Author: Triantafyllos Ampatzoglou
In 1909 Leo Baekeland announced the creation of Bakelite hard thermosetting plastic. Same period, Einar Dessau used a shortwave radio transmitter, becoming the first radio broadcaster, and “Life” Magazine published the earliest drawing of a “modern” vertical farm, establishing the birth of one of the most contemporary topics in sustainable design for interior spaces.
Vertical farming is the practice of cultivating edible and medical plants in vertical layers, inclined surfaces or integrated ones into other structures such as skyscrapers, buildings, warehouses, or shipping containers. In recent years, indoor vertical farming applications are generally characterized by high artificial environment controllability. Depending on the facilities is possible to utilize artificial control of light, environmental control of humidity, temperature, gases, irrigation, and fertilization. Some vertical farms use techniques similar to greenhouses, where natural sunlight effects can be augmented with artificial lighting. Indoor vertical farming practices have become widespread under various appellation, such as Plant Factories with Artificial Lighting, (PFAL) term used mostly in Asian countries, while the term indoor vertical farming is used in Europe, USA, and Canada.
The interest on the topic of vertical farming revived in 1999 by Dickson Despommier, a professor of the University of Columbia who proposed the vertical farming concept as a solution to the four interrelated global issues, regarding Food/Agriculture, Environment/ Ecosystem, Society/Economy and Resource/Energy in order to improve Earth’s sustainability as well as the quality of life. Since then, research in indoor plant production systems is carried out and is expected to play a vital role in urban agriculture development in the forthcoming decades. Proposed models of social business aim at local production for local consumption of agricultural foods, reducing food mileage and benefiting people, communities and the environment. Indoor agriculture systems are expected to provide entirely new social services in urban areas which are facing ecological, economic, and social constraints.
Plant factories will be possible to use as a key component of community centers and food service establishments, recycling/reuse systems and housing in both small and large cities. That is demonstrated by the constantly increasing number of conferences, international academic meetings, and exhibitions, related to vertical farming, urban agriculture, and PFAL held in recent years.Source: https://weburbanist.com/2015/01/11/worlds-largest-indoor-farm-is-100-times-more-productive/
According to the famous president of the agricultural academy of Japan Toyoki Kozai with the right design and correct management indoor vertical farms can have the following potential advantages over conventional production systems:
- It can be built anywhere because neither solar light nor soil is needed.
- The growing environment is not affected by the outside climate and soil fertility.
- Year-round production and productivity is over 100 times that of field production.
- High quality. The concentrations of phytonutrients can be enhanced through manipulation of the growing environment, light quality and nutrient solution
- Pesticide-free, disease-free and pest insect-free product, need not be washed before eating.
- Produce has a longer shelf life because the bacterial load is generally 1/100 to 1/1000 that of field-grown produce.
- Energy for transportation can be reduced.
- High resource use efficiency, like water, CO2 and fertilizer can be achieved with minimum emission of pollutants to the outside environment.
However, there are also challenges that have to be addressed:
- High initial investment cost, regarding the equipment.
- High production cost, regarding artificial lighting and for air conditioning.
- High competition with conventional production.
- Challenges for creating an optimal environmental control strategy for various types of crops, marketing of produce and breeding of new crops.
Considering both the advantages and the challenges of vertical farming systems scientists, architects and designers are now looking towards an extended future food productivity while simultaneously embedding the procedure to new social and cultural paths, such as hotels, restaurants, and various food-service establishments like church kitchens, commissaries, community fund raises, convenience stores, meal services for home-bound persons, mobile food carts, camps, fairs, bed and breakfast operations and cafeterias. The approach of vertical farming could attract tourists with environmental sensitivities and audience that would like to experience the complete food cycle from cultivation until the plate.
According to some futurists, by 2119 due to rising of the sea level, many people will be obliged to live on floating, artificial city islands – entirely self-sufficient and able to cruise around the world indefinitely.
Credit: Vincent Callebaut architects Source: https://www.futuretimeline.net/22ndcentury/2100-2149.htm#mars
Maybe this idea seems to us far beyond reality, but then again who found realistic, back in 1909 the vertical farm’s drawing published in “Life” magazine?
Triantafyllos Ampatzoglou has studied Mechanical Engineering in Greece and the Czech Republic and has recently graduated from Guglielmo Marconi University, Rome with a Master’s degree in Interior Design. He is interested in aesthetics and design techniques with animus towards post-green spaces.