Today on Business Rockstars, Ken Rutkowski talks with Dickson Despommier, an Emeritus Professor of Public Health and Microbiology, who has received numerous awards for his work in vertical farming.
He was born in New Orleans in 1940, and grew up in California before moving to the New York area, where he now lives and works. He earned his Ph.D. degree in microbiology from the University of Notre Dame, and for 28 years conducted laboratory-based biomedical research with NIH-sponsored support at Columbia University. He has always been interested in the environment and the damage humans have caused by encroachment into natural systems (mostly destruction of hardwood forests to make room for agriculture).
At present, he is engaged in a project whose mission is to produce significant amounts of food crops in tall buildings situated in densely populated urban centers (see: http://www.verticalfarm.com and The Vertical Farm: feeding the world in the 21st century, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2010; paperback, Picadore Pubs. 2011). This initiative has grown in acceptance over the last few years to the point of stimulating planners and developers around the world to incorporate them into their visions for their future cities. There are now seven vertical farms up and running: Korea, Japan, Singapore, Canada, and two in the United States.
Dr. Despommier has received numerous teaching awards, including the national American Medical Student Golden Apple Award for Teaching Excellence in 2003, and the Dean’s Distinguished Teaching award. In 2012, he received the Distinguished Service Medal from the dean of Columbia University’s Medical School. It is their highest level of recognition. In 2013, he received the Plantagon Corporation award of excellence, given to an individual who has done the most that year to promote the concept of vertical farming. He has authored three books, over 70 peer-reviewed scientific papers, and numerous review articles on a wide variety of subjects. He has lectured on the subject of vertical farming and related urban agricultural issues at The American Museum of Natural History, numerous public and private schools around the metropolitan area, at universities, including MIT, Harvard, Cornell, NYU, Columbia University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Brigham Young University, The Singularity University, Fordham University, University of Arizona, to various architectural establishments (e.g., New York and Chicago Chapters of AIA, Grimshaw, FxFowl, Kiss and Cathcart, SOA), city (Chicago; New York City; Seattle; Newark, New Jersey; Los Angeles; Seoul, Korea; Amman, Jordan; Beijing, China; Bangalore and Coimbatore, India) and federal government agencies, including the IMF, USDA and USAID, and The United Nations.
He has appeared on the Colbert Report, and given talks at Credit Suisse Bank, The World Investment Conference, Taliesin West, The Monterey Design Conference, TED, seven TEDx, PopTech, PINC, 21 Minutes Of Knowledge, Ars Electronica, PechaKucha, The Secret Science Society, The Edinburgh Science Festival, and The Manchester International Festival. He lives with his wife Marlene Bloom in Fort Lee, New Jersey.