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The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century (Anglais) Relié – 4 octobre 2010

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Présentation de l'éditeur

When Columbia professor Dickson Despommier set out to solve America's food, water, and energy crises, he didn't just think big - he thought up. Despommier's stroke of genius, The Vertical Farm, has excited scientists, architects, and politicians around the globe. These farms, grown inside skyscrapers, would provide solutions to many of the serious problems we currently face, including: allowing year-round crop production; providing food to areas currently lacking arable land; immunity to weather-related crop failure; re-use of water collected by de-humidification of the indoor environment; new employment opportunities; no use of pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides; drastically reduced dependence on fossil fuels; no crop loss due to shipping or storage; no agricultural runoff; and, many more. Vertical farming can be located on abandoned city properties, creating new urban revenue streams. They will employ lots of skilled and unskilled labor. They can be run on wind, solar, tidal, and geothermal energy. They can be used to grow plants for pharmaceutical purposes or for converting gray water back into drinking water. In the tradition of the bestselling "The World Without Us", this is a totally original landmark work destined to become a classic. With stunning illustrations and clear and entertaining writing, this book will appeal to anyone concerned about America's future.

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 3.5 étoiles sur 5 101 commentaires
126 internautes sur 142 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
1.0 étoiles sur 5 A Complete Waste of Your Money! Do not buy! 20 novembre 2010
Par Scott Keating - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
"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). That's all the real content of the book. Eleven bullet points.

(By the way, if you are looking for a list of disadvantages of vertical farming, don't bother. The author wants us to believe that vertical farming will solve all of mankind's problems.)

I think vertical farming is a wonderful idea with lots of potential. The problem with this book is that it does not advance the idea of vertical farming; more likely it will hinder its development by causing sensible, reasonable people to conclude that advocates of vertical farming hallucinate way too much.
59 internautes sur 70 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
1.0 étoiles sur 5 Spend Your Time (and Money) Elsewhere! 29 décembre 2010
Par Walter Mountford - Publié sur
Format: Relié
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.
41 internautes sur 50 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 But how do you change the lightbulbs? 18 novembre 2010
Par ringo - Publié sur
Format: Relié Commentaire d‘un membre du Club des Testeurs ( De quoi s'agit-il? )
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.
14 internautes sur 17 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
1.0 étoiles sur 5 Flawed research. 11 décembre 2010
Par mark twain - Publié sur
Format: Relié
I took Vertical Farm from the shelf and opened to the middle of the book. Immediately I started finding serious errors beginning on page 85. The author claims ALL agricultural tractors are fueled by gasoline. Wrong. They burn diesel fuel. A little later on he claims dynamite is safe to ship with its blasting caps. Wrong again. Then he claims that during the Second World War the US military grew hydroponic vegatables on islands in the South Pacific. True. But the author goes on to claim the reason for these ventures was becaused of a food shortage caused by so many supply ships being sunk by Japanese submarines. Wrong. Japanese subs concentrated on attacking warships, only a minority of supply ships were sunk. In direct contrast to the author's claim, food supplies were abundant. Albeit FRESH foods were not, hence the hydroponics. With this sloppy research (probably done gratis by his students), I do not trust the rest of the professor's work.

As for the content, it is watery thin and already covered by many existing books in print. The new material presented could have been covered in a magazine article. As for the writing style, this professor likes to hear himself talk. But readers, unlike students, are not a captive audience. This book is not worth the read.
18 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A truly good scientific read! 15 octobre 2010
Par Gone2lunch - Publié sur
Format: Relié Commentaire d‘un membre du Club des Testeurs ( De quoi s'agit-il? )
I enjoyed the book immensely and found the concept timely, interesting and practical. In fact, I'm thinking about seeing whether my skeptics meetup will try to get the author to stop by while on his tour. Food insecurity is a worry for those of us living in cities. Here in mine, there was a gas shortage last year and grocery stores began running out of food in just a few days. I dutifully plant my little ornamental kale plants and summer tomatoes, but could never feed the family on what I can grow. This is a wonderful way to make food local, even in cities, and protect against some natural disasters that can emperil the food supply.

The author does repeat statistics and examples a few times in the book, which was mildly annoying but certainly not a frequent or serious issue. Other cons: I thought the projections of how goof-proof these vertical farms would be were a little rosy; nothing is ever foolproof. As the book points out, many of our most important food crops can no longer grow without human intervention; we've bred them for desirable traits and lost some of their hardiness in exchange. Growing all our food in large-scale greenhouses (a) makes the greenhouse owners very powerful; and (b) allows our food to be further modified and self-sufficiency even further out of reach. Still, faced with the environmental degradation caused by current farming methods, the self-contained, water conserving vertical farm is worth pursuing. But I was frustrated - this was a call to action, with no practical action I can take to achieve the ideal except perhaps to help it gain wider acceptance. This isn't the author's fault, of course. In a way, it's a compliment that my biggest complaint was a lack of avenues for putting this timely idea into practice.
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