Can vertical farming feed the world and change the agriculture industry?

May 18, 2018 by  
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Year after year, cities expand and pristine natural habitats are turned into farms and pastures to support the world’s growing population . But despite our encroachment into the environment, we still struggle to feed everyone. Vertical farms could offer a solution by producing higher crop yields year-round in less space than conventional agriculture. What is vertical farming? With land for crops and pastures growing scarce — plus the threat of pesticides and herbicides taking a toll on our health and the environment — people are exploring new ways to grow food, such as urban agriculture. In general, this is the process of growing food within city limits – whether on rooftops, in backyards or on balconies. The goal is to provide families with fresh, healthy food that isn’t laced with chemicals — and when you grow your own crops, you can control these elements. Vertical farming is a type of urban agriculture – but vertical farms are often constructed indoors in extremely controlled environments. Crops are grown on shelves that extend upward instead of outward, and the environment is carefully monitored, so crops grow year-round. In addition to growing crops, some vertical farmers have developed ways to grow fish in a self-sustaining system. Water from the plants is recycled into fish tanks, and the waste from the fish becomes fertilizer for the plants. Then, both the plants and fish can be harvested for food. The benefits of vertical farming The benefits of vertical farming are numerous. Farmers can control the crops’ environment in vertical farms, so the plants aren’t subjected to nasty weather conditions or droughts . Humidity, nutrients and water are administered to growing plants to achieve optimum growing conditions. Because of the controlled environment, crops can be harvested more than once a year, resulting in higher yields than traditional farming. Related: The GCC’s first commercial vertical farm launches in Dubai Vertical farms are more sustainable than conventional farms because they use less water (which is often recycled through the system), they take up less space and they use less fossil fuels because they don’t rely on heavy machinery such as tractors and harvesters. Technology helps vertical farmers get the best output from the farm. Tailored lamps help plants get more light exposure, which encourages them to grow faster than crops that rely on the sun. Vertical farms also provide greater protection from insects, thus decreasing the need for harmful chemical products. Downsides to vertical farming While vertical farms can help with local hunger issues and sustainability, there are some barriers that may keep them from gaining worldwide traction. The cost of setting up a vertical farm can be prohibitive. Conservative estimates put the initial start-up cost at around $110,000 , but there are estimates upward of millions of dollars. Finding an abandoned warehouse or building in an urban setting for a reasonable price might be difficult. Since vertical farms rely on electricity for growing lamps and strict environmental controls, the location has to have reliable power — not just any old abandoned building will do. Vertical farms also depend heavily on technology, which can be costly. Keeping the lights on and the environmental controls running will impact energy use — and your budget. Related: The “most technologically-sophisticated commercial indoor farm in the world” will grow 30X more produce Not every crop that is grown traditionally can be raised successfully in a vertical farm. Leafy greens and herbs do the best in an indoor environment, while staple crops like wheat and potatoes are difficult to grow indoors, as are some fruits and vegetables. The crops that can be harvested from a vertical garden are limited. Growing food to feed the hungry is a noble gesture, but it also has to be profitable, especially when the initial cost to set up a vertical farm is so high. If there isn’t a market in your area, it’s a waste of time to grow large amounts of food that you won’t be able to sell. The verdict Despite the downsides, the positives are plentiful. In addition to embracing sustainability and helping combat hunger , vertical farms can also encourage support for local economies. These farms can create jobs, turn a profit and provide a healthy source of food for locals. As technology continues to advance, new approaches will improve the efficiency and productivity of vertical farms. If nothing else, the idea sparks the conversation about changing the agricultural industry and gives us a place to start for finding better, more sustainable ways to grow food. Images via Depositphotos , Aqua Mechanical and Mike Chino for Inhabitat

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Can vertical farming feed the world and change the agriculture industry?

