31 May 2012

A Real Vertical Farm

Back in February, when I reviewed The Vertical Farm by Dickson Despommier, the concept of an indoor, multi-story farm seemed plausible in a vague, far-off sort of way.


So I was fascinated to learn about a vertical farm that's actually operating in Chicago: The Plant. It's not a high-rise building like Despommier envisioned, but something at least as good -- an old meatpacking plant that founder John Edel has repurposed into a farm in an environmentally sensitive manner (restoring what he can and recycling the rest). With plant crops, fish, and more, the farm has become zero-waste, even using methane from materials breaking down in an anaerobic digester (kind of like a composter) to generate energy for the facility. Likewise, fish waste becomes high-quality fertilizer, and filtering the waste keeps the water healthy for the fish. Edel's vision is to create a 100% sustainable facility by closing the energy, resource, and money loops on-site or locally (so resources don't have to be brought in from a great distance or sent far away).

The Plant is still being developed and expects to be fully functional in 2014. For more information, including a cool diagram showing how the various parts of the facility are interrelated, check out this CNN article. And if you happen to be in Chicago on June 9, you can see the facility for yourself at the grand opening celebration.

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