Dickson Despommier, PhD, is a microbiologist and environmental health ecologist, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University, and the author of The Vertical Farm. Vertical farming, a method of producing food crops in tall buildings throughout densely populated urban centers, grew out of a Columbia University project conducted by Despommier and his graduate students to measure the effects of rooftop gardening in New York City, particularly on reducing the dome of heat that develops over urban centers during the hot summer months. From that original idea, Despommier expanded the concept to include urban agriculture and finally to multistory indoor farming facilities that allow for year-round supplies of fresh, organic, and locally grown food.
Despommier advocates vertical farming because the earth is running out of, or is depleting, traditional farmland. Vertical farming establishes farms in buildings within urban centers, where, by the year 2050, given current population growth rates, nearly 80 percent of the earth’s population will reside.
Despommier’s vertical farming idea has attracted the attention of the media; articles about vertical farming have appeared in Popular Science, New York Magazine, Time, and Scientific American. Despommier has been featured in interviews on radio and television shows, including a 2008 appearance on The Colbert Report. In addition, the United States Agency for International Aid (USAID) has become interested in fostering vertical farming in Jordan. Vertical farms are also being considered in Las Vegas, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Seattle, Shanghai, Paris, Toronto, Dubai, Abu Dhabi.
Dickson Despommier has received awards for being an innovator and a successful teacher. He was named National Teacher of the Year by the American Medical Students Association in 2003 and received the Distinguished Teacher Award from Columbia University School of Medicine in 2007.