09 June 2008

Hydroponics, Urban Farming and LED Lighting

You know how you learn a new word and then all of a sudden you see it everywhere? I learned the term ‘locavore’ last week from a post on Latter-day Sustainability. And now I’m seeing it everywhere. Above is an image from an unusual, but fantastic, competition entry idea for creating an urban farm. ‘The Locavore Fantasia’ by the architect WORK AC is an apartment building topped with a working farm.

"We thought we’d bring the farm back to the city and stretch it vertically," says Work AC co-principal Dan Wood. "We are interested in urban farming and the notion of trying to make our cities more sustainable by cutting the miles [food travels]," adds his co-principal (and wife) Amale Andraos. The design would have different crops on each floor while four large water tanks would collect rainwater for irrigation. Crops would face south towards the sun.

VERTICAL FARM advantages:
-Ability to feed 50,000 people from one building
-Save significantly on transportation costs
-Stimulate economy by providing local jobs
-Build a stronger community
-Reduce rural agricultural land use
-Allow the return of farmland to forestland

The most published vertical farm design can be seen below. Interestingly, this has erroneously been reported all over the web as a building that is being developed in Las Vegas. However, the originator of the building is not aware of this, and is unsure how the false rumor was started. Still, it remains a great concept for urban food production.

Image from Chris Jacobs blog

Image from NY Magazine

With the possibility of indoor farming, we can look to hydroponics rather than using soil-based methods.

HYDROPONIC advantages:
-Provides constant temperature and light to maximize crop yield
-Extended growth seasons
-Minimizes use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, improving the health of people and ecosystems
-Water is used efficiently
-The most environmentally friendly method of growing plants
-Cheaper and more efficient than soil gardening
-Removes risk of erosion and allows land to return to natural state
-Eliminates most bacteria, pathogens, protozoa, and plant nematodes improving the health of the plants
-Automatic watering and feeding
-Simple weed control
-Eliminates intricate soil-management strategies and guesswork
-Provides a balanced formula of nutrients made for the purpose of optimizing plant growth

Agro Housing by Knafo Klimor Architects
Winner of 2nd International Competition for Sustainable Housing (China 2007)
Chinese apartment tower utilizing hydroponic gardens at each unit

Agro Housing by Knafo Klimor Architects
Winner of 2nd International Competition for Sustainable Housing (China 2007)
Chinese apartment tower utilizing hydroponic gardens at each unit

"Specialty crops such as tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, and hot peppers, which cannot be grown conventionally all year long, are being grown hydroponically year ‘round. These vegetables that were previously scarce in winter are now plentiful. Since hydroponically grown vegetables can be continuously harvested, even regions that have harsh winters or short growing seasons can grow these specialty crops." (Source)

Lettuce growing Aeroponically

The most rapidly evolving type of hydroponic system is the ‘Nutrient Film Technique’ where a thin film of nutrient solution flows through a plastic-lined channel containing the plant roots. This system has the advantage of a using a significantly reduced volume of nutrient solution.

Strawberries growing in ‘Polygal hanging bed-pack’ troughs suspended at a height of 1.8 m above the ground level

LED Lighting
With the possibility of indoor farming, we can also look to LED lighting as an energy efficient light source.

Arclinea Indoor Greenhouse
Arclinea's innovation, based on technology developed by NASA, incorporates a specialized LED lighting system that mimics the movement of the sun from rise to set, allowing small herbs to grow indoors in the dead of winter.

LED advantages:
-Allows efficient indoor gardening - even in the kitchen
-Safe to use
-Low voltage
-10 to 12 year bulb life
-Operate 24/7 all year long
-No mercury, glass, or UV
-No ballast or reflector - light goes straight to the plant
-Produces only 25% visible light - minimum heat and glare
-Eliminates wasted light and heat

Good testing site for LED lighting and indoor gardening

LED Grow Master Global

(Primary source for much of the research taken from http://www.verticalfarm.com/plans-2k4.htm)


Latter-Day Sustainablist said...

GMA- Look me up when you design your first vertical garden. I'll be your structural consultant extraordinaire!

green mormon architect said...

You've got yourself a deal!

CatherineWO said...

Very cool! Of course, they must be organic/sustainable gardens--some great possibilities here.

BHodges said...

where can I get a high resolution image like this for a wallpaper?

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