Chopped and Stewed: Vertical farms help push urban food planning upwards

 

Urban agriculture climbs to new heights in Vancouver as North America’s first vertical farm, built inside and on top of a downtown parking garage, opened and harvested its first crops this week. Making use of a 6,000-square-foot space leased from the city, the Vancouver-based Alterrus has installed a farm that will yield about 150,000 pounds of fresh produce annually. The crops are mostly leafy greens and herbs, providing hyper local food to some of the city’s restaurants and markets.

 

The greens grow on suspended trays that move to maximize sunlight exposure. And by growing food up, rather than out, space and resources are used in ultra-efficient ways. According to Alterrus, the urban farm “represents a paradigm shift in farming and food production by providing up to 20 times the yield of field crops, while using a mere 8 [per cent] of the water required for land farming.”

 

While the growing climate is strictly controlled eliminating the need for herbicides, pesticides and genetically modified seeds, there are concerns about air-borne contaminants from the gas-powered vehicles spewing fumes and whatever might come off tires when you make those sweet screeching sounds by driving too fast in a parkade.

 

But if this project is a success, there is the potential that vertical farms could sprout up all over the city, in underused spaces downtown or other neighborhoods. Minimizing the journey that food takes going from farm to plate is an important part in creating sustainable communities so here’s to hoping for happy harvests ahead.

 

Megaphone associate editor Elecia Chrunik writes a food securitiy blog for Megaphone. Send questions, tips, feedback to echrunik@gmail.com.

 

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