Gallery: Gordon Graff’s Skyfarm for Toronto

gordon graff, skyfarm, canada, toronto, vertical farms, urban farms, skyscraper farms, self-sustaining, urban agriculture

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.

Via Treehugger

Photos via

+ Gordon Graff Skyfarm on


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  1. gelmibson March 3, 2011 at 3:02 am

    Ok. Lets bring the talk of skyfarms down to earth. First off, most of the articles are talking like this project and others like it (such as the dragonfly in NYC) are done deals or actually in the planning stage. Congrats to these students of architecture an d planning for having insight and starting dialog on issues of urban farming and food supply. At this stage that is all it, pipe dreams and enlightenment.
    Do not mean to be rude, but how many buildings has this Graff guy built? Does anyone have an idea the scope of financing this building would cost, using all unproven building technology.
    Do people understand the amount of natural waste needed to create this much methane gas? You need certain kinds of waste too, not just “waste” or organic scraps.
    I know this makes me sound like a naysayer, but I am so not. I believe in hydroponics,aquaponics and urban farming.
    What I do have a problem with is someone drawing some cad designs of a slick tower with two pages of hypothetical musings on how the buildings mechanical system will run, sending this off to the National and local dailies creating media buzz over a couple homework assignments.
    Get serious, reclaim a couple of abandoned industrial sites and prove your technology and system works. Then we can take people seriously and get the right people and financing behind these projects.

  2. cruiser12 September 22, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    If you have an opportunity to visit the new roofgarden at Toronto’s Metro Central YMCA you will see why we desperately need a Skyfarm. You could describe the downtown and mid-town area visible from the roofgarden as an urban desert. All you can see is rows of highrise buildings and very little greenspace. Virtually all the people who live and work in these buildings buy their food from supermarkets and fastfood outlets. Even if the cost of food from a Skyfarm isn’t cheaper than what is currently available at least it would be fresh and healthy.

    I also think it would be valuable to get the community colleges and universities involved with the Skyfarm project. Their constituents could be workers, learners and consumers. The building could become an institute for urban farming. People from all over the world could come to contribute and learn.They could also get credentials in urban farming. Those credentials will be valuable as this type of agriculture grows world-wide. It may be the only way to keep the exploding world population fed and healthy. We need healthy people or we’ll keep having pandemics. If we have too many pandemics we are doomed!!!

    If you want to discuss these ideas further contact me at

  3. Park Young Jin July 28, 2009 at 6:31 am

    in South Korea Skyfarm is now actively studying after seeing your articles for Skyfarm. It will be highly appreciated if you let me know the present process of this porject.

  4. kyleedginton May 25, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    I hope that something like this becomes reality soon, so that big cities like Toronto or others can become more self sufficient.

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