One of the benefits of hydroponic growing facilities is their close proximity to the ultimate destination of their crops. That results in the delivery of fresher fruits and vegetables to grocery stores and restaurants.

But traditional hydroponic farms require a lot of land, and that can be a challenge in areas close to major cities. So some farmers are taking the same approach as residential builders – if you can’t spread out, go up.

There are already vertical hydroponic farms in cities like Chicago, Kyoto and Singapore, where all the action takes place indoors under artificial light. But there’s a new concept gaining attention that incorporates outdoor vertical decks, in a structure that resembles a green, leafy skyscraper.

It’s called the Urban Skyfarm, and it was the inspiration of two architects, Steve Lee and See Yoon Park. It’s part building, and part “tree” – the trunk houses an indoor hydroponic farm, while exterior decks are used to grow vegetables and fruit trees, in a total space of nearly 24 acres. Solar panels and wind turbines provide the necessary power.

While still in the prototype stage, the architects envision a hydroponic skyscraper that can host more than 5,000 fruit trees, while also offering community gardens, park space and even a market where the produce can be sold.

Is it really that big a step from the three-story vertical farms already in operation in places like South Korea, and this super-sized version? With food shortages figuring to remain a challenge as our world population expands, it no longer seems like a question of if, but when.

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