Skyscraper height farms?

Most people interested in cities would, I believe, agree that hydroponic farms will very likely be part of the mix of solutions for food cultivated in and around cities. Probably vertical hydroponic farms. Skyscraper height farms, especially ones integrating other amenities like office space, a supermarket and a food court? Now that definitely remains to be seen!

Carlo Ratti, an architect who runs MIT’s Senseable City Lab, is proposing a 51-story skyscraper for China’s technology hub of Shenzhen with a large-scale vertical hydroponic farm inside that can produce crops like salad greens, berries and tomatoes to feed up to 40,000 people per year. […]

It’s one of a number of ideas to expand vertical farms, as breakthroughs in hydroponic and aeroponic technology allow for these indoor facilities to produce crops with higher yields using less land and water.

Many other regions are already looking at, building, or even already using vertical hydroponic farms. For example, cities like Singapore and Abu Dhabi are investing, and there’s already one under construction in Jersey City, New Jersey, all “with the aim of tackling food insecurity by merging technology, education and food access”.

Other types of greenhouses that are not technically vertical farms are also relying on technologies like LED lighting and robots to optimize growing — AppHarvest in Kentucky produces 45 million pounds of tomatoes per year in a facility that it says yields 30 times more per acre than open fields, with 90% less water.

The building proposed by Ratti in Shenzhen would also tackle a number of other issues, reducing its impact on the surrounding city.

The greenery would sit in what’s known as a double-skin facade, with windows on both sides to allow natural sunlight to reach both the plants and the building interior. Ratti says this design — and the copious amounts of sunlight in Shenzhen — will enable the farm to be less reliant on artificial light and heating, which come with high energy use.

There are still a lot of challenges with these farms, energy use, the varying sunlight when not using LEDs, very little protein being grown in them, etc. So let’s see these as early experiments in the future they are advocating, but promising ones.