Re: Agricultural Skyscrapers

Dan Clemmensen (
Mon, 26 Jan 1998 18:34:47 -0500

Anders Sandberg wrote:
> writes:
> > Also i heard that they have very bright and inexpensive light bulbs (and grow
> > lights) that dont go out that require not very much electricity but the light
> > companies are supressing it, kinna like the way oil companies supress
> > alternative energy devices.
> You mean halogen lightbulbs? I don't know about the situation in the
> US, but here in Sweden they are actively pushed by the electricity
> companies (yes, our electricity companies try to make us consume less
> electricity, and the liquor monopoly does it best to discourage
> drinking. Sweden is fantastic :-).
> As for hydroponics, yes, electric light would do with the right kind
> of illumination. No need for skyscrapers: Genetic Engineering News had
> an article in March 15 1995 about growing plants in an underground
> mine, with very positive results.
> With enough energy, most things are possible. Sunlight is nice because
> it is so available in most places (i.e. everywhere but Sweden :-) - I
> really like the idea of skyscrapers with glass walls facing the south,
> filled with greenery. The hydroponics could be grown in trellises
> between the outer wall and an inner, thinner glass wall with
> apartments on the inside. That way you could get both sunlight,
> greenery and climate control.

Most crops plants, when planted in a field, completely cover the field,
capturng all the available solar energy that a plant can capture. To
beat this in a multi-level skyscraper, you'll have to add energy. What
source do you propose? Obviously not solar. Unless you indend to build
solar cells that are more efficient than plants, you will be better off
simply replacing your solar collectors with farms, either on earth or
in space. Your only other alternatives are fossil fuels or nuclear
(fusion or fission.) Burning fossil fuels to convert the energy to
photonc to then reconvert it to plant mass is horribly inefficient.
why not engineer a bug to convert the fuel directly?

For green plants, it's cheaper to build single-level greenhouses.
The reason we have farms instead of greenhouses is ... economics!
if greehouses were more cost-effective, farmers would install them.
It's true that governments interfere with the economics of the
sector more than with any other, but the underlying economics are
still there.