Multidisciplinary design firm Except recently unveiled its Polydome concept for meeting the world’s skyrocketing agricultural demands. Using advanced greenhouse technology, meticulously planned crop groupings and absolutely no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, the system can produce an abundant 10-15 lbs per square foot of vegetables, fish, and even honey. If grown atop rooftops, this bounty of food could even provide the majority of New York City’s food supply.
Unlike conventional monoculture greenhouses that produce only one crop, Polydome is a polyculture system with over 50 different crops growing at once interspersed among livestock and insects. This diversified system connects waste, water and energy flows enabling food production to be fully zero-waste.
Although the Polydome system uses recent advances in greenhouse technology such as integrated solar photovoltaics, Except’s greatest success was in designing optimal “crop clusters.” These are groups of plants, such as the Three Sisters, that use space, light and nutrients together in a way that maximizes productivity. The clusters are interchangeable, like Lego blocks, with many possible combinations that can be chosen to meet local food demand.
Depending on the plants and clusters chosen, Polydome systems can be entirely zero-waste. Inedible plant waste is reused as mulch, compost, and fish feed, while animal waste is used as natural fertilizer. Furthermore, mushroom cultivation, chickens and composing provide the high levels of carbon dioxide that plants thrive on, rather than generators or fossil fuel combustion.
To further maximize productivity, the system also uses stacked hydroponic crops. High profit crops such as strawberries and lettuces are suspended above soil crops, quickly growing in a hydroponic solution. This solution is loaded with nutrients from the wastewater of the Polydome’s fish aquaculture system.
Except suggests that their advanced greenhouse design could be coupled with restaurants, supermarkets and other food vendors. But as BrightFarms has demonstrated, a greenhouse like this could be planted atop any building, brightening the prospects of this concept reaching fruition.