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Modern Agriculture

01 Mar 12

Skyfarming

by University of Hohenheim, Germany

Global agricultural production faces realities of limited biogeochemical resources. In addition, we face a trade-off in land use between urbanization and agriculture. Land use patterns are also of major importance for global carbon and water budgets. And agriculture is still dependent on phosphorus, which is a non-renewable resource; current global reserves may be depleted in 50 to 100 years. Thus, innovations in agriculture and engineering are necessary to achieve efficiency.

Skyfarming - indoor crop production in a purpose-built, multi-story building - is an innovative concept that could resolve the problem of rampant urbanization competing for fertile land by boosting food crop productivity without increasing the area of production. With skyfarming, the production of staple food is transferred to a technically optimized building envelope. Skyfarming thus allows high productivity under optimized growth conditions without seasonal interruptions. Unlike traditional production methods, skyfarming follows an efficient strategy, using technical innovation to reducing resource consumption per production unit. In a skyfarming production system, the crop is moved continuously on a conveyor system, from seed to harvest. Instead of soil or hydroponics for the water and nutrient supply, an aeroponic system supplies a nutrient-rich mist in the root zone. A technical challenge lies in the consistent separation of the root and shoot areas when plants are moved. Additional challenges include:

  • Development of the aeroponic system
  • Efficient recirculation of water and nutrients
  • Control of pests and diseases
  • Achieving optimal light exposure
  • Recycling of material and energy resources.

Some of the technical components required for skyfarming are already available, although they have not yet been tested under the objectives of this approach. However, the results of some previous studies suggest that skyfarming can be a resource-effective production system for staple foods that can complement conventional production methods. If so, skyfarming may allow us to produce even more food with even less land.

  • Joachim Sauerborn, Professor and Dean, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, University of Hohenheim, Germany

Related Resources

Article

The Vertical Farm: Reducing the impact of agriculture on ecosystem functions and services

The construction of urban food production centers - vertical farms – could allow us to grow our food continuously inside of tall buildings within the built environment.

Project

The Vertical Farm Project

Presentation

Skyfarming

by University of Hohenheim, Germany

Partners

  • IFPRI International Food Policy Research Institute
  • WEF World Economic Forum
  • WWF World Wide Fund for Nature

Bonn2011 Nexus Conference – in the context of Bonn Perspectives

  • Bonn Perspectives

initiated by

  • BONN
  • BMZ

funded by

  • European Regional Development Fund EFRE
  • NRW Ministerin fr Bundesangelegenheiten, Europa und Medien des Landes Nordrhein-Westphalen
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