(updated 04/11/12) As the push to “go green” in urban architecture has intensified over the past decade, so-called green roofs and green walls have gained in popularity. These vegetation-covered walls and roofs can reduce cooling costs, mitigate air pollution and add beauty to the neighborhood.
But the promise of green walls goes beyond just looking cool and staying cool. Green Living Technologies International, LLC (GLTi) is exploring how these architectural innovations might actually meet our growing need for food and inspire a new wave of urban sustainable agriculture.
The idea for TerraSphere Systems’ vertical farming technology all started with a few marijuana plants.
In fact, Nick Brusatore, Co-Founder and Inventor of TerraSphere Systems, began developing his unique hydroponic technology system for medical marijuana cultivation in Canada (Canada began offering medical marijuana to eligible patients in 2003).
After working with their hydroponic technology for a while, Brusatore and his partner William Gildea began to think about population growth and quickly perceived the wider agricultural marketplace opportunities for their product to address future food shortages.
Growing Power, Inc., a non-profit urban sustainable agriculture organization based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has been awarded $425,000 to erect 150 hoop house gardens on vacant lots in the city of Milwaukee. Hoop houses are inexpensive greenhouses constructed using a plastic roof that is wrapped over flexible PVC piping. Growing Power has promised to match the $425,000 contribution from the City of Milwaukee’s Common Council with its own funds. Growing Power’s hoop house initiative called “Growing Capacity for the Green Economy” will create 150 new jobs over the next 3 years in the emerging field of urban sustainable agriculture for unemployed residents in Milwaukee. The initial phase of the project will focus on hiring around 20 people to construct the hoop houses.
People are moving in ever increasing numbers from rural areas into urban city centers. Global population is expected to increase by nearly 40% to 9 billion people in the next 40 years. Threats to agriculture from climate change, loss of arable land, pesticide resistance, and water shortages continue to grow more acute. As noted in our previous article “Urban and Agriculture Can Coexist,” cities and their attendant entrepreneurs will need to embrace urban agriculture in order to meet this future demand for food and ensure food security.
Flying over the Midwest in a plane one sees vast fields of wheat, grain, corn, and other cash crops as far as the eye can see. Then, a few hundred miles later one catches sight of the nearest large city with its skyscrapers, vacant lots, and tar roofed buildings where some of that agriculture crop will most likely end up.
Now, imagine 20 years from today flying over cities like Chicago, New York, and Detroit and seeing vast swaths of green, red, and gold agricultural terrain below in place of the expected black tar roofs and vacant grey expanses of abandoned lots; a grid of black and gray surrounded and overtaken by agriculture production.