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An underground sun for urban agriculture and job creation

Deep below Tokyo's financial district, the Pasona Group, an international employment agency, has
flipped the switch on a stunning experiment in urban agriculture. The company converted a bank vault
in the subbasement of its headquarters into a series of supersized greenhouses, all bathed in the glow of
computer-controlled grow lamps. Pasona O2, as the project is known, was launched to pique interest in
new methods of farmingand to generate future employment opportunities in an island nation largely
dependent on others for its food. For now the subterranean gardens are still more a showpiece than a
serious producer, since they yield only 132 pounds of rice a year.

Advantages of Vertical Farming

Year-round crop production; 1 indoor acre is equivalent to 4-6 outdoor acres or more,
depending upon the crop (e.g., strawberries: 1 indoor acre = 30 outdoor acres)
No weather-related crop failures due to droughts, floods, pests
All VF food is grown organically: no herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers
VF virtually eliminates agricultural runoff by recycling black water
VF returns farmland to nature, restoring ecosystem functions and services
VF greatly reduces the incidence of many infectious diseases that are acquired at the
agricultural interface
VF converts black and gray water into potable water by collecting the water of
VF adds energy back to the grid via methane generation from composting non-edible
parts of plants and animals
VF dramatically reduces fossil fuel use (no tractors, plows, shipping.)
VF converts abandoned urban properties into food production centers
VF creates sustainable environments for urban centers
VF creates new employment opportunities
We cannot go to the moon, Mars, or beyond without first learning to farm indoors on
VF may prove to be useful for integrating into refugee camps
VF offers the promise of measurable economic improvement for tropical and subtropical
LDCs. If this should prove to be the case, then VF may be a catalyst in helping to reduce or
even reverse the population growth of LDCs as they adopt urban agriculture as a strategy for

sustainable food production.

VF could reduce the incidence of armed conflict over natural resources, such as water
and land for agriculture

Farming indoors is not a new concept, per se,

as greenhouse-based agriculture has been in existence for some time. Numerous commercially
viable crops (e.g., strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, herbs, and spices) have seen their
way to the worlds supermarkets in ever increasing amounts over the last 15 years. Most of these
operations are small when compared to factory farms, but unlike their outdoor counterparts,
these facilities can produce crops year-round. Japan, Scandinavia, New Zealand, the United
States, and Canada have thriving greenhouse industries. As far as is known, none have been
constructed as multi-story buildings. Other food items that have been commercialized by indoor
farming include freshwater fishes (e.g., tilapia, trout, stripped bass), and a wide variety of
crustaceans and mollusks (e.g., shrimp, crayfish, mussels).
What is proposed here that differs radically from what now exists is to scale up the concept of
indoor farming, in which a wide variety of produce is harvested in quantity enough to sustain
even the largest of cities without significantly relying on resources beyond the city limits. Cattle,
horses, sheep, goats, and other large farm animals seem to fall well outside the paradigm of
urban farming. However, raising a wide variety of fowl and pigs are well within the capabilities
of indoor farming. It has been estimated that it will require approximately 300 square feet of
intensively farmed indoor space to produce enough food to support a single individual living in
an extraterrestrial environment (e.g., on a space station or a colony on the moon or Mars)(35).
Working within the framework of these calculations, one vertical farm with an architectural
footprint of one square city block and rising up to 30 stories (approximately 3 million square
feet) could provide enough nutrition (2,000 calories/day/person) to comfortably accommodate
the needs of 10,000 people employing technologies currently available. Constructing the ideal
vertical farm with a far greater yield per square foot will require additional research in many
areas hydrobiology, engineering, industrial microbiology, plant and animal genetics,
architecture and design, public health, waste management, physics, and urban planning, to name
but a few. The vertical farm is a theoretical construct whose time has arrived, for to fail to
produce them in quantity for the world at-large in the near future will surely exacerbate the race

for the limited amount of remaining natural resources of an already stressed out planet, creating
an intolerable social climate.
So the major rationale for the concept of the urban integrated farm is the idea that it is not
realistic to depopulate the urban areas as a significant number of people have acclimated
themselves to the city lifestyles. Additionally a massive reverse of the urban migration pattern
may not even solve the problem as the issue is too many people consuming too much too far
away from the means of primary production. What urban agriculture offers is a way to take
agriculture into the space age and do so without sacrificing the ecology or human health while
providing important research insights into living in inhospitable environments that might
eventually pave the way for sustainably colonizing what now are inhospitable environments for
humans without the need for resupply which is of course a real concern for space travel.

