Nick writes:

Dear Dickson and Vincent,

I am a student that is about to embark on a masters in food security and sustainable agriculture, and I gratefully stumbled across your podcast and have been enjoying it ever since. Keep them coming!

I had one question that I am hoping you would be able to address. With agriculture in an urban environment (especially those inside buildings) how will it benefit from various ecosystem services that conventional agriculture relies on? Things such as pollination, nutrient dispersal, etc. I imagine that have a greater diversity of plants within in the system will help this to a degree, but I was just wondering what your thoughts were?

Thank you for your time and keep up the good work!

Best Wishes,


David writes:

Hello Profs. Despommier and Racaniello,

I am a postdoc, working down the road at NYU Medical Center in Structural Biology. I have been listening to the TWIX podcasts for quite some time and wanted to thank you for the enlightening shows, they educate me to other aspects of biology and make the day go faster as I run experiments. In particular, I am enjoying the new Urban Agriculture podcasts. I must admit that on days of nothing but negative data I am tempted to leave science and go start a farm.

I did have one question about the vertical farm model. I was curious that a few of the existing vertical farms Prof. Despommier mentioned had no windows, but rather the plants were grown with artificial lighting. Isn’t this is a rather expensive production method, both economically and environmentally, requiring lots of electricity? This would seem to limit these types of urban farms to particularly profitable fruits & vegetables or to locations where power is cheap.  I wonder if the ideal vertical farm isn’t tall and narrow, with glass walls to maximize sun exposure.

Apologies if you were going to get to this in a later podcast. I am always impatient for the next show, so please keep up the great work.


Jim writes:

This may be too far afield from growing food, but I was impressed with the data presented in this free Govt document that I just discovered and am sending it to everyone who might find it useful.

I was surprised that in one chart Texas was second to California in the number of electric refueling stations it provided. The numbers are in the low thousands, but far ahead of other states.

Neva writes:

Drs Despommier & Racaniello,

Love this podcast. I hope to visit the Vertical Farm in Chicago soon.

Thought you might find this article of interest.


From Buda TX

Simon writes:

Dear Professor Despommier,

You and your colleague, Professor Racaniello, have a lot to answer for!

Your podcasts are so interesting, and your passion for your areas of expertise so infectious, that every time I listen to you I feel inspired to change my career!

I first discovered This Week in Virology and immediately wanted to become a virologist. My wife has since forbidden me from working with viruses, plus I feel that my complete lack of formal biology training could prove to be a hurdle.

By way of TWiV I came across This Week in Urban Agriculture and, just one episode in, I already want to dedicate myself to Urban Farming. Indeed as I made my way home while listening to the podcast, I found myself looking around at all the space in the city available for cultivating plants.

I grew up in a suburban house with a garden, but now find myself living in an apartment in one of the most populous cities in the world (Mexico City). As a kid I quite often grew my own fruits and vegetables – tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and a range of herbs – and in the past couple of years I have found myself missing the garden and the opportunity to produce fresh, home-grown produce. I started by using old yogurt and margarine containers for growing Basil, Cherry Tomatoes and even Chilies, but have found the upkeep to be quite trying at times. I am now working on a DIY project to build a basic deep-water hydroponic system.

I think one of the things that attracts me to the idea of Urban Farming is how easy it is for anyone to get involved. Whereas areas such as Virology or Parasitology, while fascinating, require quite significant education and training in order to truly ‘participate’, pretty much anyone can start to grow things at home. I am a passionate home-cook, and I love the idea of being able to cook with my own fresh produce, which often tastes far better than anything I can buy at the supermarket.

My first intention with this email was to introduce myself, and to say thank you so much for once again sharing with the world your knowledge, passion and experience. Your conversations and explanations are so clear and engaging that my only regret is not to have been able to be a student in one of your classes.

I have read several articles discussing the various merits of different types of ‘agriculture’, with people claiming that hydroponics in general is a more efficient or productive system than traditional soil-based farming, and that aeroponics is even more productive.

I wondered if you had any comments on these claims, and whether in a future podcast you may discuss the different methods of urban agriculture and their relative pros and cons?

I know that one of your goals is education, and you may like to know that you now have another dedicated subscriber who has already started recommending your podcast to anyone who will listen.

In the meantime I would love to be able to help in any way I can, particularly if you require any assistance with the web design and/or development side of things.

Thank you and I’m looking forward to the next podcast on this fascinating and incredible important subject.