discoveries have been all downhill ever since
    Fact: 56 of 65 oil producing nations have peaked
    Fact: the US Joint Forces Command concludes that new production cannot keep up with the ever vaster rate of depletion from those 56 post peak countries, and has concluded the world will be down 10 mbd by 2015.
    Fact: we are now discovering 1 barrel of conventional oil for every 4 or 5 barrels we burn
    Fact: the ERoEI of the oil we use is decreasing
    Fact: there is no *one* ready replacement for oil, but there are *stacks* of partial solutions that *should* work if we implement them simultaneously
    Fact: this can be accomplished by rezoning our cities for New Urbanism, which can be introduced over the next 20 years with accumulating environmental and economic benefits for those communities that adopt them first!
    Fact: the cheapest easiest way to replace the megabarrels of oil we burn is to replace it with ‘negabarrels’ and negate the NEED for that oil in the first place.

    Check this 4 minute video about New Urbanism! It’s the best short summary of New Urbanism that I’ve ever encountered
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGJt_YXIoJI
    Then grab your favourite drink, and spend 20 minutes reading this great article about life in Manhattan, walkable communities, and living in a ‘car-disciplined’ city.
    http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/007800.html
    (Where catering to people, not cars, is the primary concern. There will be room for emergency services and some businesses to drive electric vehicles in a post-oil world, but maintaining the status quo should NOT be the primary objective in a land challenged, resource depleted world)

    Fact: These solutions won’t work unless people WAKE UP and agree to their implementation!
    Fact: You are in the way — if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem. Step aside!

    Regards
    Your mate downunder

  10. eclipse now February 10, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Hi Lazyreader,
    Michael Lynch is a well known anti-peak oil ECONOMIST — he’s not even a scientist. He has brushed shoulders with Kjell Aleklett of ASPO on many occasions, and Kjell is well aware of Michael’s *economic* arguments which ignore the fundamental energy systems and physics involved. Michael criticises ASPO, and Kjell is now the head of ASPO and unlike Michael actually is a Professor of Global Energy Systems in a university think-tank. Unlike Michael, he *knows* about energy. Yet the NYT liked Michael’s message, and did not like the raw, frightening physics of Kjell’s message. So the NYT did not give Kjell the right of reply — so he published it on his prestigious university think tank site.

    http://tinyurl.com/nxptdt

    Which ‘expert’ are you going to back in this field, and why? A lying economist who knows how to shmooze the papers and get his *propaganda* published, or an honest Professor of Global Energy systems? ;-) Take your pick. However, it should not be the mere opinion of experts that makes your mind up, but the raw physical realities.

    Fact: the discovery of CONVENTIONAL, easy to pump oil peaked in 1965 and discoveries have been all downhill ever since
    Fact: 56 of 65 oil producing nations have peaked
    Fact: the US Joint Forces Command concludes that new production cannot keep up with the ever vaster rate of depletion from those 56 post peak countries, and has concluded the world will be down 10 mbd by 2015.
    Fact: we are now discovering 1 barrel of conventional oil for every 4 or 5 barrels we burn
    Fact: the ERoEI of the oil we use is decreasing
    Fact: there is no *one* ready replacement for oil, but there are *stacks* of partial solutions that *should* work if we implement them simultaneously
    Fact: this can be accomplished by rezoning our cities for New Urbanism, which can be introduced over the next 20 years with accumulating environmental and economic benefits for those communities that adopt them first!
    Fact: the cheapest easiest way to replace the megabarrels of oil we burn is to replace it with ‘negabarrels’ and negate the NEED for that oil in the first place.

    Check this 4 minute video about New Urbanism! It’s the best short summary of New Urbanism that I’ve ever encountered
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGJt_YXIoJI
    Then grab your favourite drink, and spend 20 minutes reading this great article about life in Manhattan, walkable communities, and living in a ‘car-disciplined’ city.
    http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/007800.html
    (Where catering to people, not cars, is the primary concern. There will be room for emergency services and some businesses to drive electric vehicles in a post-oil world, but maintaining the status quo should NOT be the primary objective in a land challenged, resource depleted world)

    Fact: These solutions won’t work unless people WAKE UP and agree to their implementation!

    Regards
    Your mate from downunder

  11. lazyreader February 10, 2011 at 8:36 am
  12. lazyreader February 10, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Thanks for the opinion “mate”. I assume your Australian. As an American I apologize for all the bull frogs and rabbits we sent you.