This hexagonal indoor farm grows more food in less space with 90% less water

March 26, 2018 by  
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Hexagro ‘s Living Farming Tree is a groundbreaking indoor garden that uses technology to grow food faster using less space. The innovative design combines aeroponics with efficient grow lights, full automation, and a modular tiered structure to optimize space, crop yield, and water use – allowing anyone to grow crops in practically any room. Hexagro aims to bring nature indoors and nurture the urban farming movement. This goal led them to create Living Farming Tree, an automated vertical growing system controllable with an app. As seen in the video above, poles and hexagonal connectors pop together to create the tree, providing a structure to support small growing modules. The system, which can be customized and scaled up with more modules, is built entirely with recyclable materials . Related: Build your own indoor garden with modular LEGO-like blocks Living Farming Tree uses aeroponics , a process that enables urban growers to cultivate produce sans soil or pesticides and with around 90 to 98 percent less water. The plants flourish in an inert substrate with roots hanging underneath; well-aerated, their roots absorb nutrients via a nutrient mist and oxygen, causing the plants to grow faster and taste better. According to Hexagro, this system—which boasts low energy consumption—allows for a 150 percent increase in the plants’ nutritional value as well. The tree also lets you sit back and relax, for the most part: LED lights, sensors, and a proprietary monitoring computer keep your maintenance time to a minimum. Leafy greens, sprouts, herbs, air-filtering plants, or small fruits like strawberries will be available for budding urban farmers, and Hexagro hopes to offer spices, edible and non-edible flowers, and even vegetables like eggplants or tomatoes in the future. Sold yet? Their website does not yet say how much the Living Farming Tree will cost, but Hexagro’s first international crowdfunding campaign is in the works, and you can let the sales team know you’re interested via this Google Documents form . In the words of CEO Felipe Hernandez, “With your help, [Hexagro] will transform your house into an indoor farm . Anybody, anywhere, can access healthy food .” + Hexagro Urban Farming Images courtesy of Hexagro Urban Farming

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This hexagonal indoor farm grows more food in less space with 90% less water

This is how high NYC’s sea levels will rise if we don’t take climate action

March 26, 2018 by  
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Rising sea levels , precipitated by climate change , threaten to overwhelm the world’s cities if we do nothing — that’s the message Studio Roosegaarde vividly brought last week to the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York City . The studio’s light display, Waterlicht New York, showed the height of water levels during 2012’s Hurricane Sandy . Waterlicht, or water light, creates a virtual flood with technology, including  LED lighting , lenses, and software. First installed in the Netherlands in 2015 , Waterlicht has visually demonstrated water levels stemming from climate change around the world. Studio Roosegaarde brought what they call the dream landscape to New York City for World Water Day . Related: Daan Roosegaarde reveals vision for air-purifying Smog Free Drones Waterlicht lit up the North Lawn at UN Headquarters, employing artwork to underscore the idea that climate change could dramatically alter our cities as water levels increase. Studio Roosegaarde quoted Dutch Special Envoy for International Water Affairs Henk Ovink as saying, “The Sandys and Harveys of this world will not stop. On the contrary, they are the new normal, becoming more extreme year by year.” The National Hurricane Center listed Sandy and Harvey among the costliest United States tropical cylones ever ; Harvey is the second costliest storm on record for all US hurricanes with around $125 billion in damage. Sandy clocks in at fourth place with $65 billion in damage. Around 72 people died in the United States because of Hurricane Sandy; Harvey’s death toll was over 80 people . Waterlicht wasn’t meant to be just a warning, but to spark inspiration. Studio Roosegaarde founder and designer Daan Roosegaarde offered possibilities for how humanity might harness water in the studio’s press release: “Can we build floating cities ; how much power can we generate from the movement of water? Experience the vulnerability and the power of living with water.” + Studio Roosegaarde + Studio Roosegaarde Waterlicht Images courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde

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This is how high NYC’s sea levels will rise if we don’t take climate action

