Three major vertical farming proposals with Sky City being likely to be built first

Vertical farming is the idea of putting farms inside high rises and skyscrapers.

Unlike traditional farming in non-tropical areas, indoor farming can produce crops year-round. All-season farming multiplies the productivity of the farmed surface by a factor of 4 to 6 depending on the crop. With some crops, such as strawberries, the factor may be as high as 30.

Furthermore, as the crops would be sold in the same infrastructures in which they are grown, they will not need to be transported between production and sale, resulting in less spoilage, infestation, and energy required than conventional farming encounters. Research has shown that 30% of harvested crops are wasted due to spoilage and infestation, though this number is much lower in developed nations.

Despommier suggests that, if dwarf versions of certain crops are used (e.g. dwarf wheat developed by NASA, which is smaller in size but richer in nutrients), year-round crops, and “stacker” plant holders are accounted for, a 30-story building with a base of a building block (5 acres (20,000 m2)) would yield a yearly crop analogous to that of 2,400 acres (9.7 km2) of traditional farming.

French design firm Vincent Callebaut Architects recently unveiled another urban vertical “farmscraper” masterplan concept, this time for the expanding city of Shenzhen, China. Dubbed Asian Cairns, the project consists of six towers of pebble-like structures that have been stacked together to create a productive, mixed-use projects.

Callebaut’s proposal is for six sustainable buildings over a 79-acre area and divided into ovular, blob-like sections that look like pebbles polished by years of running water. Each structure would be 1,300-feet high and have 111 floors, and each protruding blob, or floor, built around a central tower, would provide space for growing crops, grass, even miniature forests.

© Vincent Callebaut Architects

Spanish architect Javier Ponce has come up with an award-winning idea that he says could be a solution for Hong Kong.

Dyv-nets – or Dynamic Vertical Networks – are towering, 187.5-metre-high farming units that he has proposed for Tai Po district.

Ponce, of JAPA architects in Barcelona, told the South China Morning Post he wanted to “take vertical urban farming to the next level” and respond to the needs of fast-growing cities.

The Hong Kong Planning Department confirmed it had received a planning application from JAPA and that it was considering the proposal.

The units would be designed as “biodiversity hubs”, with a wide range of habitats, and would also feature 360-degree viewing platforms for visitors.

The architect said he had chosen Tai Po as a site for the project after researching Hong Kong’s vertical growth, the city’s density and the geographic landscape of the area, including Tai Po Market and Tai Po Town.

The proximity of the towers to the Kowloon-Hong Kong area would be ideal for a low-cost, low-mileage food distribution network that could feed the city’s population, he added.

About 12% of the 1.05 million square meters (11.3 million square feet) of the 202 story Sky City will be vertical organic farm, parks and open air gardens. It will be 930,000 square feet (86,400 square meters or over 21 acres). The entire Skycity project is to cost about $1.5 billion (9 billion yuan). There will also be 26,880 square meters of indoor park and 8000 meters of open air gardens.

The Sky City has been delayed until about April, 2014 while awaiting full permits. The foundation is being built now and the funding and other aspects of the project are in place.

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