The Vertical Farm: A Review of Developments and Implications for the Vertical City
1.2. Goals and Scope of the Study
- What is a vertical farm?
- What are the driving forces for building it?
- What are the involved high-tech farming methods?
- What are the salient project examples on vertical farming?
- What are the implications for the vertical city?
1.4. What Is a Vertical Farm?
1.5. Why Vertical Farms?
1.5.1. Food Security
1.5.2. Climate Change
1.5.3. Urban Density
1.5.5. The Ecosystem
2. High-Tech Indoor Farming
2.1. Farming Methods
2.1.2. Cylindrical Hydroponic Growing Systems
2.1.3. Ultrasonic Foggers
- Supplying upper roots with nutrient enriched fogs that penetrate deep into root tissues, keeping them moist, well-nourished, and free of decay .
- Promoting the growth of minuscule root hairs, which exponentially increase the root’s ability to absorb water, nutrients, and exchange gases .
- Reducing the use of water and nutrients by up to 50% .
- Reducing the need for bulky and costly growing mediums .
- Efficiently using space, as the units are compact and designed to be fed by a remotely located reservoir .
- By integrating ultrasonic foggers, hydroponic systems come close to aeroponic systems .
2.1.6. Solar Aquaculture
- Cleaning water for the fish habitat;
- Providing organic liquid fertilizers that enable the healthy growth of plants;
- Providing efficiency since the waste products of one biological system serves as nutrients for a second biological system;
- Saving water since water is re-used through biological filtration and recirculation. This feature is attractive particularly in regions that lack water;
- Reducing, even eliminating, the need for chemicals and artificial fertilizers;
- Resulting in a polyculture that increases biodiversity;
- Supplying locally-grown healthy food since the only fertility input is fish feed and all of the nutrients go through a biological process;
- Facilitating the creation of local jobs; and
- Creating an appealing business that supplies two unique products—fresh vegetables and fish—from one working unit.
2.2. Lighting Technologies
2.3. Farming Operation
2.4. Farming from Afar
2.5. “Closed-Loop Agricultural” Ecosystems
- At the heart of the system is an anaerobic digester that turns organic materials into biogas, which is piped into turbine generator to make electricity for plant grow light.
- The plants make oxygen to the Kombucha tea brewery, and Kombucha tea brewery makes CO2 to the plant.
- Waste from the fish feeds the plants and the plants clean the water for the fish.
- More fish waste goes to the digester along with plants’ waste, waste from outside sources and spent grain from the brewery.
- Spent barley from the brewery feeds the fish.
- Sludge from the digester that becomes algae duckweed also feeds the fish.
- Along electricity, the turbine makes steam which is piped to the commercial kitchen, brewery, and the entire building for heating and cooling.
- Therefore, the kitchen produces Kombucha tea, fresh vegetables, fish, beer, and food, all with no waste.
2.6. Renewable Energy
2.7. Integration within City Infrastructure
2.8. Redefining Vertical Farms
3. Vertical Farm Project Examples
3.1. Modest-Scale Vertical Farms
3.1.1. Sky Greens
3.1.2. Green Spirit Farms
3.2. The Plant
3.3. Green Girls
3.4. Rooftop Farming
3.4.1. Brooklyn Grange
3.4.2. Gotham Greens
3.5. Multi-Story Farms
3.5.2. Organizational Structure
3.5.3. Technical Innovations
The Plantawall Façade System
3.5.4. La Tour Vivante
3.5.5. Harvest Green Tower
- Underground. A parking lot and shared car co-op
- Street level. A grocery store, farmer’s market, restaurants, and a transit hub
- Lower floors. A livestock grazing plain, bird habitat, goat cheese, and sheep dairy facility
- Middle floors. A space for producing fruits, vegetables, and fish
- Upper floors. Residential units
- Tower’s top. A large rainwater cistern
3.5.7. Pyramid Farm
3.5.8. Vertical Farm in Philippine
4. Discussion: Opportunities and Challenges
6. Future Research
Conflicts of Interest
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|Farming Method||Key Characteristics||Major Benefits||Common/Applicable Technologies|
|Hydroponics||Soilless based, uses water as the growing medium||Fosters rapid plant growth; Reduces, even eliminates soil-related cultivation problems; Decreases the use of fertilizers or pesticides.||Computerized and monitoring systems; Cell phones, laptops, and tablets; Food growing apps; Remote control systems and software (farming-from-afar systems); Automated racking, stacking systems, moving belts, and tall towers; Programmable LED lighting systems; Renewable energy applications (solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal, etc.); Closed-loop systems, anaerobic digesters; Programmable nutrient systems; Climate control, HVAC systems; Water recirculating and recycling systems; Rainwater collectors; Insect-killing systems; Robots|
|Aeroponics||A variant of hydroponics; it involves spraying the roots of plants with mist or nutrient solutions.||In addition to benefits mentioned above, Aeroponics requires less water.|
|Aquaponics||It integrates aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics.||Creates symbiotic relationships between the plants and the fish; it uses the nutrient-rich waste from fish tanks to “fertigate” hydroponics production beds; and hydroponic bed cleans water for fish habitat.|
