By 2050 more than 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. By then the population increase (minimum of 3 billion people more) paired with a massive loss of fertile soils due to erosion, desertification, salinization, etc. will surely lead to disastrous food shortages.
We won’t have enough fertile soils to grow crops for all, and we certainly won’t want to cut down the little forest left to grow more food, the consequences of doing so would be devastating.
But some of the most ground-braking architects and scientists have already come up with a solution: self sustainable buildings with vertical farms.
Depending on the crops being grown, a single vertical farm using hydroponic growing methods could also allow thousands of farmland acres to be permanently reforested.
One of the first models of vertical farming was conceived by Dr. Dickson Despommier, a professor of environmental sciences at Columbia University, who believes that vertical farm skyscrapers could help fight global warming.
Imagine a cluster of 30-story towers producing fruit, vegetables, and grains while also generating clean energy and purifying waste water. Despommier estimates that one of these buildings could feed 50,000 people for a year. A vertical farm could be self-sustaining and even produce a net output of clean water and energy.
1. The Solar Panel Most of the vertical farm’s energy is supplied by the pellet power system . This solar panel rotates to follow the sun and would drive the interior cooling system, which is used most when the sun’s heat is greatest.
2. The Wind Spire
An alternative (or a complement) to solar power, conceived by an engineering professor at Cleveland State University. The wind spire uses small blades to turn air upward, like a screw.
3. The Glass Panels
A clear coating of titanium oxide collects pollutants and prevents rain from beading. The rain slides down the glass, maximizing light and cleaning the pollutants and it’s then collected for filtration.
4. The Control Room
The vertical-farm environment is regulated from here, allowing for year-round, 24-hour crop cultivation.
5. The Architecture Circular design uses space most efficiently and allows maximum light into the center. Modular floors stack like poker chips for flexibility.
6. The Crops
The vertical farm could grow fruits, vegetables, grains, and even fish, poultry.
The vertical farm doesn’t just grow crops indoors, it also generates its own power from waste and cleans up sewage water.
1. The Evapotranspiration Recovery System
Nestled inside the ceiling of each floor, its pipes collect moisture, which can be used as drinking water.
2. The Pipes
Work much like a cold bottle of Coke that “sweats” on a hot day: Super-cool fluid attracts plant water vapors, which are then collected as they drip off . Despommier estimates that one vertical farm could capture 60 million gallons of water a year.
3. Black-Water Treatment System
Wastewater taken from the city’s sewage system is treated through a series of filters, then sterilized, yielding gray water—which is not drinkable but can be used for irrigation. (Currently, New York city throws 1.4 billion gallons of treated waste water into the rivers each day.)
4. The Crop Picker
Monitors fruits and vegetables with an electronic eye. Current technology, called a Reflectometer, uses color detection to test ripeness.
5. The Field
Maximization of space is critical, so in this rendering there are two layers of crops (and some hanging tomatoes). If small crops are planted, there might be up to ten layers per floor.
6. The Pool
Runoff from irrigation is collected here and piped to a filtration system.
7. The Feeder
Like an ink-jet printer, this dual-purpose mechanism directs programmed amounts of water and light to individual crops.
8. The Pellet Power System
Another source of power for the vertical farm, it turns nonedible plant matter (like corn husks, for example) into fuel. Could also process waste from New York’s 18,000 restaurants.
9 to 11. The Pellets
Plant waste is processed into powder (9), then condensed into clean-burning fuel pellets (10), which become steam power (11). At least 60 pellet mills in North America already produce more than 600,000 tons of fuel annually, and a 3,400-square-foot house in Idaho uses pellets to generate its own electricity.
Sumarazing some benefits of vertical Agriculture:
1-Uses less space and resources than traditional agriculture.
2-Agriculture land can be converted back to forest.
3-Dramatically reduces fossil fuel use (no tractors, shipping, etc).
4-No massive crop failures as a result of weather-related disasters.
5-Less likelihood of genetically modified strains entering the “natural” plant world.
6– All food could be grown organically, without herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers, eliminating agricultural runoff.
7– It recycles and purifies water.
8-Generation of energy via methane from composting non-edible parts of plants and animals, supplying not just food but energy, creating a truly self-sustaining environment.
9-Can have applications for arid environments or refugee camps as a food production source.
10-Great impact in reducing green house emissions.
Some other models of vertical agriculture:
To learn more about vertical farming designs: