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Vertical – urban farms

Vertical farming is a cultivation technique applied mainly to urban environments. Vertical farming belongs to the class of Urban farming that encourages the development of gardens and greenhouses in suburban or urban areas converting terraces or balconies, redundant premises or old warehouses. The idea basically comes from the wider field of green development using recycled resources and modern greenhouse methods (such as hydroponics and aeroponics) grown on vertical surfaces or shelves for growing indoors fruit, vegetables, ornamental plants or plants to enhance oxygen production. The logic of vertical farming is focused mainly on the efficient use of the limited land and reducing the distribution distance of products to meet the needs of growing urban populations and to address environmental threats, it is estimated that by 2050 world population will grow by 3 billion people. Both the worsening environmental problems and the need to provide food to a population that reaches 10 billion will be one of the biggest challenges.

Examples innovative concepts:

The prospects of the rationale of urban or vertical farming is important and primarily based on:

  • The need to meet the nutritional needs of a growing population.
  • The need for more efficient exploitation of limited natural resources such as water and arable land
  • The need to reduce the cost of transport
  • Less dependence on agricultural machines
  • Recyclability
  • The possibility to grow for 12 months of the year, regardless of weather
  • The efficiency of the proposed multiple mode cultivation compared to conventional ground and greenhouse.

A hydroponic cultivation model, that is one that does not use land can, multiply production as seen in attached table

[table style="1"]

Soil Culture Soilless Culture
Soya 272 kg 703 kg
Beans 5 tns 21 tns
Pees 1 tn 9 tns
Wheat 272 kg 1859 kg
Rice 454 kg 2268 kg
Oat 454 kg 1133 kg
Betroots 4 tns 12 tns
Potatoes 8 tns 70 tns
Cabbage 5896 kg 8165 kg
Lettuce 4082 kg 9525 kg
Tomatoes 5-10 tns 60-300 tns
Cucumbers 3175 kg 12700 kg

[/table]
 
The logic of hydroponic cultivation is not limited to food production. Hydroponic plants can decorate homes, apartments, balconies or terraces extending the framework of the reasons for the development of hydroponicsOne of the main paradoxical advantages of hydroponics is severely restricted water use in contrast to conventional agriculture, which wastes a significant amount of water resources. Specifically, on conventional crops in our country 96% of water goes to irrigation. And this 80% is lost in loss of the hydrological cycle in each region.

Here we note the inadequate, for several reasons, information for farmers and the state bureaucracy in conjunction with several major obstacles have limited the development of hydroponics in Greece. However there are notable exceptions that point the way to the other adopters. There are many advantages of vertical farming with the use of hydroponics but its importance varies depending on the business model to be adopted:

  1. Multiple performance compared with conventional cultivation
  2. Production capacity throughout the year
  3. Resetting of dangerous agricultural run-off
  4. Less dependence on agricultural machines
  5. Reducing the need for fuel (no need for tillage and reduced need for transport)
  6. Ability to use abandoned or unused buildings
  7. Growing without dependence on weather conditions or climate
  8. Offer the possibility of sustainable development in urban centers
  9. Possibility of recycling water or even creating drinking water
  10. Can contribute to energy production through the production of methane from composting
  11. Creates new jobs in manufacturing jobs in urban environments
  12. Reduces or eliminates risk of contamination from chemicals used during cultivation
  13. «Return to nature» of soils and ecosystems to be self-regulatory
  14. It offers opportunity (at the discretion of the grower) organic production
  15. Can be used for cosmetic reasons or even regulating the environment by increasing oxygen and cooling

 

The current implementation of vertical farming is limited. This has mainly to do with the very different logic to the cultivation compared with conventional methods and the fact that it is repetitively new technology, as determined by the Green Revolution by Professor Dickson Despommier in 1999 and its first presentation in 2001. So today there are clearly minimal application examples of vertical farming but this does not detract from its potential but does indeed increase the difficulties of implementation due to lack of experience.

Potential applications of the business models of urban or vertical farming which could  develop economic activities are:

  • Construction of urban construction for high production of food crops in urban areas. Creating “Skyfarms” has been presented by experts in architecture and innovative design. The purpose of these buildings may be exclusively commercial, combining hydroponics and aeroponics techniques, recycling water and exploitation of alternative energy sources. The proximity of site of production to mass consumption site would greatly reduce the speed and cost of availability and a retail space would ideally be located on the grounds of the building as an exclusive dealer or affiliate (rental). One of the biggest costs for creating a “Skyfarm” is the construction of the building.
  •  Alternatively, an unused or abandoned building of the municipality or private could be selected if the possibilities allowed. The low height low value may make it viable to convert it to a vertical farming greenhouse with retail customers or wholesale depending on the model implementation. This model «greenhouse logic» could still be operated as a power plant by selling it to the PPC and providing another source of revenue as already applied to large-scale installations.
  • Another variation is the “Skyfarm” incorporating the concept vertical farming in urban residential buildings where the residents of the building can be self-sufficient in selected plant products or even to sell their production capacity accordingly. Similar ideas have been proposed for both developed socio-economic and  disadvantaged areas such as Harlem of New York.
  • Urban/Vertical farming know-how could be developed through design and implementation of first research, pilot systems and subsequent expansion and commercialization. Contractors or construction companies, agricultural cooperatives or associations, local government and individuals would then employ those with the appropriate expertise for creation or operation of new plants. The acquisition of expertise could then be concentrated on product development and the support of urban vertical farming or their construction either in selected markets in Greece or abroad.

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