Posted on Monday the 10th of December 2012 at 5:00 PM
A collection of infographics, research material, art and spontaneous thoughts related to urban agriculture, sustainability and the Vertical Theory project.:
Vertical Farms: A Sustainable Approach to Urban Agriculture
To see all photos taken during the research, design and build phase of this project check out my flickr set.
The goal of this project is to design vertical farming systems to promote agriculture in urban environments. As the availability of food, water and energy resources becomes scarcer in an age of detrimental climate change, it will become paramount for food resources to be produced locally and for individuals, families and communities to become self-sufficient in regards to food, waste and energy. As oil prices increase, air quality declines and the global food supply diminishes, alternative methods of farming will be essential to urban living. Indoor vertical gardens and farms utilize minimal space compared to traditional farming, efficiently using space while simultaneously improving air quality, providing insulation to structures, and supplying fresh foods.
An ideal urban vertical farm system will address the food needs of individuals, families or small communities. Vertical farms can be either a collection of plants grown horizontally in a vertical system or a literally vertical vegetated wall surface. Rain collection systems that impart water directly to soil or plants will be tested in order to minimize consumption and maximize efficiency of water and energy use during the growing process. Plants will ideally rely on passive sunlight but other lighting options will also be explored. The system may also include elements to address home waste and grey water serving a dual function of food supply and waste filtration.
A verifiable and functional system could provide a long-term solution for individual users to increasing food prices and decreasing usable farmland. This project addresses larger global sustainability needs by creating a solution that is implemented on a small scale.
Traditional farmlands are in a state of constant destruction and failure due to droughts, floods, pests and other detrimental elements created by global climate change. As the global population rapidly approaches 10 billion people there will no longer be sufficient farmland to supply food to all individuals. The United Nations reports that in 1970 there was one acre of farmland per person, this decreased to one-half acre in 2000 and is estimated to reach one-third acre by the year 2050. Seventy percent of globally available fresh water is currently used for irrigation, rendering it useless for drinking once contaminated by fertilizers, pesticides or one of the myriad of potentially hazardous chemicals used on industrial crops.
Urban farming addresses the ever increasing need of local and affordable foods by bringing food production to the individual, family or community. In recent years there has been a rise in demand for locally grown fruits and vegetables and an increase in urban farming programs including community gardens. Progress towards a new paradigm in agriculture is occurring but requires additional education, systems research and implementation. This project is intended to serve as an additional stepping stone in the process of shifting from large scale industrial agriculture to smaller-scale local urban farming. As farming moves from traditional farmlands to urban areas, farmlands that have been damaged by monoculture, harsh chemicals and overuse will be revitalized and returned to a more natural ecological state. In order to protect the diminishing available fresh water, rain water capture and recapture of water within the structure could be utilized for indoor farming systems. Additionally, vertical farms will reduce the production of greenhouse gas emission by limiting energy consumption for growing and shipping.
Urban vertical farms could be grown in the homes, at schools or in restaurants – offering fresh fruits and vegetables for immediate consumption and cooking. Modern life has led to a rampant increase in obesity and related health problems such as diabetes. Vertical farms could provide local, fresh, unprocessed foods to a larger under-served population such as those living in low-income communities. Fresh, organic foods are often costly and not accessible to these communities. Accessibility to full service grocery stores is often diminished in low-income communities forcing families to turn to low-quality processed foods offered in convenience stores and fast food restaurants.
Indoor vertical gardens will also provide improved air quality and serve as thermal barriers/insulators. Because indoor vertical farms will rely on passive sunlight they will be visible to both the inhabitants and the outside world, creating a beautification of urban environments. The perceived advantages of a vertically oriented system include an efficient use of space, gravity as a function of watering plants in a hydroponic system, and maximum accessibility to passive sunlight through windows (able to use entirety of window). Aesthetic qualities are also an important consideration. There is a perceived innate value in plant life that tends to provide an aspect of beauty, but the system itself can greatly diminish or accentuate that beauty depending on arrangement of components, materials used and technologies in place.