Gallery: Sea-Based Vertical Skyscraper Farm Has Advantages Over Land-Ba...


Another day, another vertical farm concept, except this one is set out on the water to avoid taking up valuable land. This food-producing eco skyscraper by Australian architect Ruwan Fernando was one of the entries for the eVolo Skyscraper competition and has a number of direct advantages over a land based farm including access to water, minerals, more sunlight, and wind and waves to generate renewable energy. Sure we have a long ways to go before vertical farms become reality, but Fernando might be onto something.

Fernando’s design features five levels of U-shaped structures built on a platform in the middle of open (preferably low-depth) water. Each u-shaped structure functions for specialized purposes, like sustainable food production, factories, or even residential space. The lower portion of the tower serves as public space with commercial areas, restaurants, museums or open space. A network of bridges connects towers to each other as well as to the mainland.

Photovoltaic cells are installed on the exterior of the structure, tidal power systems harness energy from the waves, and vertical axis wind turbines at the base of the structure capture wind, all in order to provide the tower with renewable energy. The u-shaped sections are placed in order to leave space between them so more light can reach the interior. Fresh water can be desalinated from the surrounding ocean and minerals are filtered for help with food production. If vertical farms were actually cost effective and had proven technology, being directly on the water would make a lot of sense.

+ eVolo Skyscraper Competition


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  1. tofa.nheu June 7, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    @ Eric

    Those are some great insights. I love this building, infact I love them all. Go Aussies!

  2. Ruwan April 25, 2010 at 2:20 am

    Thanks for the comments – will keep researching for next year! Oh – and Bridgett – I’m a New Zealander not Australian 😀

  3. Eric Hunting April 8, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    I’ve been studying marine colonization as a hobby for decades (always hoping it will someday become a career…) and this looks to me like one of the more plausible design concepts to come along of late. It’s too bad the images were so small as some of details were not clear at low resolution and some aspects of the structure seem a little over-elaborate. But one of the key things that shows the designer was serious about this idea was that they explicitly account for transportation. The chief challenge of life at sea is not the technology for building structures there. That’s the easy part. The real challenge is the logistical problem of linking a marine community to the rest of the world at a time when, in fact, we have fewer options for that at-hand today than we actually did prior to WWII when packet steamers, giant flying boats, and airships roamed the globe. Typical intercontinental transportation has ridiculous minimum economies of scale. It takes a community of hundreds of thousands to millions just to justify the existence of jet airliner connection. This is not as big an issue for a community near-shore like this but the designer was still wise in realizing that, even if you’re just tends of miles out to sea, water taxi’s are not going to cut it for all transportation needs for a true cosmopolitan habitat. So the inclusion of a PRT that both links the sections of the structure and its neighboring settlements and the shore is a very logical choice.

    One omission, though, is the use of mariculture as an integral part of the farming system. Such a structure would be able to cultivate algae in volume to support a polyspecies mariculture complex which would produce food in its own right but also serve as feedstock for the agriculture. Such tower-like structures would be particularly well suited to the concept of ‘free-range’ fish farming where fish fry are trained to associate an underwater audio signal with automated feeding and can then be allowed to roam free, being called to a station for feeding and harvesting. This is a tested technique and, amazingly, is purported to have only a 30% attrition rate -which is more than made up for by the much reduced need for pen hardware and the much reduced pollution.

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