Vertical farms are designed to feed urban populations who struggle for space. And the latest generation of farmscrapers is something else! Nicole Buckler reports.
The Vertical farming idea has been around since about 1999. Farmscrapers, once built, will use recycled resources and greenhouse methods such as hydroponics to grow fruit, vegetables, edible mushrooms and algae all year round. Since 1999, the idea has caught on, so much so that the first farmscraper is now going to be built in Las Vegas, a city known for its ridiculous waste and out-of-control energy consumption. Nevada’s vertical farm will be a $200 million dollar project designed to be a functional and profitable working farm. It will grow enough food to feed 72,000 people annually. It is hoped the project will give Las Vegas a better image and provide inspiration to residents to live a more energy-responsible life.
Even though that all sounds awesomely high-tech, things have come a long way since 1999. Now, a new generation of farmscraper has been proposed. The latest design of a vertical farm comes via Italian architect firm Studiomobile, founded by architects Cristiana Favretto and Antonio Girardi, in Venice, Italy. Their aim is to achieve ‘creative sustainability’. And they need to, especially since working in the United Arab Emirates, developing housing and infrastructure projects.
There are some large problems to overcome in this part of the world:
The lack of fresh water.
The growth in demand for water and increasing shortages of supply are two of the most certain scenarios of the 21st century. Agriculture, accounting for some 70% of all water used, is a major pressure point. Fortunately, the world is not short of water, it is just in the wrong place.
Abu Dhabi has five large desalination plants that consume a lot of energy. A cubic metre of fresh water produced by the desalination technology called reverse osmosis requires a litre of fuel. This means desalination is responsible for the release of large amounts of gas which contribute to climate change.
The lack of space.
The world population is expected to increase to 9.2 billion in 2050. About the 70% of the world population will live in cities. Huge urban areas, especially on the coast, will need a large amount of food and fresh water.
The food and agricultural sector is responsible for more than one third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Refrigeration makes up a large part of this. In addition the cost of transporting crops from the country to the city weighs upon the food price. Growing crops near where they will be eaten would cut the cost and the gas emissions.
The Seawater Vertical Farm uses seawater to cool and humidify greenhouses and to convert sufficient humidity back into fresh water to irrigate the crops. Converting seawater to fresh water in the right quantities and in the right places offers the potential to solve all the problems described above. The Seawater Vertical Farm is set in Dubai where the lack of fresh water and local vegetables, the awful urban traffic, the transport problem and the high soil value makes the idea of using some urban plots for intensive cultivation completely realistic. The design of the Seawater Vertical Farm is quite simple. It provides five cocoon-greenhouses fixed to five branches that also transport and nebulise the seawater. This creates a humid and cool flow, ideal for the plants, like the environment of the equatorial forest. In these conditions crops need very little water as they are not stressed by excessive transpiration. And it also would make a fantastic tourist destination. I know if I visited Dubai, it would be number one on my list! And I would be sure to take a sneaky bite of whatever crop they were growing… just for quality control.
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