Dr Dixon, New York City, Dr John Deluca discussed on STEM-Talk
Welcome to stem talk stem stem talk welcome to stem talk for introduce you to fascinating people who passionately we inhabit the scientific and technical frontiers of our society hi. I'm your host on Canada's and joining me to introduce. Today's podcast is the man behind the curtain. Dr After Ken Ford Agency's Director and chairman of a double secret sex and committee that selects all the guests who appear on Stem Talk Hulu Don great to be here today so today we have part two of our interview with Dr Dixon pommie microbiologist and ecologist who is emeritus professor of public and Environmental Health at Columbia University part one of our interview focused on his nearly thirty years of research into intracellular parasitism especially trick analysis paralysis one of the world's. It's largest intracellular parasites discussion today centers on vertical farming which is a concept that Dick and his students came up with in nineteen ninety nine and when his book vertical farms I feeding the world in the twenty first century came out in twenty ten there were no vertical farms in the world today there are vertical farms throughout the US and around the globe but before we get to part two you of our interview with Dick. We have some housekeeping to take care of. I we really appreciate all of you who have subscribed to stem talk and we are especially appreciate all the wonderful five star reviews double secret selection committee has been continually and carefully reviewing itunes. Google stitcher and other PODCASTS APPS for the witness was lavishly praised filled reviews to read on some talk as always if you hear review read on some talk just contact us at some talk at I h Mc us to claim your officials stem talk teacher to today. Our winning review was posted by someone who goes by Dr John Deluca the reviews titled the Best In class it reads. It's the Premier Science Medicine podcast. You always come out a little bit smarter after listening. Thank you Dr John Deluca and thank you to all Oliver other. Some talk listeners have helped sock become such a great success okay and now unto today's interview with Dixon diplomacy extended stem talk stem talk. I WANNA get to vertical farming in twenty ten. You wrote a book that I in fact have called the vertical farm feeding the world in the twenty first century and at that time there were no vertical farms and by vertical farms a took it that you meant I think think you said this a building taller than single story where people can grow their food and this seemed like a crazy idea. I think in twenty ten but this is catching on and are springing up all around. I wonder if you could just tell us a little bit about this idea that you had and how you see going forward. I'm happy to to make I can make a long story short in this case in two thousand in one thousand nine hundred eighty seven excuse me was the last year that was funded from the National Institutes of health. Although having geographic twenty seven consecutive years is an honor and a privilege That's a good. I wish that I could have had it for another three years because I really had a lot of other things to do. I wanted to get to but I never did get to them. So that point I was in transition between now. What do I do and so it occurred to me that I love teaching. I love relating being stories so went on ages do similar teaching I to sort of get by head back in the game so to speak and so I began to teach a course at these public health called medical ecology. I I wanted to teach something ecological and I wanted to bring some of these stories that have been relenting here to to them as well and to teach them that public health is not the the science of separating humans from nature but rather allowing us to live together with nature in harmony in a way that doesn't cause disease right so oh that's a difficult concept so let's talk about ecology I then and so I use the word medical because I wanted to attract people from the Medical Center it was Kinda. Come on on a little bit of a Charlatan approach to the naming of the course but nonetheless I got some very interesting soons and in fact the first year I got seven committed students and so that really wanted to know more about ecology and the ecological aspect of ecology so I began by going through the litany of the things that if you damage this this is what happens to advantage that this is what happens about halfway through they got very depressed because they realized that no matter which way you look we're damaging the earth in every every direction you can think of and as a result more and more at risk from various disease entities both infectious and uninfected so I said well that's the way it'll real girls works but what else would you like to know remember. This is their money their time but I said what. What issue do you think would be important to work on? That might have some ability to cataract. Some of this negativism sought to come back to me and they all came back and they said the same thing. I think you know I think we should work on something to do with food. I said Great. That's a great idea. what did you have in mind and I said well we think that if we put rooftop gardens on the buildings buildings of New York that could accommodate them that we could probably produce a lot of food and we could probably feed people that are not being fed properly. Now I said Great. That's that's a wonderful project. I'm glad to abandon my lecture series and to support you in this but you have to do the science and they looked into said what science well. You have to tell me how many rooftops I and you have to tell me how big they are. You have to tell me what kind of crops you're going to grow and you have to tell me how many people you WanNa feed. You have to tell me how many calories per person you you need to feed them in order to make this idea work so oh they loved it that that gave them direction and they went off and did some research and I guided them through getting in some of the literature together at NASA had a lot of information on us too and we came back at the end of the year and they said well. We've determined that in Manhattan there's X. Amount of land we raised the most energetic crop which turns out to be rice provide we could feed two percent of Manhattan and it looked almost started to cry. You know there's no matter which way we look this is not gonNa work and so we're very disappointed and that's when I said I said wait a minute. Wait a minute. You did a good job. You actually got the answer we're looking for. I just wasn't the answer you wanted but you did the science and in Newton and doing the science it doesn't matter what what the answer is. It matters that that's the right answer. I said what if you took the rooftop garden idea and moved it in the building itself and I got a six story walkup got got six floors now a lot of abandoned apartment houses in New York City. We could we convert them to these firms that you could have a knowledge that you could crazy food all year and they looked at me and say we can actually do that. And of course I said you could but they didn't notice that my nose was growing longer and longer as is talking because I had no idea that you could do that but I was gonNA. Tell him no. You can't do that either so I said yes. Of course you can do that. So then of course I went home that summer and my wife and I begin to talk about this and the next year actually offered this as as a project for the next year's class in the same course and they gladly took it and now there were twelve students and they worked out the dynamics of a building that was half a city block in footprint fifty stories tall that could produce enough food various kinds to feed fifty thousand people. I said those buildings. Would you need in order to feed the entire eight million people in New York. That's not that many buildings folks. That's less than two hundred buildings when you consider New York City has more than a million buildings and you could feed all these wow that's so the next year we got into more details in the next year and finally had ten ten years worth of that class that that's the point when I decided to sit down and write the book but you'll notice in the book. It was hard cover book that came out I there were no pictures of vertical article farms because there weren't any the next year period repress picked up the contract and wanted to produce a soft cover version of the book though as you would have a wider distribution so they did and at that point there were three and they're in the soft cover book. You can see them that was in two thousand eleven so from two two thousand and eleven two thousand nineteen. The number of vertical farms went from three to I haven't got faintest idea of how many there I actually actually don't know. There are seems to be quite a few there are and I can tell you the country with the most is Japan and there was a good reason for that because they had this horrible Salami back in two thousand eleven and they lost five percent of their farmland one hour when the tidal wave came over the the break wall aw in the Sendai and trashed all the farmland and Sendai. They lost five percent. Yeah makes sense and land is valuable in Japan Yankus yeah exactly clear-eyed exactly so so then other countries picked up on this idea Taiwan and Singapore and China and and you're right. You're absolutely right. You can't go anyplace now. No not find some activity with regards to forming and it's it's a miracle I would say that a good idea it's become a great idea because people with money and and desire and understanding decided to do it and I can't take credit for that they they they have to take the credit for that speaking of them popping up everywhere as we discussed custer earlier. Nancy and I are building a house like an hour south of Jackson. Hole Jackson is you know has grown season of maybe three or four months and ended trucks in over steep mountain passes the majority of its produce which is is problematic there and there's now a vertical farm right downtown downtown. That's located on city owned property. It sort of an infill lot that the city could really use for anything it's connected to a big parking gene garage and now there's a quite a nice vertical farm that produces the equivalent of ten acres they say.