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Vertical farming advocate to be featured at upcoming free lecture at NJIT

A farm on the 40th floor? That's a distinct possibility, according to Dickson D. Despommier, an advocate of vertical farming. Despommier, who is a professor of environmental health sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, has long been interested in the environment and the ecology of infectious disease transmission.

Despommier will discuss vertical farms, the agriculture for the 21st century, on Sept. 30, 2009 at NJIT. The public is invited to attend the free event, from 3 4:30 p.m., in the NJIT Campus Center Atrium, located at Central Ave. and Summit St., Newark.

Despommier's interest in this area has led to his engagement in a project to produce food crops in tall, specially constructed urban buildings ( Using hydroponic and aeroponic technologies, no fertilizers of any type would be necessary.

As Despommier wrote in a New York Times op-ed on August 24, 2009, climate change and population growth could make farming as people know it today untenable in another half century. While a reliable food supply has benefited most of the civilized world, traditional farming has also damaged natural ecozones and created new health hazards. Infectious diseases occur with devastating regularity at the tropical and sub-tropical agricultural interface.

Exposure to toxic levels of some agrochemicals is another associated health risk. Further, with the world's population expected to rise to at least 8.6 billion over the next 50 years, the farmland available will not produce adequate food using current technologies.

Vertical urban farms could help to repair many of the world's damaged ecosystems and moderate global climate change. Social benefits include fostering a sustainable urban environment that encourages good health, new employment opportunities, fewer abandoned lots and buildings, cleaner air, and an abundant supply of safe drinking water.

The talk is the first one of the year sponsored by the NJIT Technology and Society Forum, an annual lecture series.

On Nov. 4, 2009, Martin Hoffert, professor emeritus and former chair of the department of applied science at New York University will discuss solar electricity from orbit.


Contact: Rosalyn Roberts
New Jersey Institute of Technology

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