Will greenhouses “save the Earth”?!

A series of pictures showed a urban greenhouse in Le Monde today showed a proposal for a spiral greenhouse that would grow vegetables next to cities. The greenhouse is presented as a way to recover lost arable lands and “to grow local and eco-friendly crops in an urban environment“. I do see some appeal in producing vegetables nearby cities since this would reduce transportation costs and in using greenhouses to efficiently muster water utilisation and recycling, and to take advantage of the sun. However, I do not see mentioned some obvious difficulties with the project:

  • having greenhouses within cities is a cool look, but nobody mentions the potential quality of the products delivered by those greenhouses. Artificial air (I would not want car exhaust and heavy metals to enter my tomatoes), artificial soil (recycled compost?), artificial nutrients, and artificial water (in that it would be delivered via pipes from recycling plants, not by rain). Some tomatoes are already tasting very poorly (like those delivered from the Costa Plastica during winter) and I am not optimistic about the futur products of those greenhouses!
  • arable lands are getting scarser, true, but land plots in cities are also getting more and more expensive. The economic worth of the venture may thus be limited (even though nothing prohibit to build those greenhouses further away from cities). The journal mentions a cost of 21 million euros per structure, amounting to 2 million euros per hectare, and this does not include the price of land. Even with one production per month, this is very unlikely to be worth the expense for basic products.
  • given the current adverse reactions to the installation of wind turbines, I fear neighbours won’t welcome those greenhouses so warmly! Especially because they will involve traffic, in and out, as swell as nuisances (noise, garbage)…

This may sound grumpy and all that, but using much more efficiently water and soil in natural environments would seem much more useful…

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