Over the last few posts, we’ve been exploring the grandiose idea that is the future of vertical farming – skyscraper hubs of efficient, renewable food production – but big ideas often start small and vertical farming is no different.
Urban farming is an umbrella term for the practice of cultivating, processing a distributing food in or around urban environments. This encompasses a range of practices including horticulture, animal husbandry and beekeeping. If you or someone you know has a vegetable garden or fruit trees in their backyard, then this is an example of urban farming.
The world in its current state struggles to feed all of the people that currently inhabit it, and one of the solutions that has been thought up is that if more people grow their own food, fewer people will go hungry. This is not to say that people should grow the entirety of their food, but every meal they can produce themselves is a meal that hasn’t had to come from elsewhere.
Now if you are a person or persons that are fortunate enough to inhabit a piece of land, then relatively speaking, it’s easy enough to set up a garden and start growing food. However, for people who live in apartments or the like, this becomes an altogether more challenging task. Yet this is again where vertical farming can start to shine through.
For the daring and adventurous, there’s no challenge too big or small – like building your own Vertical farming solutions. When outdoor space is available for use, vertical spaces can easily be turned into productive spaces through everyday items, as seen in this blog post here, by Bryn Huntpalmer.
- Unused cans attached to a wall or fence as plant holders
- Fabric shoe organisers as hanging gardens
- Asymmetrical concrete block towers using the hollows for plants
- Pallets repurposed as standing gardens
- Plastic bottles strung together and hung over walls
Making use of outdoor space can also include freestanding structures as well, such as standing vertical pipes or A-frames. Many of these projects can be constructed from second-hand materials or easily acquirable materials. Some companies and individuals even go so far as to share complete instructions and guides on the internet, like this one, sponsored by a company called BLT Robotics.
The project in question, dubbed RUFS (Robotic Urban Farm System) includes a list of all materials and lengths/sizes required, a step by step construction guide, and because this is a more high-tech project, it also includes a coding and setup guide for the IOT components of the project (We’ll be covering IOT integration into vertical farming in a future post, so make sure you subscribe to catch it!)
If however, outdoor space isn’t an option, those DIY skills can set up vertical farming indoors too. A spare window provides a space in which a farming setup can be created, as seen in the design below.
That being said, the DIY approach isn’t for everyone, and while the market is still a young one, there a few companies that provide, or are in the process of being able to provide, pre-built vertical farming solutions.
CityCrop is one such example, with their self-titled product scheduled for release at the end of 2017. The two-tier tower appears to allow for 24 separate plants to be grown. A companion app allows the user to specify which plants are being grown in each of the 24 slots, and the system handles the rest from there, customising the water and lighting requirements for each plant. The range of plants that the system knows how to grow ranges from leafy greens, microgreens and herbs, through to a small collection of fruits and edible flowers. The system has an indicative price of £700 which is around $1300 NZD.
As mentioned, the market for urban vertical farming solutions is still a young one and has a way to go yet before it starts to gather momentum. What does the future look like and what are the solutions that we’re likely to see? While the future is ever changing, an educated guess would suggest that urban farming set-ups become commonplace technology, and just like it’s common for a house to have a fridge or a microwave, vertical farming appliances would also become common, with houses having one or more of them.
Designs, like the one above by George Sawyer, illustrate what these growing environments might look like, built right into the kitchen. The sleek and professional look is something that comes with time and development – when the demand is there, companies make better products.
If you would like to learn more about setting up your own vertical farm and start to grow your own produce, take a look at Vertical Farming Academy – a project by the Association for Vertical Farming. It features a range of information on hydroponics, aquaculture, farming insects and mushrooms and more!