Vertical Gardens: Sprouting Up Everywhere

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Vancouver parked with vertical gardens

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Here in Vancouver, on a rooftop between pizza slice joints in the downtown core, an EasyPark parking garage prepares to balance its ecological mandate by converting its roof to a 5,700 square foot vertical garden able to grow over 80 variety of leafy greens for human consumption.

It was reported this week that the rooftop farm is expected to produce more than 150,000 pounds of pesticide– and herbicide-free food annually; not only that, but it will use less than 10% of the water required for field farming, and all of its excess water of that will be recycled. Protected against environmental and man-induced factors that yield other methods of safe food growth useless, the plants will be able to flourish year round in rain or shine or rain…or rain. Once its crops yield product, the produce will be sold to Vancouverites under the brand Local Garden. (Business in Vancouver)

Alterrus, a company that aims to develop sustainable urban farming systems in every major market across the planet, is re-developing EasyPark’s rooftop to grow produce stacked 12 plants high, in the conveyor-belt style structure that is the first of its kind in North America.

One step further and many more away geographically, scientists in South Korea are busy developing a creepy artificial environment housing a robotic farming system that could allow for mass amounts of food to be grown anywhere, in any climate. Replacing the sun with LED lights and farm hands with robot prongs that tend to stacks and stacks of edible greens, the scientists are able to grow substantial amounts of produce without the use of pesticides; not only that, but the system is designed to recycle emissions from other industries to source part of its energy consumption. Still, the semi-automatic hydroponic system is not the solution to the planet’s rapidly deteriorating food system; the energy costs of running such a “plant factory” make it too expensive to recreate beyond this tester ground in Seoul.

Vertical farms, although new to appear in North America, are not a new idea to science. Both The Economist and Time Magazine analyzed the concept years ago and this introductory article Rewilding Canada Through Vertical Farming was written by Karl Schroeder in July 2007, wherein he says:

“If the population of the Toronto area is, say, 3 million people (it’s more or less depending on where you draw your lines) then 3,000,000/50,000=60. Sixty large buildings could feed the entire city. It’s a big effort, but not much bigger than the current condo boom happening down by the waterfront, where literally dozens of projects are planned. Certainly there’s room; the city could feed itself.”

Now that in 2012 the concept is finally being put into practice, real world results are being yielded. In Montreal, Lufa Farms broke even financially on its first prototype energy-efficient rooftop greenhouse; the company has a second Montreal-area greenhouse of approximately 44,000 ft2 about to begin construction, and a third of 120,000 ft2 is planned for construction in the late fall of 2012. (Greenhouse Canada)

Mohamed Hage, founder and president of Lufa Farms Inc – image via Canadian Press

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