The general idea is to start at a very basic level: a fully contained community center designed to
hold 300, along with homes for a nominal population of 100. DEI envisions such a system being
launched on a barge capable of being volume produced. The goal would be to provide affordable
housing in a sustainable living format that minimizes the carbon dioxide and overall ecological
footprint of the homeowners. This floating community design can be adapted easily for land use
through some combination of a condominium and single family homes clustered around the
farm/community center complex. While I think the idea of a floating city is a novel one I think
we should first develop the concept on land where the conditions are not so challenging.
Although possibly the novelty of the floating city concept would gather a lot of attention.
Fuller is famous for the idea of covering all of Manhattan with a large dome. The idea was that it
could save a huge amount of energy. However the practicality of such a design is questionable
even now. This design says Leon is a reduction of Fullers Triton City and an enlargement of the
barge of New York Sun Works. It falls well within the proven design parameters of the naval
architect and marine engineering profession.

Fuller was never able to get his Triton City funded, perhaps and Leon thinks this was because he
was targeting the low end of the housing market. I however think that it was the general
impracticality of Fullers designs that led to him being seen as more of a pie in the sky visionary
than a practical implementer of technologies. Thus in my view this contest is an opportunity to
begin to develop from the Fuller vision of synergy a integrated development approach that is not
set to any rigid structure but is based on a new vision of living and seeing the world. training and capacity building urban integrated farming

ing Integrated Agriculture
Locating the production of food in our cities and on the buildings within the city (Building
Integrated Agriculture) offers a valuable response to two major challenges of modern urban
living. The need to reduce the distance food travels before arriving on the plate of urban
consumers and the need to reduce the environmental impact of buildings. Our pragmatic
approach takes tried and tested technologies from the high-profit, controlled agriculture industry,
and sites them directly next to free or cheap sources of energy, within the urban environment.

Two Problems, One Solution

Modern farming feeds billions every day, but is the worlds largest consumer of both land and
water, the primary source of water pollution, and accounts for 15% of global greenhouse gas
emissions. Increasing urbanization worldwide has underscored the importance of efficiency in
the built environment. In the United States, buildings account for 39% of total energy use, 12%
of water consumption, and 38% of carbon dioxide emissions, and figures for Europe are similar.
Agriculture has an equally significant impact. Fresh produce typically travels several thousand
km to reach urban consumers, adding to traffic congestion, air pollution, and carbon emissions.
Moving the farm not just into, but onto the city addresses both of these challenges. Cultivation of
food crops within the built environment can reduce our environmental footprint, cut
transportation costs, enhance food security, save energy, and enrich the physical surroundings of
building occupants.
Hydroponics, the culture of plants in water, is a technically sophisticated commercial practice in
most regions of the world. Applications of hydroponics within the built environment appear to
date back at least as far as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. As publicly demonstrated by New
York Sun Works at the Science Barge greenhouse in Manhattan, and demonstrated commercially
at other sites around the world, recirculating hydroponics can produce premium-quality
vegetables and fruits using up to 20 times less land and 10 times less water than conventional
agriculture, while eliminating chemical pesticides, fertilizer runoff, and carbon emissions from
farm machinery and long distance transport.

Ted Caplow, Executive Director

Ph.D. Columbia (environmental engineering); M.S. Princeton (mechanical and
aerospace engineering); B.A. Harvard (sociology)
Formerly a clean energy consultant for Capital-E, LLC, Dr Caplow worked on
energy efficiency and carbon offset credits for a range of clients including the
California Energy Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy. His
environmental expertise also extends to water contaminant dynamics, and he
has published scholarly articles on estuarine dynamics and effluent
management in the Journal of Environmental Engineering, Environmental Science &
Technology, and other journals. After founding New York Sun Works in 2004, Dr. Caplow
developed the master plan for the Science Barge. His recent design work includes BrightFarm,
an expanded rooftop sustainable greenhouse system based on the Science Barge model, as well
as the Vertically Integrated Greenhouse, a system for integrating a greenhouse into a faade
curtain wall.

Jennifer Nelkin, Greenhouse Director

M.S. Univ. of Arizona (plant sciences); B.S. Arizona State (plant biology)
Ms. Nelkin developed her expertise in hydroponic systems at the Controlled
Environment Agriculture Center (CEAC) at the University of Arizona,
working under Merle Jensen and Gene Giacomelli. Her expertise encompasses
greenhouse system design, plant nutrition, pest management sensors and
controls, crop management, staff training, and the development of operational
manuals. She has experience with a wide range of crops and cultivation
techniques for a variety of climates. Ms. Nelkin managed two greenhouses in Antarctica,
dividing her time between McMurdo Station and South Pole Station, providing fresh vegetables
for U.S. research scientists. She is the designer and Director of the Science Barge greenhouse,
New York Citys first sustainable urban farm. Her design work at New York Sun Works also
includes an aquaponic system for the Cape Eleuthera Institute in the Bahamas, the BrightFarm
education facility, and the Vertically Integrated Greenhouse concept system. Her articles on
horticulture have appeared in The Growing Edge and Acta Horticulturae.

