In a world where population is increasing at an alarming rate, traditional farming techniques often fail to bring food to the millions of hungry mouths across the globe. With its innovative Skyfarm design, London-based firm Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners is hoping to turn cities into efficient centers of agriculture. Shaped like a hyperboloid, the towering structure doubles as a bamboo-framed vertical farm, with each level dedicated to a particular planting method, including aquaponics and the more common soil-based agriculture.
Described as a “thorough, believable, and beautiful project”, Skyfarm was declared winner of the Future Projects Experimental category as part of the 2014 World Architecture Festival. According to the architects, the design was conceived in response to the theme of the 2015 Milan Expo: “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”. Unlike conventional land-intensive farming, it grows food vertically, requiring very little area and zero external power since it produces all the energy it consumes. Speaking about the project, the team said:
Skyfarm proposes an alternative to the typical land-intensive farming systems. These towers support several layers of agricultural cultivation and an aquaponics system that enables the growth of crops and fish together in a re-circulating system.
It innovative multi-story design combines different types of farming, from soil-based methods, aquaponics to aeroponics, in which plants are grown in a misty, mineral-infused environment without needing soil. Although best suited for cities, Skyfarm could also be built in rural places, where land is relatively scarce or in case of low soil quality. The team added:
While the upfront costs of Skyfarm are higher than standard industrial scale agriculture, the ability to grow produce with a short shelf life, such as strawberries, spinach and lettuce, around the year and close to market without costly air-freighting, makes it an attractive, sustainable proposition.
In addition to the farms, the structure could house a restaurant as well as a market on the ground floor, while water tanks and wind turbines could be erected on the roof. Constructed using eco-friendly, sustainably-source bamboo, the Skyfarm tower could be scaled up or down, depending upon its location. The firm’s spokesperson added:
A 10-meter version could be constructed in a school, or an 80-meter farm built in a larger urban area. Its geometry can also be adapted depending on the earth’s latitude and the amount of sunlight available. In cooler climates, a double-skinned enclosure and heating could be added to create optimum growing conditions.
To learn more about Skyfarm and other projects by Harbour + Partners, head over to the firm’s official website.