Some people think food shortages will be inevitable in the future. So, what are the solutions? Sky farming is one!
By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
“Live, Share, Grow” isn’t the latest slogan on an organic cotton tee shirt. Rather, it’s the name of a vertical farm created by twenty four year old Brandon Martella, a recent graduate of the New School of Architecture and Design in San Diego.
The name describes a series of residential buildings with annexed vegetable gardens. His aim is to make people aware that food resources are sure to diminish soon, and to provide a practical, beautiful solution for this.
An Ambitious Project
Sky farming has become a frequent topic of discussion in the last few years, since research predicts that by the year 2050, nearly 80% of the earth’s population will reside in urban centres, and populations will increase by about 3 billion people. As a result, around 109 hectares of new land will be needed to grow enough food to feed them all.
With that in mind, Martella investigated his hometown’s specific situation and discovered, through the Food and Drug Administration, that in San Diego’s 30 thousand residents consume 21 million pounds (9,5 million kilos) of fruit and vegetables a year. And the vast majority of that produce comes from countries far, far way.
The young architect thought there must be a way to consume more local veggies, even in the city. He came up with his sky farming project when he started cultivating some lettuce on the windowsill of his apartment: “I was able to feed myself for two entire weeks. I thought that if I could do it on such a small scale, why not try expanding it to a 500 feet skyscraper,” he says. And so he began to build one.
A Greener Community
The architectural structure of “Live, Share, Grow,” was inspired by the Unitàd’Habitation, the modernist residential housing project located in Marseille, France, designed by Le Corbusier and Nadir Afonso.
Technically speaking, the skyscraper will be equipped with a photovoltaic and aeolian system, with geothermal heat. These will allow the building to be energetically self-sufficient. Waste, grey water and black water can all be redeemed through recycling to create thermal energy. Additional green measures will be hydroponic cultivation and the collection of rainwater to water the plants.
The 1000 square foot units are intended for residents who are conscious of resources and willing to partake in local commerce. The presence of an open air market, accessible to all, will allow residents to sell the products cultivated on the skyscraper. This will create a micro-economy that will not only endorse local products, but will also enrich a sense of community.
Sky farming will also free up farmland for trees, which would help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Even better, vertical farms would grow food near where it would be eaten, thus cutting not only the cost but the emissions of transportation.
An extra trait of Martella’s vertical farm is represented by the close collaboration with the Children’s Museum in San Diego. Through the motto “Think, Play. Create,” it will be possible to educate even the youngest generations on the importance of sustainability. There will also be the chance to live the life of an urban farmer through educational tours, and a large convention centre will also attract visitors to the project.
Several sponsors are now considering making Brandon’s “Live, Share, Grow” sky farming project to become a reality. In the meantime, Martella is working with the American branch office of the prestigious Roesling Nakamura Terada Architects Studio, hoping his high and mighty plans will soon take off.