|1. Reliable harvests||Controlled indoor environments are independent of outside weather conditions and would provide consistent and reliable growing cycles to meet delivery schedules and supply contracts.|
|2. Minimum overheads||Production overheads would decrease by 30%.|
|Low energy usage||The use of high efficiency LED lighting technology ensures minimum power use for maximum plant growth. Computer management of photosynthetic wavelengths, in harmony with phase of crop growth, further minimizes energy use while ensuring optimized crop yields.|
|Low labor costs||Fully automated growing systems with automatic SMS text messaging would require manual labor only for on-site planting, harvesting, and packaging.|
|Low water usage||Vertical farms would use around 10% of the water required for traditional open field farming.|
|Reduced washing and processing||Vertical farms would employ strict bio-security procedures to eliminate pests and diseases.|
|Reduced transport costs||Positioning of facilities close to the point of sale would dramatically decrease travel times, reducing refrigeration, storage and transport costs in the process.|
|3. Increased growing areas||Vertical farms would supply nearly ten times more growing area than traditional farms.|
|4. Maximum crop yield||Irrespective of external conditions, vertical farms can provide more crop rotations per year than open field agriculture and other farming practices. Crop cycles are also faster due to controlled temperature, humidity, light, etc.|
|5. Wide range of crops||The vertical farm would provide a wide range of crops.|
|6. Fully integrated technology||The vertical farm would be fully monitored, controlled, and automated.|
|Optimum air quality||The temperature, CO2, and humidity levels of the vertical farm would be optimized at all times.|
|Optimum nutrient and mineral quality||The vertical farm would use specially formulated, biologically active nutrients in all crop cycles, providing organic minerals and enzymes to ensure healthy plant growth.|
|Optimum water quality||All fresh water’s contaminants would be removed before entering the vertical farm.|
|Optimum light quality||High-intensity low-energy LED lighting would be specifically developed and used for maximum growth rates, high reliability, and cost-effective operations.|
|PlantLab||Den Bosch, Holland||LR||Built|
|Green Spirit Farms||New Buffalo, Michigan, USA||LR||Built|
|FarmedHere||Bedford Park, Illinois, USA||LR||Built|
|The Plant||Chicago, Illinois, USA||LR||Built|
|Green Girls Produce||Memphis, Tennessee, USA||LR||Built|
|Brooklyn Grange||Brooklyn, New York, USA||RT||Built|
|Gotham Greens||Brooklyn, New York, USA||RT||Built|
|La Tour Vivante||France||HR||Proposed|
|Harvest Green Tower||Vancouver, Canada||HR||Proposed|
|Environmentally friendly and high-tech||Sky Greens observes, learns and works with nature to achieve sustainability for the good of the environment to grow safe, high-quality vegetables using green technologies.|
|Low energy usage||Outdoor green houses have abundant sunlight in the tropics. The A-Go-Gro system uses patented low carbon hydraulic green technology to power the rotation of the tower at very low energy costs, while still allowing the plants to receive abundant sunlight.|
|Low water usage||As the troughs of plants rotate, irrigation occurs using an innovative flooding method, using very little water. Water is also recycled and reused.|
|Good waste & water management||Sustainable water management practices are utilized with all organic wastes being composted at the farm to ensure the use of safe, high-quality fertilizers.|
|Green technologies||Green technologies have been stringently implemented at the farm to achieve the three Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle).|
|Increased productivity||The production yield of Sky Greens Farm is 5 to 10 times greater per unit of area than traditional Singaporean farms that growing leafy vegetables in a conventional fashion.|
|Tasty Vegetables||Tropical leafy vegetables are grown in special soil-based media, which contribute to good tasting vegetables, suitable for stir-fry and soups. The vegetables are harvested every day and delivered almost immediately to retail outlets for consumers.|
|Year-round production||As the vertical farm structures are in protected-outdoor green houses, the vegetables are grown in a controlled environment, protected from pests, winds and floods.|
|Consistent and reliable harvest||A steady supply of fresh leafy vegetables is assured as growing takes place in a controlled environment.|
|Easy to install and easy to maintain||The modular A-frame rotary system allows quick installation and easy maintenance.|
|Better ergonomics & automation||The rotary system allows the troughs to be immediately adjusted for easy harvesting. Automation increases the productivity of workers per ton of vegetables grown.|
|Space savings||The footprint of the vertical system is small but can produce significantly more per unit area than traditional farms. It can also be customized to suit different crop requirements and varying environments.|
|Energy Conservation||The use of green roofs compared to conventional roofing surfaces significantly affects the energy balance within a building. Studies have revealed that green roofs have the potential to reduce a building’s energy use by as much as 30%.|
