Why vertical farming is more than just growing indoors
As part of Circulate’s collaboration with the Disruptive Innovation Festival, we’re featuring insight from some of this year’s Open Mic contributors in advance of their performance at the DIF. Find out more at thinkdif.co, and don’t forget to catch up on this session with a panel of vertical farming experts.
Feeding urban populations is especially challenging in a linear system. We need to grow food as close as we can to the people who need it. Instead of transporting foods from every corner of the earth, we need to grow food directly in the cities and create more local economies based on necessity. Where we do that can vary: from a vacant lot, a rooftop, in a greenhouse, or even inside of a building.
Farming indoors has its fans and its critics, but it becomes a practicality as the populations of cities increases. Many people are thinking into the future for what food production hubs should look like for sustainable cities of the future.
Could we be on the verge of creating hybrid forms of food production? Can the indoor farmer and the bio-nutrient farmer find common ground? Will Allen is a key figure in knowing how to farm for the future. His revolutionary ways as an urban grower demonstrate the brilliance of a closed-loop system. His organisation, Growing Power, based out of Milwaukee, WI, has implemented greenhouses with stacked functions. The bottom level is an aquaponics system, which feeds the fish poop to the plants’ roots, then circulates back to the fish tank as clean water. It is not just about growing indoors, it is about creating a closed loop that reuses and eliminates waste.
Let’s think bigger. It’s also about incorporating alternative energy instead of fossil fuels wherever possible into the indoor growing system. In Suwan, South Korea there is a three-story 450 metre squared building that the Rural Development Agency is utilising for vertical farming. They have sourced nearly 50% of their heating, cooling and artificial lighting requirements to renewable resources, such as geothermal and solar power. More experimental models like this one are urgently needed.
Permaculture enthusiasts would say, “the problem is the solution.” Where does the potential for growing indoors lie? Could empty warehouses and abandoned buildings be repurposed as mushroom farms? Can sustainable energy be a bigger part of the closed loop? As crazy as it may sound, can harvesting insects provide a new source of protein and reduce the demand for factory-farmed meat? How we grow, what we grow, and where we grow will be shaped by the innovators of today.
Visit thinkdif.co to find out more about the Disruptive Innovation Festival. Don’t forget to create My DIF account to build your own schedule, get session recommendations based on your interests, and 30 days of bonus catch up time after the DIF has ended.