So I've been thinking more about these vertical farms. According to an overview article in Business 2.0, a single vertical farm that can feed about 45,000 people a year would cost about $84 million to build, and then about $5 million to operate (pretty amazing that you can feed a person for not much over $100 a year, isn't it?). I was thinking about taxation, and what's considered a “right” and thus paid for communally by taxes. For example, most nations consider healthcare a right, education a right, many consider access to fresh water a right, and most consider “national defense” to some extent a group responsibility as well.
I was wondering what would happen if we made the statement that healthy food is a fundamental right. It seems reasonable to me that an advanced and stable society should be able to feed all of its members… Anyway, there are a few ways it could be done. One interesting approach might be to tax junk food — a one cent “jund food tax” per can of sada would generate $1.5 billion per year. That would build eighteen vertical farms (and that's assuming the price doesn't go down by building lots) capable of feeding about 800,000 people a year. Expand the junk food tax to the full swath of junk food and you're looking at about $10 billion in revenues, or enough to build 120 vertical farms which would feed about five and a half million people a year.
Let's say the public decided it was a bit more important to not spend quite as much on military airplanes… Let's strike the five of each of the following planes out of the budget: F-15E ($215 million), F/A-18F ($295 million), F-22 Raptor ($690 million), B-2 Spirit ($10 billion), B-52H Stratofortress ($265 million), C-130 Hercules ($335 million), KC-10 Extender ($440 million), and the RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV ($170 million). That would still leave tons of planes in the fleet, and save a total of $12.5 billion — or another 150 vertical farms bringing the total feeding capacity to about twelve and a half million people.
As I write this, the Iraq war has cost about $450 billion so far. Since that's turned out to be a totally pointless war, let's rewind for a moment and pretend that money was spent on building vertical farms as well. That money would add 5,500 vertical farms.
Now the total number of vertical farms would be able to provide every single American with high-quality organic food. I'm not talking just about veggies by the way — I'm talking about a complete diet since these vertical farms produce not just fruit and vegetables, but also poultry and fish… All year round, fresh and healthy, pesticide free food, with major environmental benefits over traditional farming.
Oh, and as a point of trivia, if the US Defense budget was cut by 5% and that money was put to funding the farms (about $29 billion a year), every person in America would eat a full healthy diet for free.