“We can not overestimate the transformative power of food and agriculture. A sustainable agri-food system can be harnessed to realize enormous benefits to BC community objectives such as improving BC health, strengthening local economies, and reducing climate emissions. Planning communities in BC around food to create sustainable food and agriculture systems is not only possible, it is essential. “Foregrounding” food across this province is one of the top priorities for BC in the 21st century.” Mark Holland and Janine de la Salle, “12 Big Ideas to Shape B.C.’s Resilient Future”, Vancouver Sun
Harvest Green Project explores the notion of the ‘foregrounding’ of a new agri-food system in and around the strategic urban location of an arterial transit hub. To a certain extent, we have seen 20th century town planning disregard the importance of food and farming, and urban development has virtually eliminated agriculture in our cities. By 2050, there will be globally an additional 3 billion people to feed, and traditional farming simply can not sustain this increase in population. Therefore, incorporating urban farming prominently into the fabric of the city, and in a synergistic mixed-use development integrated with transit, is a way to re-assert the cultural and environmental importance of locally produced food to the health and sustainability of the city and its residents.
The concept of the “vertical farm” is not new. No new mechanics or science is needed - the technology exists today. Dr. Dickson Despommier, an environmental health scientist at Columbia University, is currently exploring this concept in cities such as New York and Shanghai. His work reveals that for every one acre of indoor farming, four to six acres of outdoor land can be saved. It is also well recognized that traditional commercial farming is currently in a crisis situation. For example, due to the effects of climate change, farmers are unable to continue to grow the same crops. Furthermore, massive flooding, protracted droughts, class 4-5 hurricanes take their toll each year, destroying millions of tons of valuable crops. The over-use of pesticides has also rendered much of the world’s farmland soils infertile.
If successfully implemented, projects like the Harvest Green Project can offer the promise of urban renewal, sustainable production of a safe and varied food supply, year round crop production, and the eventual repair of ecosystems that have been sacrificed for large-scale traditional horizontal farming.
Urban Design The urban design strategies for the proposal are predicated on the view that urban food and energy harvesting needs to be “foregrounded’ into strategic and highly visible locations in the city, such as transit hubs along arterials. The “Harvest Tower” will act as a landmark vertical marker for the development and surrounding neighborhood, while the commercial/office podium roots the development to the surrounding arterial streetwall context. The podium mass will float above and ‘umbrella’ a large sunken rain garden transit station. The station doubles as a roof rainwater bio-filtration facility for the building, allowing the transit users a poetic experience of some of the environmental strategies of the project.
Food, Energy and Water Harvesting The concept of “harvest” is explored in the project through the vertical farming of vegetables, herbs, fruits, fish, egg laying chickens, and a boutique goat and sheep dairy facility. In addition, renewable energy will be harvested via green building design elements harnessing geothermal, wind and solar power. The buildings have photovoltaic glazing and incorporate small and large-scale wind turbines to turn the structure into solar and wind-farm infrastructure. In addition, vertical farming potentially adds energy back to the grid via methane generation from composting non-edible parts of plants and animals. Furthermore, a large rainwater cistern terminates the top of the “Harvest Tower” providing on-site irrigation for the numerous indoor and outdoor crops and roof gardens. Programmatic Synergy While the Harvest Green Project supports the City mandate for compact mixed-use communities in and around transit hubs, it further enhances the mixed-use programming to include urban farming as a re-affirmation of the importance of the connection of food to our culture and daily life. In addition to food and energy harvesting, the proposal purposefully incorporates program uses for residential, transit, a large farmers market and supermarket, office and agricultural research and educational facilities, and food related retail/hospitality. The result will be a highly dynamic synergy of uses that compliment and support each other.
Transit and Food Systems The transit station component of the Harvest Green Project is essential to the overall programmatic synergy of uses within the project. The feasibility and concept of urban farming, and the elimination of high carbon emitting traditional food transportation, will only be achieved through strategically locating these new uses in and around transit nodes. By capitalizing on the daily public transit patterns of people who are commuting and linking those patterns to where food is produced, delivered and received, we can then begin to foster more sustainable practices within the current food system and industry.
Vertical Farming (VF) Benefits:
• No weather-related crop failures due to droughts, floods, pests
• All VF food is grown organically: no herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers
• VF virtually eliminates environmentally damaging agricultural runoff by recycling black water
• VF returns farmland to nature, restoring ecosystem functions and services
• VF reduces the incidence of many infectious diseases acquired at the agricultural interface
• VF converts black/gray water into potable water by collecting the water of evapotranspiration
• VF dramatically reduces fossil fuel use (no tractors, plows, shipping.)
• VF enables better control over the quality of food
• VF creates sustainable environments for urban centers
• VF creates new employment opportunities
• All food is produced locally - close to where it is consumed
Government Assistance quote:
“City governments have an important role to play to make urban agriculture a reality. Through such means as tax relief, equity partnerships, access to free land, supportive zoning changes, relaxation of by-law restrictions, etc., as well as assuming responsibility for collateral side issues such as poverty reduction and social equity, city governments can set the stage for demonstration projects that would be needed to prove the conceptual and technical feasibility of vertical farming.
Just as many cities are now acting to facilitate waste-to-energy demonstration projects…..so too will adjustments be required to bring a full scale demonstration vertical farm project into being. The City of Vancouver has taken an important first step in promoting urban agriculture. Though not on the scale of high rise farms”….Globe-Net, July 22, 2008