Zak Adams, Ecological Systems Director

M.S. Univ. of Vermont (ecological design); B.S. Rutgers (human ecology &
agroecology); LEED AP
Mr Adams has extensive sustainable design experience with water quality,
sustainable agriculture, and renewable energy. He completed his graduate work
under John Todd (inventor of the Living Machine) at the University of
Vermont, where he developed and modeled biothermal energy systems
(harvesting waste heat from compost). He has worked with New Jersey
Community Water Watch, Edison Wetlands Association, Ocean Arks International, Intervale
Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Vermont Alternative Energy Corporation
and Delaware Valley Eco-Fuels. At New York Sun Works, Mr. Adams is responsible for
ecological waste management systems, renewable energy deployment, and technical supervision
of the Science Barge program, including managing wind, biodiesel and solar power assets to
match energy production with greenhouse demands.

Benjamin Linsley, Public Affairs Director

M.Sc. University of London (public policy); B.A. Keele University (political
Mr. Linsley is responsible for business development, strategic communications
and community relations at New York Sun Works. In previous posts he has
worked in the government, nonprofit, and private sectors, working across the
fields of external affairs, public policy development and qualitative research.
He was formerly elected to public office in the London Borough of Hackney,

where he held directorships of two urban regeneration partnerships and was elected to the local
school board.

Viraj Puri, Project Manager

B.A. Colgate University (international relations); LEED AP
Mr. Puri has managed sustainable development projects in India and Africa
focusing on green buildings techniques, solar power, and environmental
design. He has experience with rammed earth building, passive solar design,
solar photovoltaics, and fuel efficient cookstoves. At New York Sun Works,
Mr. Puri develops business opportunities and manages client contracts;
manages company finances and administration; and assists with operation and
maintenance of the Science Barge. He is one of the authors of the Vertically Integrated
Greenhouse concept study. Mr. Puri was a fellowship recipient of the Wild Gift, where he
currently sits on the board of directors.

Sara Hanna, Education Coordinator

M.S. New York University (science education); B.S. University of California,
Berkeley (environmental sciences)
Ms. Hanna is an educator with experience teaching science in formal and nonformal settings. She has worked for the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley,
and taught outdoor education for the San Mateo County. While at NYU, Ms.
Hanna was a Graduate Student Instructor for courses designed to teach science
to elementary school educators. Before she began teaching, Ms. Hanna coordinated research
projects in the Tahoe and El Dorado National Forests, as well as in Chome Forest Reserve in
northeastern Tanzania. At New York Sun Works, Ms. Hanna designs science curriculum and
facilitates the Education Program.

Vegetables grown for

supermarket distribution are often grown with extended shelf life rather than nutritional or taste
value in mind. Furthermore vegetables often lose vitamin content during transportation and cold
storage. A private greenhouse integrated onto the roof of a hospital, residential care home or
homeless support facilities can deliver fresh, healthy vegetables, grown with nutrition in mind
and delivered directly to residents. Community agriculture can also be offered to tenants
delivering therapeutic benefits.
SCALE: 200 m2 (~2000 ft2) will provide fresh vegetables for about one hundred people

Urban Agriculture
Modern agriculture is the largest consumer of land and water on the planet, the cause of most
water pollution, and the source of fifteen percent of the worlds greenhouse gas emissions. Food
travels thousands of kilometers to reach urban consumers, adding to traffic congestion, air
pollution and carbon emissions.
BrightFarm urban food production systems use up to twenty times less land and up to ten times
less water than field agriculture. No chemical pesticides are used, and there is no fertilizer runoff.
Rainwater is collected onsite for irrigation. Integrated solar panels deliver 100% of the
electricity. Climate control is achieved by evaporative cooling, natural ventilation and recovery
of waste heat from adjacent buildings.
BrightFarm systems are environmentally sustainable, and they provide fresher, healthier
vegetables directly to urban consumers. We call this approach building integrated agriculture.
The BrightFarm strategy relies on hydroponics, the practice of growing vegetables in water,
rather than soil. We adapt this commercially successful technique for use in the city by reducing
the need for fossil fuels and water, and by designing the greenhouse to perform well in a rooftop
Applications for BrightFarm range from large commercial farms on shopping malls, warehouses
and office buildings, to smaller systems designed for schools and community housing