52 internautes sur 63 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
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! Assuming any financing entity would want an annual 15% return on total cost for the risk associated with this specialized facility and one adds a twenty-five year amortization of costs, the resulting annualized capital cost for the vertical farm is $71.25 vs. $.375 per SF for the Iowa farm land (a 10% return on land cost) or an annual capital cost that is 190 times more expensive.
But that is only the construction cost. Remember, we have to pay for the vertical farm's operating costs, which include labor, powering artificial lighting, operating the seed nursery, vertical transportation, and real estate, among others. There is no machinery for the vertical farm harvest. Everything is hand picked and maintained. Let's just assert that, in addition to the upfront capital costs and a return on those costs, it is 20 times more costly to actually grow and harvest crops from a vertical farm.
So, the annual capital costs and operating costs are 190 times and 20 times more expensive, respectively. Let's just theorized that the vertical farm cost premium is somewhere in between the two premiums, say, 40 times as more expensive to deliver bananas to your grocery store. As a result, the bananas that now cost you $.50 per pound will cost you $20 per pound! (Again, I would love to have more data, and after reading 268 pages of rants, you would think that I should, but none is presented).
In summary, "The Vertical Farm" does not meet the feasibility sniff test. Dr. Despommier is clearly a dreamer, as all futurists should be. However, let's offer up some ideas for solving our many (and well articulated by Dr. Despommier) environmental problems that have a modicum of a chance for seeing the light of day.
38 internautes sur 46 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
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).
Then comes the woo:
The author says we can solve all this, the loss of wild land to farming, the need for massive amounts of fertilizer and pesticides, the poisoning of groundwater with agricultural runoff. With indoor farming! In a gigantic building! (Because massive agro-businesses have been so benevolent in the past).
To address the weed and pest problem, the buildings can be biologically isolated, using technology already in place in hospitals (hospital-bred infections are some of the most virulent, and hard to get rid of).
To feed and water the plants, we can use hydroponics, on which the author has already done some research. "The liquid portion of the operation is pumped slowly through a specially constructed pipe, usually made of a plastic such as polyvinyl chloride (or PVC)" (page 167). (Are you nuts?)
To get sunlight to the plants? We can use mirrors and lenses, or even provide light with super-efficient OLEDs, run, perhaps, by photovoltaics. (Maybe we could devote one floor of the building to the photovoltaics, and use them to run the lights on that floor, as well as on all the others?).
And so on.
From a literary perspective, this book is readable. The flow is coherent at the macro-level (chapters and sections), though at the deeper levels the text often repeats, as if they were new, ideas that were already presented. The utter lack of citations, from someone who claims to be an academic, is more troubling, but fits with the overall sense that many of the facts stated are completely off-the-cuff. In addition, the author oversimplifies, and writes with affect in mind, not logic. What we get is the literary equivalent of an impressive facade and lobby, without any thought to the traffic circulation and HVAC.
When I studied writing in school, I was taught about "who, what, when, where, and why". But when I studied architecture, the most cringe-worthy critique wasn't about form, or function, or even appropriateness-for-landscape. The cutting-est thing your instructor could say about your design was, simply, "how do you change the lightbulbs?". This book has some cool ideas. But it also has a HUGE pile of lightbulbs.