Winners of the 2018 Architecture at Zero competition announced

March 26, 2018 by  
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Boston-based architecture firm Arrowstreet has been named as the winner of the 2018 Architecture at Zero design competition. The winning design, Bay Area Transect, envisions a four-tiered complex embedded into the surrounding landscape in order to minimize its impact and provide educational experiences for the building’s visitors. The project also has multiple sustainable features, including passive ventilation, green roofs, on-site solar power , and a water counterbalancing funicular. Every year, the Architecture at Zero competition calls on students and professionals to submit a design proposal for a net-zero energy structure at a specific location. The challenge this year was to create a visitor and education center for San Francisco State University’s Center for Estuary and Ocean Science. All of the designs had to include an overall site plan that included two net-zero buildings and accommodated the program’s mission of marine research. Related: Rutz Architekten Wins the Architecture at Zero Competition with Their Zero-Net Energy Building Design The Bay Area Transect concept and design process was a collaboration between Arrowstreet, Copley Wolff Design Group , and HTM Office/Madrid . The team worked together for over two months to create a vibrant, site-sensitive concept that would allow visitors to explore the coastal ecosystem as well as the sustainable technologies that power its preservation. The resulting design incorporates not just buildings that mesh with the surrounding environment, but green roofs that double as walking space for the visitors. A funicular connects the waterfront with facilities at the top of the hillside, reducing vehicle traffic overall. Additionally, the open design would allow visitors to feel close to the function of the building’s research purposes, and the project would incorporate a protected tidal inlet to allow beginning kayakers to explore the local coastal ecosystem. The winning team, made up of Steve Zuber, Lee Robert, Cristina Desloges, and Kate Bubriski, is donating its winnings to Women’s Lunch Place in Boston, a homeless day shelter for women designed by Arrowstreet. + Arrowstreet + Copley Wolff Design Group + HTM Office/Madrid Via Archinect Images via Arrowstreet, Copley Wolff Design Group and HTM Office, as well as Architecture at Zero

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Winners of the 2018 Architecture at Zero competition announced

Vincent Callebaut’s Arboricole tower brings vertical agriculture to the city

March 20, 2018 by  
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Vincent Callebaut Architectures , known for green projects that combine smart building with advanced renewable energy solutions, has officially unveiled Arboricole – a new “biophilic” building that brings agriculture to the urban landscape. Residents of the building can grow food on their own terraces thanks to permaculture , with the building’s curved, sinuous design acting to reduce turbulence and maximize comfort in these elevated gardens. Arboricole aims to answer a vital question: how can we adapt our European historic cities to climate change and the ensuing phenomena of strong floods, heavy rains, and current heat waves? To help combat these events, the building is covered with endemic plants from the Loire region that act as a “sponge,” limiting its carbon footprint,  collecting rainwater , and optimizing the residents’ quality of life. Related: Vincent Callebaut’s twisting carbon-absorbing skyscraper nears completion in Taipei White tuffeau stone covers the building’s wave-shaped facade. The architects drew inspiration from the agriculture of the Angevin groves, whose undulating plateaus create a visually engaging waterfall effect. Designed for the intersection of Boulevard Ayrault and Quai Gambetta in Angers, France, the building gradually rises to 114 feet (35 meters) and maximizes the amount of sunshine each terrace receives during the day.   Related: This plant-covered Singapore skyscraper is the tropical building of the future Micro-perforated satin aluminum plates serve as false acoustic ceilings for the balconies, absorbing the noise pollution emitted by car traffic and showcasing the plant life climbing Arboricole’s vertical grove. And, not to be outdone, the plants themselves – 20,000 perennials, shrubs, and trees – could absorb up to 50 tons of CO2 in Angers’s atmosphere each year.   +Vincent Callebaut Architectures

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Vincent Callebaut’s Arboricole tower brings vertical agriculture to the city

Swooping rooflines make this proposed Silicon Valley home a sculptural work of art

March 20, 2018 by  
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Cambridge-based design studio WOJR has proposed an unusual Silicon Valley home that stands out from the pack with its swooping rooflines and sculptural appearance both inside and out. Located in Los Altos, the House of Horns will be built on top of an existing foundation originally intended for an “elaborate Spanish style home.” In contrast to the former proposed designs, the new dwelling embraces minimalism with clean lines and a restrained neutral palette. Though the project has yet to be built, WOJR’s impressive renderings reach a level of photorealism that could easily fool the unknowing eye. The 8,500-square-foot home will be wrapped in black timber and topped by a sculptural metal roof that curves upwards in multiple directions, giving rise to the home’s name House of Horns. Ample glazing, from the skylights to the clerestories on the “horns,” ushers in natural light. Related: Charred timber home perched above Silicon Valley takes cues from nature In contrast to the exterior, the rooms are lined in light colored wood, pale concrete floors, and marble partitions. Full-height glazing frames views of greenery and the dips and swells of the roofline are expressed in the ceilings. On the ground level, communal areas are placed in the center of the building and flanked by bedrooms and bathrooms. The basement level below ground will also enjoy access to the outdoors with hobbit -like circular openings that open up to small courtyards. Construction on House of Horns is scheduled to begin this summer. + WOJR Via Dezeen Images via WOJR