  13. eclipse now February 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Why lazyreader, what an apt name you have! It shows in your general ignorance of matters of oil production, extraction rates, and what the tar-sands operators themselves say will be their maximum extraction rates in 5 and 10 years. When everyone from ‘Mythbusting’ celebrity scientists like Australia’s Dr Karl through to the American Joint Forces Command all agree that peak oil is about now, and that by 2015 the world will be down 10mbd, then you can tell there’s a problem. Most of the world’s independent oil geologists agree that 56 of the world’s top 65 oil producing nations have already peaked, and the *only* companies that are in denial are those that produce oil exclusively and have not diversified into other sources, like Exxon-Mobil.

    Sorry mate, but until you’ve read up a little more on why we know we are at peak oil, and just how SLOW the tar-sands will be to ramp up, and how there are ultimately limits on how fast we can access those tar-sands, well, I guess there’s no point in this conversation.

    I’d recommend that you read my page ‘Why now?’ which has links to the Australian and American government inquiries that confirm the concerns of peak oilers, but you won’t. You’re lazy. And you’ve got your *opinion* and you’re sticking to it. Give it 5 years and we’ll see how that works out for ya! ;-)

    http://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/why-now/

  14. lazyreader February 9, 2011 at 8:24 am

    I honestly don’t put much stock in peak oil. A lot of peak oil theories we’re made in the 70′s and again in the 90′s and they we’re wrong. What we’re running out of is Saudi Arabian style liquid crude oil. When that runs low we’ll simply use non-conventional sources of petroleum. Alberta, Canada has way more tar sand oil than the Saudi’s have liquid oil. And Colorado has much more oil shale than Alberta has tar sands. Until oil prices rise and stay that way permanently, we’re not going to utilize these methods. I also don’t put to much faith in Climate Change scenarios. Weather forecasting is the only job in the world where you can be wrong and still keep your job. We have problems enough predicting next weeks weather, and the idea that we can predict weather in 2060 is so ridiculous and personally arrogant. I wonder what happened to those people who predicted we’d enter another Ice Age. Even if so, I say let the world heat up, I’ll grow oranges in Alaska.

  15. eclipse now February 8, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    @ Lazyreader,
    you’re ignoring the economic motivation to move to trams and trains and New Urbanism after peak oil hits. The challenge for policy makers is that the best time to build all the infrastructure for peak oil is BEFORE peak oil hits. Sadly, I don’t see it happening, and it will make the post-peak rationing that much harder as we’ll have that much more construction work to do to ensure a post-oil civilisation can actually function.

  16. lazyreader February 8, 2011 at 8:05 am

    People forget…Europe which is often viewed with having tranquil villages or huge livable cities; they have suburbs too.

    http://ti.org/antiplanner/?p=2643

  17. lazyreader February 8, 2011 at 8:03 am

    I’ve heard of new urbanism. Today we call it “Smart Growth” then it was called “New Urbanism” and before then it was referred to Neo-Traditionalism. New names for the same stupid stuff. Urbanites imagine that, if we had commuter trains or light-rail instead of freeways, most commuting would shift to rail….They built rail in Portland, and what is the result? They still have packed freeways, and TriMet is in the red for tens of millions (as it’s been for years) raising its fares and reducing service on its bus lines. Avoiding the astronomical costs of WES, the OHSU tram, and the new MAX lines would seemingly have prevented such cuts. WES is a shining example of how commuter trains will not pull people from the freeways. And the idea of making low density areas more dense like cities? Cities like New York and Seattle are crowded and expensive. Tacoma is dirty and crime ridden. Lower density offers many advantages ( more open space, more shopping, more privacy, more community, more home-ownership, less noise, cleaner air, faster traffic, newer construction, better schools and less crime.

  18. bosshog February 7, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    @jymesnil thats what they said about housing

  19. herman miller santa rosa February 7, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Nevendula your right we must ‘starting eating less meat and wasting less’ America consumes so much. We need to address how much we waste. I wonder what if anything is being done to solve the issue of lack food in the future? Anyone know? I’m doing my part to reduce waste and encourage others to do the same. sustainable architects

  20. jymesnil February 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    stupid ! I know the better solution : the ground :-)

  21. Ptex February 6, 2011 at 11:54 am

    I could see this happening on at least a small scale. I don’t think it would be unfeasible even on a large scale.

