By 2050, the world’s population is expected to swell to 9.6billion, with around 66% living in urban areas. This projection is leaving many cities wondering how they will feed all those people.
Solution: A Swedish food-tech company called Plantagon is proposing that cities consider building what it calls “plantscrapers” — office towers that contain giant indoor farms. Plantagon is constructing its first plantscraper in Linköping, Sweden.
Called The World Food Building, the tower will operate hydroponically, meaning vegetables (mostly greens) will grow without soil in a nutrient-rich, water-based solution.
This building will produce approximately 550 tons of vegetables annually — enough to feed around 5,500 people each year.
The front of the 16-story tower will include the farm, while the back will include the offices. About two-thirds of the building will be devoted to offices, while the other third will include a huge indoor farm.
The crops will grow using both natural sunlight and LEDs. The LEDs will be calibrated to specific light frequencies to maximize production.
Robots will perform many of the farm’s processes, keeping operational costs down.
Compared to an outdoor farm of the same size, the plantscraper will generate more food while using less land and water. The tower will save 1,100 tons of CO2 emissions and 13 million gallons of water annually.
This plantscraper will include a spiraled food production line, which automatically moves the plants from the bottom to the top and back again while they grow. The length of the cycle would depend on the crop, but would normally take 30 days
This project demonstrates how to feed cities of the future when they lack land, water, and other resources
Stakeholders: City municipality, builders and contractors, urban farming specialist, large multinational companies
Deployment: Construction of this $40 million building began in 2012, and it’s set to open by early 2020.
City administration and planners should visit Plantagon and meet its management to understand the technology, landscape, city issues and administrative challenges.
City should engage large multinational companies, including large food retail giants operating within the city, who may be willing to rent / invest space in such buildings
For engagement, best practice sharing and leading towards solutions – there will be need to conduct round-table discussions and conference between urban framing specialist, building contractors, developers, investors and city administrators
Since this is longterm solution and will need time to implement, learn from Plantagon’s experience once its operational in 2020.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food deserts as communities where a minimum of one-third of the population lives at least one mile away from a supermarket in an urban area or ten miles away in rural areas. Based on several reports, some 37million people or over 10% of US population live in food deserts – typically a low income neighborhood that lack access to nutritious food like fresh fruits and vegetables.
About the technology: PaySecure
The links between food insecurity, hunger, and public health have prompted a variety of policy solutions. From small-scale farming to urban community gardens or the USDA Double Bucks program at farmer’s markets, which doubles the worth of every EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) dollar spent at the farm stand to financing new grocery stores in food deserts.
In rural communities with smaller populations, economics does not support a grocery store every 10 miles. Similarly, no access to private cars and limited public transport makes it difficult to visit farmers market. Some elderly and disabled customers cannot navigate farmers markets or even grocery store aisles.
Till recently EBT cards could only be used at physical grocery stores as recipients had to enter a personal identification number to verify their identity. Last year USDA partnered with a company called Acculynk, which develops a software for an online PIN-pad, a technology that protects users’ identity when shopping online. They further mandated a few food retailers to accept EBT card payment on their online ordering sites
Though this is not a foolproof solution to tackle food insecurity as residents in many rural areas may run up against a lack of high speed internet access, it creates convenience and scale of reaching a wider population by moving away from brick and mortar grocery stores.
Government Agencies (USDA), Food Retailers offering online service and free delivery, Technology Companies that can offer PaySecure Technology and Residents living in food deserts
Engage with and mandate several food retailers to accept EBT card payment.
Improve internet connectively in specific rural areas of offer a centralized wifi hotspot with high speed interest access.
Train and educate residents to order fresh food online
Engage and encourage couple of unemployed residents in such neighborhood to register themselves with food retailers, who can employ them for delivery service. This to an extent will also tackle the unemployment issue faced in food deserts.
Sustainability Problem: Not enough roof space for large buildings to go solar
Large commercial estates consume a lot of energy. Roof space is never enough for such buildings to go energy neutral. Therefore, actively using buildings’ facades will generate the much needed renewable energy.
About the technology: Solar Windows
Solar-power-generating windows have solar cells installed in the edges at a specific angle that allows the incoming solar light to be efficiently transformed into electricity.
Such windows can generate 8 to 10 watts of power, which enables the user to charge a phone per every square meter two times a day.
The surface of Power Windows is coated with a special material that transforms incoming visible light into near-infrared light, which is then transported toward the solar cells in the edges of the windows. This works similarly to a glow-in-the-dark star, the difference is that the glow star emits the green wavelength, but the coating on such windows emits light in near-infrared wavelength.
The cost of the wiring that brings power from the grid to such windows is considerable in large commercial estates, and investing in power-generating windows would, therefore, make commercial sense.
Policy makers (Green Building Codes), Real Estate Contractors, Solar Panel Manufacturers and owners of large commercial and residential buildings.
Awareness -Several iconic buildings have gone live with solar windows, especially in Netherlands – experience, cost effectiveness and benefits for such buildings should be widely publicized for educational purpose
Solar panel manufacturers will have to collaborate with researchers to refine this technology for a mass production
Policy plays a significant role in any city dynamics – effort should begin to include solar windows in any new building codes including retrofit codes
Sustainability Problem: Mass adoption of Clean Energy Alternative
It took 60 years (1840-1900) for coal to rise from supplying 5% of global energy to 50%, dethroning wood. Oil took another 50 years (1915-1965) to beat coal, rising from 5% to 40% and more recently from 1930 to 1985, Natural Gas rose from 5% to 25% of global energy supply. Given how long these transitions take, it is important to invent, develop and market technologies in clean energy for mass adoption – considering the pace at which the world is grappling to avert catastrophic climate change.
Solution: A team of researchers from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) has developed a paint that can be used to generate clean energy.
They developed a new compound that sucks water vapor from the air – much like those humidity-absorbing packets of silica gel one can find in many consumer products. But unlike silica, the new material (synthetic molybdenum-sulphide) also acts as a semiconductor and water-splitting catalyst, meaning that it takes water molecules and separates them into oxygen and hydrogen, a clean fuel source.
The compound is made more effective when mixed with titanium oxide, a white pigment often found in house paint, which makes it easily applicable to a wide range of buildings – converting a brick wall into energy harvesting and fuel producing real estate.
This paint is likely to be effective in a variety of climates, from damp environments to hot and dry ones near large bodies of water.
It can be used to cover areas that wouldn’t get enough sunlight to justify the placement of solar panels, maximizing the solar output. With this paint any surface can be painted — a fence, a garage, or a doghouse and transformed into an energy-producing structure.
Stakeholders: Policy makers (Green Building Codes), Real Estate Contractors, Paint Manufacturers and typically any home/office owner.
Deployment: Before the paint gets commercially viable in next five years:
Paint manufacturers will have to collaborate with researchers to understand the technology and start aligning their manufacturing lines
Policy plays a significant role in any city dynamics – effort should begin to include such paint in any new building codes including retrofit codes
Awareness – researchers, paint industry (upstream and downstream) and government agencies should create awareness among residential and commercial building owners – not an expensive paint to use as an alternative, generates clean and cheap energy, an easy to use – mass adoption solution!