The Future of Condos, pt 3 Vertical Farming

In a world dealing with challenges like housing, food security, and climate change, an important way to offset traditional agriculture is being explored outside your door. With urbanization increasing traffic and construction, the need for nature follows.

For people living in condominiums the sights of concrete and glass are familiar. Now imagine a lush green canopy of vegetation covering the concrete jungle. The goals of building sustainable communities with nutritious food and clean energy are exemplary. So how much would your life change if it all happened right around your residence?

 

Enter ‘Urban Agriculture’ (UA)

 

By reducing the estimated 1,200 kms that the average vegetable travels from harvest to consumer1, urban agriculture aims to truly eat local. UA is happening in vacant lots and community gardens, from balconies and rooftops to indoor farms and greenhouses.

A 2015 UN report on Urban Agriculture2 delves into zero-acreage farming (Z-farming) and vertical farming also known as Skyfarming.

 

For example, a vertical farm in South Korea stands at three-stories and a recent prototype estimates a building with 27 floors could provide food to 15,000 residents.GSDR 2015 Brief Urban Agriculture
 

toronto-vertical-farming

Image courtesy of inhabitat.com

The way of the future

As early adopters begin to implement a green hope, the job for condo managers is reaching new heights.Responsibilities range from planning space, dealing with local cooperatives, and employing growers, to liaising with local and government officials. Management duties are significant. Two visionary vertical farming projects include:

 

01. Singapore

The country ranked third on the list for population density4 is home to the World’s first commercial vertical farm called Sky Greens5. The low-carbon hydraulic water-driven vertical farming system features rotating towers that can be up to 9 metres tall. They are cost efficient making use of natural light, and hydraulic action pumps that both water the plants and drive the rotation of the towers.
 

At full capacity of nearly 2,000 vertical farming towers next year, we will be able to produce five to ten tonnes of vegetables a day, depending on the varieties we grow.5Jack Ng, founder of Sky Urban Solutions
 
Sky Urban Solutions recently shared their ambitious proposal with Singapore’s National Development Ministry for the SG100 Agripolis – a high-tech marvel designed to provide up to 30% of Singapore’s overall leafy green vegetable consumption. The planned 16 blocks of 9-metre towers could potentially produce 1,000 tons of leafy greens per month.

 

 

02. New Delhi, India

A spectacular example is the planned 36-storey Hyperion in New Delhi, featuring cross-laminated timber towers. Fittingly named after the World’s tallest tree, the Hyperion looks to be the most sophisticated environment of its kind, with 1,000 residential and commercial spaces, including recreational facilities and farms, housing cereal crops, small animals, and dairy. The towers themselves are to generate energy in real time, turning agricultural byproducts into methane, with solar panels throughout. Look for this eco-friendly complex to be completed by 2020.8
 
vincent-callebaut-hyperion

Image courtesy of dailymail.co.uk

 


 

Associated costs

Of all the risk factors associated with urban farming, from seasonal dependence and sunlight, to overuse of energy requirements like supplemental lighting and ventilation, not to mention pesticides and fertilizers, arguably the most prohibitive factor is the cost.
 

Over 30 years the fixed cost for equipment and a 37 story building for a vertical farm is estimated at $248 million.GSDR 2015 Brief Urban Agriculture
 
In Vancouver, BC, Alterrus, an innovative company that converted a parking lot rooftop into a 6,000-square-foot vertical hydroponic vegetable garden, filed for bankruptcy protection in 20149. The Vancouver-based related technology company VertiCrop highlights the positives:
 
Vertical farming produces up to 20 times more yield and uses only 8% of the water typically required for soil farming.VertiCropTM technology
 

vertical-farm-laboratory

Image courtesy of newscientist.com

 


 

Managing the lifestyle

For homeowners, the green shift offers a visible change to your living space. All around you there is potential for growth. Hanging gardens and vines could fill the exterior of buildings. Rooftops and balconies could be decked with vertical farming systems. Indoor spaces could be used for hydroponics. A personal vertical growing system like The NutriTower11 could fit neatly in the corner of your own living room or kitchen.

The green shift will also affect the responsibilities for condo boards and property managers. In addition to managing water and electricity resources, buildings will now be developing agricultural resources. From zoning bylaws and local governance, to shared spaces and environmental protection, the management of urban agriculture is stacked.

Providing an online resource for further research, the Association of Vertical Farming12 is a global network dedicated to advancing the implementation of vertical farming.

A recent headline-making announcement was the hiring of the first “resident farmer” by a city apartment complex on Staten Island. Tasked with running a small organic farm and rooftop beehives, the urban farmer is set to receive $40,000 a year, plus a free apartment in the building13. A partner in the venture told the New York Post:
 

A farm as a selling point, an amenity, like a gym — that’s what this is, it’s going to be really game-changing.Frank “Turtle” Raffaele of Coffeed

 


 

Growing local

While innovation is happening in urban centres everywhere, it’s on the home-grown level that the impact is immediate. Urban communities can join together for a green cause, ushering in an abundance of health, both mental and physical.One interesting facet of this is that we’ll have more farmers working in cities. As the trend continues, look for more support networks to help get you started.

Toronto Urban Growers15 is a network committed to scaling up urban agriculture including small spaces and containers for growing food, mentioning roof-top, balcony and vertical farming production methods.

Toronto Balconies Bloom16 is an online hub for the thriving culture of balcony gardens in the city of Toronto. The site includes DIY and How-To resources to help get your growing started.
 
toronto-balconies-bloom

Image courtesy of torontobalconiesbloom.ca

 
Topsoil18 works with building owners to convert rooftops and vacant buildings into sustainable local agriculture, supplying restaurants in Victoria, BC with premium fruits and vegetables harvested fresh daily.

So get your green thumbs growing, and keep in mind the yields could be very rewarding.

 


 

Rewards of vertical farming

  • Environmentally friendly saves the long travel distances also known as ‘food miles’
  • Jobs employs urbanites in the agricultural sector
  • Health people working with nature and controlled growing allows for organic produce
  • Protection from weather anomalies like droughts and flooding that affect rural agriculture
  • Harvest schedule increases crop yields with year-round farming
  • Air improved quality and freshness to battle big city pollution
  • Water conserve and recycle water throughout the process
  • Innovation driven by the competition for limited space and sunlight
  • Density keeping up with the ever-growing population residing in urban cities
  • Beauty from urban growth and beautifying the concrete jungle with nature

 
With all the excitement around these new sustainable ways to grow food, without the giant fields of the past, I’m sure you’re amped to start growing for the future now that the sky’s the limit!
 
vertical-farming-plants

Image courtesy of farmtech-mart.com

 

Stay tuned for more of The Future of Condo’s series…


1. DavidSuzuki.org, 2. UrbanAgriculture.pdf, 3. SustainableDevelopment.un.org,4. Wikipedia.org, 5. Skygreens.com, 6. Straitstimes.com, 7. YouTube.com, 8. dailymail.co.uk, 9. biv.com, 10. grow.verticrop.com, 11. treehugger.com, 12. vertical-farming.net, 13. agritecture.com, 14. nypost.com, 15. torontourbangrowers.org, 16. torontobalconiesbloom.ca, 17. torontobalconiesbloom.ca/inspiration, 18. topsoileatlocal.com, 19. inhabitat.com, 20. newscientist.com, 21. farmtech-mart.com