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Swooping rooflines make this proposed Silicon Valley home a sculptural work of art

Agtech start-up Plenty plans to grow hydroponic peaches

March 19, 2018 by  
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San Francisco -based start-up Plenty is expanding the possibilities of what can be grown on indoor farms, with its sights set on peaches. Plenty uses a hydroponic growing system, which feeds crops through a steady flow of nutrient-rich water, to grow high-quality, local produce. This kind of system is typically used to grow annual crops, not perennial trees like peaches. Nonetheless, Plenty’s success has the company confident that it can break new ground. “[Plenty’s kale] is nothing like the tough, bitter leaf we’re used to,” Plenty CEO  Matt Barnard proudly stated to Wired . “It’s sweet and velvety. People say we should find another name for it.” Plenty grows its crops indoors thanks to light supplies by LEDs and vertically-aligned growing spaces. This allows for greater crop density, which best serves the urban environment in which Plenty farms. In addition to its environmental benefits, Plenty’s local harvest tastes better too. “Right now, produce often has to travel 3,000 miles from the farm to consumer,” said Barnard, “which is why so many farms grow iceberg lettuce , which tastes of nothing. Our salads are spicy and citrusy and sweet at the same time. People are amazed they can eat it without salad dressing.” Related: 6 places where soil-less farming is revolutionizing how we grow food The primary obstacle to greater success for operations like Plenty is cost. “Anyone can buy some shelves, some lights, irrigation,” said Barnard. “The challenge is to get your produce down from $40 per pound to $1. At the moment, for example, we have an expensive peach.” Plenty plans to incorporate data and machine learning capabilities into the system, so as to allow for algorithmic alterations based on plant needs. “Now we are having what I like to [call] a ‘Google moment,’” explained Barnard. “Just like Google benefited from the simultaneous combination of improved technology, better algorithms and masses of data, we are seeing the same.” Via Wired Images via Plenty and Depositphotos

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This French art collective is building the world’s largest hanging garden

March 15, 2018 by  
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French art collective Les Machines de L’ile is embarking on plans to build the world’s largest hanging garden – which will be on the scale of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The Nantes-based design team is currently working on what they are calling The Heron’s Tree – a massive interactive garden that will span more than 160 feet in diameter and 114 feet high. The “mechanical menagerie” will invite guests to climb the labyrinth-like branches and ride one of two mechanical herons on flights that provide a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding Loire Valley. The Heron’s Tree, which is currently under construction on the banks of the Loire Valley, is actually the third part of a massive artistic endeavor called the Island’s Machines, which the artists began back in 2007. Inspired by the works of Jules Verne and Leonardo Da Vinci, the artistic project includes The Grand Elephant and the Machine Gallery, as well as the Carousel of Sea Worlds. The concept revolves around a mechanical collection of giant wild animals that roam around the world’s landscape. The project will include a large steel tree, weighing about 1,500 tons and spanning 165 feet wide. Twenty-two wide branches will be built as walkways that will be accessible from a helix staircase inside the tree trunk. Jutting out from the trunk at various heights, visitors can explore the tree’s many greenery-lined paths, which create a lush ecosystem of hanging vegetation . Related: Calatrava’s Dubai observation tower resembles the Hanging Gardens of Babylon About 115 feet above the tree top, there will be two platforms where visitors can climb aboard two massive herons. The herons will take the passengers on a circular ride soaring over of the large tree, providing a stunning 360-degree view of the Loire Valley. Created by artists Francois Delaroziere and Piere Orefice, the interactive art installation will be located on the banks of the Loire River – a significant location for the artists. “Inspired by the worlds of Jules Verne and Leonardo Da Vinci, it is an unprecedented artistic project. After the Grand Elephant and the Machine Gallery in 2007, the Carousel of the Sea Worlds in 2012, the Heron’s Tree is the third phase of the Island’s Machines. Coming out of the minds of François Delaroziere and Pierre Orefice, it will be located along the banks of the Loire River, a few meters away from the house Jules Verne spent his teenage years in and where Jean-Jacques Audubon grew up and drew his first herons.” The Heron’s Tree is the latest phase in the art ambitious project, which is scheduled for completion in 2022. The 35 million euro project is being funding partially by public funds, but the artistic team behind the project is seeking additional funding through a Kickstarter campaign . + Les Machines de L’ile Via This is Colossal Images via Les Machines de L’ile

