Gallery: Low Energy Indoor Farm in Saudi Arabia Uses No Pesticides, Soi...

 

Saudi Arabia is on its way to the future of farming; a brand new aeroponic, soil-less, sunless, pesticide-less, low-energy farm was just installed in the town of Jeddah. The farm was created by AeroFarm, a company that manufactures a new type of hydroponic growing unit that uses a recyclable cloth material, instead of soil to anchor plants. The system provides nutrition to plants with air circulation, a nutrient rich mist and an array of low-energy, LED lighting. The farms can grow fresh local produce indoors year-round in cold climates and because of their low-water usage are perfect for desert climates — with soil degradation and climate change becoming a problem around the world these things might come in handy.

AeroFarm units are unique in the hydroponic world because they can be vertically stacked and can be scaled up to grow a vast amount of food. The farms use less than 10% of the water needed for conventional farming and a water vapor reclamation system can be installed — the farm in Jeddah has one — to maximize water usage and minimize the need for an outside water source. With Earth’s population centers moving more toward cities these farming systems could provide fresh, local produce to people living in urban centers without incurring transportation expenses — and carbon emissions. The farms are easy to maintain, have low operating costs and provide predictable yields throughout the year making them highly profitable.

Our goal is to grow indoors without the use of a greenhouse or sunlight, and to provide 100 percent of our own water by collecting humidity from the air. This is step one,” noted Luke Sestito, president of The DeLeon Group, which commissioned the Jeddah farm. “We then want to use solar and wind power to make our farms fully self-sustaining.” The Jeddah farm is the first aeroponic farm in the Middle East. It is meant to be a beacon of sustainable farming in that area of the world, hopefully showing other communities that fresh, local produce is entirely possible as long as you’ve got a roof and some electricity — preferably from a wind turbine or solar panel. Though we would love to solve this ruining our natural resources problem first, at least we know that if we demolish all our farmland and our climate, we’ve got a backup plan.

WHY THIS MATTERS:

Transporting food from farms to people’s plates emits tons of carbon each year. Aerofarms could be the key to providing fresh, local produce to people living in urban centers in a way that saves carbon emissions – and makes for fresher, healthier food.

+ AeroFarms

Via Saudi Gazette

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9 Comments

  1. draker March 18, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    “…fresh, local produce is entirely possible as long as you’ve got a roof and some electricity…”

    And nutrients. NPK being the main ones. Nitrogen is abundant in the atmosphere and plants like clover can enrich your soil. Potassium is abundant in the Earth’s crust.

    But phosphorus is not abundant, and we are rapidly exhausting our reserves. Some say we will run out of phosphorus before we run out of oil.

    As inventive as this technology may be, no phosphorus means no hydroponic fertilizer means no indoor plants.

  2. ygermino July 5, 2011 at 7:04 am

    I hope they will do Aquaponics so there’s an additional Fish to market… from someone who is doing home Aquaponics in Jeddah…

  3. citizen7 January 31, 2011 at 4:35 am

    The problem with relying on “natural” daylight in Saudi Arabia, and other arid parts of the world (e.g. Australia) is that it cycles from extreme light & heat during the day (40+degC / 104+degF and higher), to complete absence of both during the night (-10degC / 14degF and lower).

    These extremes make it impossible to grow plants – and makes conventional indoor & outdoor agricultural practices (let alone conventional building design) infeasible / unsustainable.

    This concept separates the plants from the inhospitable extremes that would normally kill them,
    and uses various techniques as a “buffer” to get the right amount of energy & resources exactly where it’s required; with a minimum of wasted energy & materials.

    And this concept isn’t anything new; the underground cities of Cappadocia, Turkey were built on these concepts over a thousand years ago.

    And solar technology is catching up for lost time now. During the day, the abundance of heat & sunlight can be absorbed via solar accumulators linked to brine tanks (to store heat) and batteries (to store electricity) during the day. That solar energy can also be harnessed to desalinate & purify water.

    The heat & electrical energy that is stored can then be released in a controlled, constant, and focused manner via “daylight spectrum” LEDs , and other systems that re-cycle, treat, and re-distribute air, heat, water, and nutrients as required.

    And I think more homes, offices, and markets should be designed around this concept; completely isolated from the extremes of sunlight & heat – instead of the architecturally designed glass & steel solar ovens that are being built all the time.

    But what is especially exciting about this concept is applying it to the design of human habitation outside of “spaceship Earth” – e.g. the ISS, the moon, or even extra-terrestial planets with only the minimum of minerals & water available.

    Mind you, the day may even come when we won’t be able to grow enough food on the surface of spaceship Earth. If we continue to mess around with the life support system as we have been doing so all these years, that day will come sooner than later.

  4. pichgooshti January 28, 2011 at 1:33 am
  5. hongta January 26, 2011 at 10:42 am

    To all cynics,

    Why discourage when we can encourage? Why criticize innovations? Why kill new ideas?

    For all those questions you asked, I am sure the designer has his reasons. I certainly think this is a way to go considering that this method will exclude most of the climate factors that affects production yield. Plus, it is consistent with vertical farming method. And as far as I know, it matches the sustainable building architecture design for desert as the idea is to stay as low as possible on the ground, possibly underground if I am not wrong.

    Anyway, give them a break. They would really appreciate some love.

  6. Jake G January 26, 2011 at 8:42 am

    I have been doing some research on the Vertical Farm and this system in Saudi Arabia looks to be producing some impressive greens.

    If you have an opportunity to review there is a US based company that has put the Vertical Farm to work. Terrasphere Systems (http://terraspheresystems.com/), which is now part of Converted Organics (http://convertedorganics.com/) has developed a Vertical Farm that is now in operation and producing product in Canada. The Terrasphere website is very informative. Converted Organics recently announced that they will be building a Terrasphere plant in Rhode Island. Like the Saudi system, what they produce is soil-less, sunless, pesticide-less and low-energy.

    I am not affiliated with either of these companies, I just thought you would like to see a Vertical Farm in action.

  7. jsilence January 26, 2011 at 5:11 am

    While the technicality of this is intriguing, the logic seems to be very backwards and unfortunately the article does not reflect that in any way.

    Why would you call such a system ‘low energy’ when nature is giving you sunlight virtually for free? Why pipe the sunlight energy through a PV and then use the electricity to make… light. You had light in the first place.

    This system is like replacing a waterslide with highly energy efficient downward escalators. Granted, the escalators use no water at all and are very energy efficient compared to other escalators, but the whole thing makes little sense.

    Such a system might make sense in arctic stations or moon stations, but if you have a patch of degraded soil in a sunny location, better restore the soil and go smart lowtech biofarming.

  8. Reimer January 25, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    Dubai apparently lots of excess tower space. Better to use them for innovative farms like this than demolishing them to decrease vacancy.

  9. welz January 25, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Your kidding right? Indoor gardens using solar power in Saudi Arabia. Sure. Why not a greenhouse? Why not a greenhouse that uses gray water from a housing development and distributes the food the the residents who farm the garden? The desert is warm, and has lots of light. The technology exists to process human sewage into usable water with artificial wetlands in greenhouses. And the final step is using plants to complete the cycle. Edible Plants! But let’s just plug in more lights and burn more fossil fuels to grow food. This isn’t a space station we live in.
    http://www.ecolandscapegroup.com

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