|Stormwater Management||A green roof absorbs rainwater and helps to prevent sewer system back-ups and contaminated stormwater overflow. Green roofs can also help to prevent catastrophic environmental events, such as the Ala Wai Canal sewage spill disaster.|
|Fossil Fuel Reduction||A rooftop farm can grow hyper-local foods. Growing Low Food Mile organic produce substantially reduces the fossil fuel consumption associated with the traditional food transportation system.|
|Global Warming||Green roofs sequester carbon from the atmosphere, lower the levels of carbon dioxide in the air, eliminate the build-up of greenhouse gases, and keep city temperatures cooler by effectively reducing the “Urban Heat Island Effect”.|
|Biodiversity||By replacing inorganic, lifeless roofs with living and thriving green spaces, green roofs support increased biodiversity in urban environments—offering a habitat for a multitude of organisms—from birds to butterflies to countless other beneficial insects.|
|Environmental Stewardship||Organic rooftop farming protects soil and water from toxic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and other dangerous chemicals typically used in conventional farming.|
|Community||A rooftop farm is a beacon of sustainable community building that creates tangible connections between farmers and consumers. Rooftop farms have the power to do this throughout the city, no matter how scarce or valuable the land.|
|Local Food Economy||Rooftop farms generate revenue for local farmers and businesses. In this way, rooftop agriculture can also be viewed as an emerging green technology that creates jobs and improves food self-sufficiency by providing organic and Hyper-Local produce.|
|Nutrition and health||As an example, the produce of FarmRoof™ is extraordinarily nutritious and healthy. Thanks to a special soil that has been infused with minerals, trace elements, omegas, proteins and microorganisms, all of their crops are packed with enzymes, antioxidants, nutrients, and minerals.|
|Aesthetics and Beauty||Supplanting inorganic, lifeless roofs with vibrant greenery, green roofs can beautify cityscapes and balance an otherwise bleak horizon of concrete and tar.|
|1||Reducing food-miles (travel distances)||Reducing air pollution||Improving air quality improves environmental and people’s health. Customers receive “fresher” local food||Reduce energy, packaging, and fuel to transport food|
|2||Reducing water consumption for food production by using high-tech irrigation systems and recycling methods||Reducing surface water run off of traditional farms||Making potable water available to more people||Reduce costs|
|3||Recycling organic waste||Save the environment by reducing needed land fills||Improve food quality and subsequently consumers’ health||Turn waste into asset|
|4||Creating local jobs||People do not have to commute to work and hence will decrease ecological footprint||Create a local community of workers and social networks with farmers||Benefit local people economically|
|5||Reduced fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides||Improve the environmental well-being||Improve food quality and subsequently consumers’ health||Decrease costs|
|6||Improve productivity||Needs less space||Reduce redundant, repetitive work, and save time to do productive and socially rewarding activities||Offer greater yields|
|7||Avoid crop losses due to floods, droughts, hurricane, over exposure to sun, and seasonal changes||Decrease environmental damage and cleanups of farms after damage||Improve food security||Avoiding economic loss|
|8||Control product/produce regardless to seasons||Produce regarding season||Increase accessibility year-round and improve respond to population demand||Fuel economic activities year-round|
|9||Using renewable energy||Reducing fossil fuel||Improve air quality||Reduce costs|
|10||Bringing nature closer to city||Increase bio-diversity||Improve health, reduce stress and enhance psychological well-being||Create jobs in the city|
|11||Promoting high-tech and green industry||“green technology” reduce harm and improve environmental performance||Encourage higher education and generate skilled workers||Provides new jobs in engineering, biochemistry, biotechnology, construction and maintenance, and research and development|
|12||Reducing the activities of traditional farming||Preserving natural ecological system||Improve health of citizens||Saving money required to correct environmental damage|
|13||Repurposing dilapidated buildings||Enhance the environment. Remove eye sores and stigma from neighborhoods||Create opportunities for social interaction||Revive economy|
© 2018 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
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Al-Kodmany, K. The Vertical Farm: A Review of Developments and Implications for the Vertical City. Buildings 2018, 8, 24. https://doi.org/10.3390/buildings8020024
Al-Kodmany K. The Vertical Farm: A Review of Developments and Implications for the Vertical City. Buildings. 2018; 8(2):24. https://doi.org/10.3390/buildings8020024Chicago/Turabian Style
Al-Kodmany, Kheir. 2018. "The Vertical Farm: A Review of Developments and Implications for the Vertical City" Buildings 8, no. 2: 24. https://doi.org/10.3390/buildings8020024