Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sci-fi Urban Farming: virtual land, adaptive re-use and high-tech growing

On the top level of a downtown Vancouver parking garage, North America's first commercial vertical farm has set up shop. 'Local Garden' converts an impermeable, polluted, heat-generating and underused urban surface into arable 'land', and plans to grow an estimated 150,000 pounds of greens and herbs for the local market this year. 

The humble exterior of the structure that houses the facility does nothing to hint at the sci-fi, high-tech interior, which resembles a food production unit on the set of a 1950's futuristic film. Trays of hydroponic growing medium, stacked twelve high, are in constant motion along a conveyor belt, and the aesthetic is minimalist white to the max. Each tray is tufted with its crop, be it kale, spinach, arugula or basil. The produce is packed on site and delivered to market the same day. 

The project works skillfully with the site's constraints, converting obstacles into opportunities. The sixth floor location maximizes exposure to sun, which is often an issue for gardens or farms in central urban areas, and mitigates wind effects (increased water loss) through the use of a protective greenhouse.