The UN predicts that we will need 60% more food over the next 30 years in order to meet the demands of the world’s ever-growing population, and one designer has found an interesting place to look for other alternatives for growing food as agriculturally viable land becomes more and more scarce. That is, up! Skyfarm is a vertical farm designed by Gordon Graff, a student in the Master of Architecture program at the University of Waterloo. The vertically set farm for Toronto is intent on meeting the needs of a tightly packed planet in the face of a limited food supply, while removing dependence on the food transportation via energy intensive and emission heavy methods.
Instead of soil, Skyfarm’s plants float on trays of nutrient-rich water, growing hydroponically over 59 stories stacked half a dozen storeys deep. Farmed within a controlled environment, crops will no longer be subject to the vagaries of climate, infestation, or disease and the dense hydroponic agriculture can guarantee considerable yields. With the potential to operate year round, one indoor acre has been estimated to be able to yield the equivalent of between four and six outdoor acres, or enough food for 50,000 people a year. With the installation of several Skyfarms in the neighborhoods of especially large cities, the prospect to dramatically transform local food production is there.
However, the greatest pitfall of this system is also related to the ability, and in turn necessity, to maintain such a controlled environment. The availability and dispersion of natural light in particular proves to be an obstacle, and the building will be entirely dependent on electric lighting of up to 82 million kwH per year.
However, keen to these issues Graff designed the Skyfarm to be a self-sustaining, low impact system. The building will be equipped with its own bio-gas plant able to produce methane from its own waste which could be burned to generate its own electricity. Moreover, to the city’s advantage, when Skyfarm is unable to produce enough waste to power itself (approximately 50%) Graff suggests reclaiming the waste and sewage that travels to civic composting facilities and diverting it to Skyfarm’s anaerobic digester to produce the methane it needs. And the water issue? Enter the Living Machine, a patented biological water-filtration system that would recover waste water from sewage and redirect right on over to Skyfarm’s hydroponic system.
Photos via VerticalFarm.com