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This French art collective is building the world’s largest hanging garden

90% of bottled water contains microplastics, according to a new study

March 15, 2018 by  
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If you thought you were safe drinking bottled water, think again. The Guardian reports that a new study commissioned by Orb Media has found microplastics in 90 percent of 259 bottles of water tested. Surveying several brands in nine different countries, scientists from the State University of New York in Fredonia told the paper some of the bottles contained twice as many plastic particles as tap water they had previously studied . To highlight the particles in any given sample, the scientists used Nile red dye that sticks to plastic, though The Guardian makes a point of noting that the study has not been published in a peer reviewed journal. That said, the technique’s developer, University of East Anglia scientist Dr Andrew Mayes, told the paper that he was satisfied the study had been conducted carefully, in the way he would have done in his own lab. Here is a list of all the brands Orb Media said were tested in the study: Aqua (Danone), Aquafina (PepsiCo), Bisleri (Bisleri International), Dasani (Coca-Cola), Epura (PepsiCo), Evian (Danone), Gerolsteiner (Gerolsteiner Brunnen), Minalba (Grupo Edson Queiroz), Nestle? Pure Life (Nestle?), San Pellegrino (Nestle?) and Wahaha (Hangzhou Wahaha Group). Of the 259 bottles of water tested, only 17 were plastic-free. The rest contained bits of polypropylene, polystyrene, nylon or polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Related: Plastic fibers found in 80 percent of tap water samples from five continents Nestle? was not satisfied with the method used to test the water, telling CBC News using Nile red dye could “generate false positives”. How ingesting plastics affects humans is still not 100 percent certain as this is an emergent field of study, according to the National Institutes of Health. Still, they note in a 2017 report , “If inhaled or ingested, microplastics may accumulate and exert localized particle toxicity by inducing or enhancing an immune response. Chemical toxicity could occur due to the localized leaching of component monomers, endogenous additives, and adsorbed environmental pollutants. Chronic exposure is anticipated to be of greater concern due to the accumulative effect that could occur.” + Orb Media Report Via The Guardian , CBC News Images via DepositPhotos 1 , 2

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90% of bottled water contains microplastics, according to a new study

NYC’s Farm One delivers rare, ultra-fresh produce in just 30 minutes

February 26, 2018 by  
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The farm-to-table movement has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years – and now NYC chefs can pick up sustainable, 100% “nasty-free” produce grown within city limits. Farm One is a Manhattan-based hydroponic farm that grows hundreds of rare herbs, edible flowers and microgreens, which can be delivered to 90% of NYC restaurants by bike in just 30 minutes. In April 2016, Manhattan’s Institute of Culinary Education planted its very first on-site farm with over 150 crop varieties. The hydroponic gardens are lit by LEDs and feature high-tech systems that provide specific growing conditions for even the rarest of greens. The grow room is 100% free from pesticides and herbicides, and it uses around 95% less water than traditional gardens. Related:Urban Skyfarm: Vertical Hydroponic Farm and Community Hub Offers Food Security for the Future The garden organizers have spent years researching and growing rare seeds from all over the world. Farm One is currently one of the city’s largest providers of edible herbs and greens, and it’s a major resource for chefs looking to cook with fresh produce. The system is so efficient that local eateries can have their greens on-site just minutes after being harvested. In addition to delivering fresh, sustainably-grown produce immediately after harvesting, Farm One offers classes and workshops on hydroponics and indoor farming for budding chefs or home cooks. The Tribeca location also hosts tours where guests can taste dozens of rare plant varieties – most of which cannot be found anywhere else in New York. + Farm One Via Uncrate Images via Farm One

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NYC’s Farm One delivers rare, ultra-fresh produce in just 30 minutes

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