Skyscraper Farming: An urban solution soon to be tested

By Hannah Pick

Imagine you’re walking down a stark city street, the wind is biting, and you long for a little warmth and rejuvenation. Above you stands a “plantscraper”—your new local farm. The fields don’t spread out for acres, however. Instead they rise up vertically, floor by floor. As you step inside, you breathe in the earthy aroma and observe the young green shoots and the mature fruits hanging on their vines. After your urban farm immersion, you rejoin the brisk bustle of the street…refreshed.

Sweden has just broken ground on a skyscraper greenhouse, or “plantscraper,” the first of its kind despite slews of architectural designs and long-time envisioning on the topic. Located in the city of Linkoping, it was introduced by SymbioCity, which is a program that focuses on connecting people with solutions that “save the environment and money at the same time.” The chosen design was created by Plantagon, and is being carried out in partnership with SWECO, SAAB, Combitech, and Tekniska Verken. It is designed to grow plants on the south, east, and westerly facing sides of the building. The north, where the sun is indirect, is intended for commercial space and research facilities. Work is being done to create an efficient system for energy, waste and water. People involved in the project have the vision that the Plantagon Greenhouse will become an “international center of excellence for urban agriculture” that acts as a research facility for future projects of the like.

Can urban agriculture feed a hungry world? is a question that has been asked for a while, and been answered in many interesting ways. Part of the impetus for Plantagon project came from the prediction that population growth is expected to reach nine billion by 2050, with an estimated 80% of people living in cities. By farming in skyscrapers, and therefore maximizing the use of vertical space, the production of food in a small lot can be greatly increased. It also reduces the distance of transporting the food, and therefore reduces pollution.

Many people working with similar goals in mind–to cultivate food locally in cities–have yielded various solutions. Dave Bell and his wife Jill, from Taking root in the city, have found their own way to grow local food in Salt Lake City, Utah. With permission from the city, they have been cultivating abandoned lots and selling their produce successfully. Another creative solution is the Window Farms Project. This is a personalized version of an urban garden, where vegetables can be grown right in the window of your own apartment.

Skyscraper farming is yet another answer to the question of how to feed the future of urban populations with fresh, locally grown food. A new frontier is emerging, and it’s an experiment fueled by lots of hope. If this urban agricultural venture works out it will help address the looming needs of the world’s growing population and environmental problems, while at the same time bringing the availability of local and fresh food to a whole new level for city dwellers’ culinary enjoyment.

If you want to learn more about the work of Plantagon and SymbioCity, check out their websites. Here’s a link to news report on the Linkoping, Sweden project. Here’s a look at other vertical farming designs that have been created but not implemented yet. And for past articles on similar subjects by Ode, look into Ode’s archive.

This article was written by Hannah Pick and published by OdeWire.

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