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Contact Information: Tanya Klein Public Relations 973-596-3433

Vertical Farming Advocate Featured at Free Lecture Tomorrow 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 (www.verticalfarm.com). 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 Jay Kappraff, kappraff@adm.njit.edu (973-596-3490) or please visit http://tsf.njit.edu for more information. Event co-sponsors are the NJIT Technology and Society Forum Committee, Albert Dorman Honors College and Sigma Xi.

One of the nation's leading public technological universities, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is a top-tier research university that prepares students to become leaders in the technology-dependent economy of the 21st century. NJIT's multidisciplinary curriculum and computing-intensive approach to education provide technological proficiency, business acumen and leadership skills. With an enrollment of more than 10,000 graduate and undergraduate students, NJIT offers small-campus intimacy with the resources of a major public research university. NJIT is a global leader in such fields as solar research, nanotechnology, resilient design, tissue engineering, and cyber-security, in addition to others. NJIT ranks 5th among U.S. polytechnic universities in research expenditures, topping $110 million, and is among the top 1 percent of public colleges and universities in return on educational investment, according to PayScale.com.