    Aquaponics uses fish waste, which is high in ammonia, to filter through bacteria growing on the roots of certain crops, which converts the ammonia into nitrogen, feeding the plants downstream of the water flow.

    This is a closed loop system which is already being used on a commercial scale, horizontally.
    Gardens exist vertically already.
    As do huge skycrapers.

  22. Paracelsius August 29, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    If one runs out the future climate possibilities, one or more of them necessarily involve sheltered agriculture. Possibly above ground, possibly not. Expense won’t be a consideration. The sooner we get good at sheltered permaculture the safer we’ll be.

  23. Eclipse Now August 18, 2010 at 6:43 am

    Hmmm, I’ve longed for at least one vertical farm to be built so we can at least see the thing in action and how it ages and corrodes.

    But, I admit that we could have all the farmland we need if:
    1. We stop population growth
    2. We stop suburban sprawl and head towards new urbanism.

    Check it out: 3 minutes only, the “Built to Last” movie which is one of my favourite quick explanations of New Urbanism (and how suburbia can use up to 10 times more land to house the same population!)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGJt_YXIoJI

  24. Vertical Farming Comes ... August 2, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    [...] everywhere, feeding some of the most fantastic concept architecture around. Despommier’s own 2009 Pyramid Farm design (above), developed in collaboration with Eric Ellingson, was a weird conceptual inversion of [...]

  25. madvine July 12, 2009 at 12:46 am

    i wonder why it is that there is such absolutism in one direction or the other instead of a compatible approach. using the same thought processes that got us into our problems will not lead us out.

  26. nevendula June 30, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    a lot of this vertical agricolture projects involve also animals to be inside. hope that this will not happen, NEVER.
    world, what do you think of starting eating less meat and wasting less? I bet vertical agricolture will not be necessary then!

  27. BS June 8, 2009 at 11:15 am

    I’m so tired of the idea of vertical farms, which this project is jsut an abstract of.
    Come on now.. Let’s see some real and realistic idea’s on how planning and arcitecure can help improving agriculture in the nearby future..

  28. reverend kevin June 7, 2009 at 4:13 am

    i would just like to say that there are some theories and possible evidence that similar structures were used in ancient central american cultures. structures such as the step pyramids, or should i say smaller non-ceremonial pyramids of the mayan or other cultures may have been used as vertical planters allowing for urban gardening. smaller structures could be numerous and community based. as well, plants needing high light source could be planted on certain sides that attain the most light while plants that need only moderate to low amounts of sun light could be planted on those sides of the structure. waste water could be filtered from the top down with a possible moat base where one could farm fish or cultivate fish and water based plants together. one could just recycle the water in the moat and let the fish fertilize the soil. not really that much difference from terraced rice paddies of china, just with out all the glass and damage to the landscape.

  29. trimtab21 June 4, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    I agree with nappy – it would be a money eating perpetual maintenance machine. Think of the corrosive effects of the whole farming process on the structure. Farming is the last thing we should be going vertical with.

  30. Radagast June 4, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    I agree with nappy that it is unlikely we can afford to build such things.

    Rather than find ways to encourage even more population growth by growing ever more food, we need to reduce population to a sustainable level via education and ready availability of birth control worldwide. Reducing population is the real answer to most of our pressing problems – living space, habitat destruction, food supply, energy supply, pollution, global warming emissions, rainforest destruction, etc. All are problems because there are too many people competing for finite resources. The philosophy of endless growth is the philosophy of the virus and the cancer cell. Be not a cancer on the Earth!

  31. SpellChkYourSelf June 4, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Actually there is a Hudson river barge project that has already shown the ability to do it cheap and clean, and when you add-up the roof-top space in Manhattan that could be utilized to grow on the figures were over-whelming.

  32. nappy June 4, 2009 at 8:20 am

    Foolishness. Look at the cost to build and operate such monstrosities. Then look and upkeep. The look at the energy and effort required to get stuff up and down the structures. Only the south side of ( in the northern hemisphere) the pyramid will get adequate sun and the footprint will be huge in realtion to the crops actually produced. And, how are these rocket sciientists gong to deal with the taxes? No self respecting city is going to grand agricultural exemptions for onveniient and easily accessible property. Anf, one must add the climate situatioon of our large cities.

    Just eercises in futility. Let the real market use real economic inputs to make real economic decisions

  • Read Inhabitat

  • Search Categories

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

  • Browse by Keyword

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
What are you looking for? (Solar, HVAC, etc.)
Where are you located?