Sunday, October 20, 2013

Vertical farming

Vertical integration - where producers get involved in manufacturing and marketing of their produce - is not unusual, but vertical farming?

That's the way of the future if you believe .

The concept of indoor farming is not new, since hothouse production of tomatoes, a wide variety of herbs, and other produce has been in vogue for some time. What is new is the urgent need to scale up this technology to accommodate another 3 billion people. An entirely new approach to indoor farming must be invented, employing cutting edge technologies. The Vertical Farm must be efficient (cheap to construct and safe to operate). Vertical farms, many stories high, will be situated in the heart of the world's urban centers. If successfully implemented, they offer the promise of urban renewal, sustainable production of a safe and varied food supply (year-round crop production), and the eventual repair of ecosystems that have been sacrificed for horizontal farming.. .


* Year-round crop production; 1 indoor acre is equivalent to 4-6 outdoor acres or more, depending upon the crop (e.g., strawberries: 1 indoor acre = 30 outdoor acres)

* No weather-related crop failures due to droughts, floods, pests

* All VF food is grown organically: no herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers

* VF virtually eliminates agricultural runoff by recycling black water

* VF returns farmland to nature, restoring ecosystem functions and services

* VF greatly reduces the incidence of many infectious diseases that are acquired at the agricultural interface

* VF converts black and gray water into potable water by collecting the water of


* VF adds energy back to the grid via methane generation from composting non-edible

parts of plants and animals * VF dramatically reduces fossil fuel use (no tractors, plows, shipping.)

* VF converts abandoned urban properties into food production centers

* VF creates sustainable environments for urban centers

* VF creates new employment opportunities

* We cannot go to the moon, Mars, or beyond without first learning to farm indoors on

earth * VF may prove to be useful for integrating into refugee camps

* VF offers the promise of measurable economic improvement for tropical and subtropical

LDCs. If this should prove to be the case, then VF may be a catalyst in helping to reduce or even reverse the population growth of LDCs as they adopt urban agriculture as a strategy for sustainable food production.

* VF could reduce the incidence of armed conflict over natural resources, such as water

and land for agriculture


In the offices of Pasona, the future has already arrived. The Tokyo based recruitment agency has dedicated 20% of their 215,000 square foot office to growing fresh vegetables, making it the largest in .

The gardens utilize a mix of hydroponic and soil-based farming, and require very specific climate control within the building. This often means keeping these spaces warmer than is considered comfortable for office spaces, and is arguably the building's greatest downfall.

That makes it expensive but it's not just about growing food or saving money:

The food grown in the office isn't meant to just feed the employees at Pasona. , the architecture firm behind the project, is hoping that this new type of office will inspire the young urbanites to reconsider agriculture and possibly even to reinvigorate rural areas.

Another version of urban farming is taking place in Singapore where SkyGreens boasts

. . . which are 9m in height (3 storeys), housed in protected-outdoor green houses, allow tropical leafy vegetables to be grown all year round at significantly higher yields (than traditional growing methods) that are safe, of high quality, fresh and delicious.

It lists the:

* INCREASES PRODUCTIVITY The production yield of Sky Greens Farm is 5 to 10 times more per unit area compared to other traditional farms growing leafy vegetables using conventional methods in Singapore.

* VEGETABLES TASTES GOOD Tropical leafy vegetables are grown in special soil-based media, which contribute to good tasting vegetables, suitable for stir-fry and soups. The vegetables are harvested everyday and delivered almost immediately to retail outlets to consumers.

* YEAR ROUND PRODUCTION As the vertical farm structures are in protected-outdoor green houses, the vegetables are grown in a controlled environment, protected from pests, wind and floods.

* CONSISTENT AND RELIABLE HARVEST Steady supply of fresh leafy vegetables is assured as growing is done in a controlled environment.

* EASY TO INSTALL AND EASY TO MAINTAIN The modular A-frame rotary system allows quick installation and easy maintenance.

* BETTER ERGONOMICS & AUTOMATION The rotary system allows the troughs to be immediately adjusted for easy harvesting. Automation at the farm also means more productive workers per ton of vegetables produced.

* SPACE SAVING The footprint of the vertical system is small but yet can produce significantly more per unit area than traditional farms. It can also be customized to suit different crop requirements and varying environments.

It also lists:

* ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY HIGH-TECH FARM Sky Greens observes, learns and works with nature to achieve sustainability for the good of the environment and to grow safe, high quality and fresh vegetables using green technologies for consumers in Singapore.

* LOW ENERGY USAGE Outdoor green houses have abundant sunlight in the tropics. The A-Go-Gro system uses patented low carbon hydraulic green technology to power the rotation of the tower at very low energy costs, while still allowing the plants to get more than adequate sunlight.

* LOW WATER USAGE As the troughs of plants rotate, it is irrigated using an innovative flooding method, using very little water. Water is also recycled and reused.

* WASTE & WATER MANAGEMENT Sustainable water management practices are utilized on the the farm. All organic wastes are composted at the farm to ensure the use of high quality and safe fertilizers.

* GREEN TECHNOLOGIES Green technologies are stringently adopted at the farm to achieve the 3R (reduce, reuse and recycle).

People in floraculture and horticulture might face competition from vertical farms but I don't think agriculture - especially sheep, beef, dairyand cereal cropping - has anything to worry about.

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