Surbana Jurong explores vertical farming to boost Singapore's food security

Signal of change / Surbana Jurong explores vertical farming to boost Singapore's food security

By Marta Melvin / 19 Oct 2017

Surbana Jurong, one of the largest Asia-based urban, industrial and infrastructure consulting firms, has developed a 'Food Tower' concept as a direct response to the growing pressure on sustainable food supply in Singapore - where currently the vast majority of food is imported.

In the concept, vegetable growing areas are stacked in open, sunlight flooded high rise towers. Growing yields across the 1 hectare site are boosted to some 400 times that of traditional farming.

It's a whole system: vegetables are grown on towers using the water and nutrients from a system of tanks in which Red Tilapia fish are reared. The vegetable towers are located on “wings” on higher floors that spiral upwards to maximise sunlight exposure; the fish farms are located at the lower floors where there is more shade. A closed loop energy system, with onsite photovoltaics generating power, rainwater harvesting and wetland reed beds to purify and recycle waste water on-site. The wetlands can also act as part of a garden for the larger community.

It is estimated that a 100-storey food tower on 1 hectare of land can provide sufficient meat and vegetables for just over 11,000 people per year.

So what?

One of the biggest challenges facing the developed and developing world: how will we continue to feed ourselves in future with the global population rising rapidly and expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. In addition, in 30 years’ time we could see some 70 per cent of the global population living in cities.

Designers of our urban built environment will need to adopt radically different approaches to city planning to include food production within their thinking. Planning and zoning of suitable sites for urban farms will be needed to ensure that sunlight can reach the crops as a result of immediate setback of buildings around a site. High-rise farming models in cities such as Singapore are slowly maturing and beginning to be piloted.

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What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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