Floating Farms Can Save the World
Imagine a world, for a moment, with nine billion people, climate change threatening unpredictable storms and drought, 100% of the arable land completely consumed by farming, but still not enough food to sustain the entire population. This image isn’t far off from what we can expect on earth by 2050.
Experts say that within the next forty years Earth’s population will reach nine billion, and our food production will have to increase by seventy percent in order to keep up. With 80% of arable land already being farmed, our concept of food production has to change. And fast.
With aquaponics already on the rise as a sustainable fish and crop farming alternative, the architects at Barcelona based Forward Thinking Architecture are living up to their name. Headed up by award winning Javier Ponce, they’re thinking differently about the way we farm, and they’ve created a concept that can help us achieve a more sustainable, verdant future.
Smart Floating Farms
The Smart Floating Farm is Forward Thinking Architecture’s answer to a growing population, unsustainable farming, drought ridden landscapes, local food initiatives, and over fished seas. They propose a three tiered floating platform that can sustain fish farming on it’s lowest level, vertically grown crops on the second level and solar panels integrated with skylights on the top. These 80 foot modular structures float on top of pontoons and can be anchored in any body of water. Lakes, large rivers, bays, and even oceans can support the incredible production of a Smart Floating Farm.
The designers estimate that the fifty acre farm can produce 8 tons of crops, and 1.7 tons of fish per year, all using the clean energy from photovoltaic cells and waves. The designers hope to place these farms on bodies of water near 30 cities throughout the world that are located close to water. This will reduce transportation costs, and mitigate the amount of food imported from other countries.
How It Works
The first level will contain fish cultivated in the style of Asian floating fish farms, a hyper efficient grid that allows for maximum production per square foot. The grids will be interconnected by a series of walkways, for easy access to fish traps and feeding tools. Fish waste will be collected and processed through a biodigester and provide fertilizer for the crops above. Farm byproducts, in turn, will supplement food for the fish. Types of fish suggested by the designers include Grouper, milk fish or Bangus, and Yellowfin Bream. The types of fish grown will be determined by environment and local tastes.
The second level will contain the hydroponic greenhouse. Using efficient tiered crops and a nutrient rich hydroponic system produces more crops per acre in less time. Each section containing specific plants will have its own microclimate controls so workers can create the perfect environment for each different type of crop. When plants are grown without the use of soil, they don’t have as many pest or disease problems, making it that much easier to grow crops organically.
A few of the possible crops the designers suggests are artichokes, asparagus, peas, bok choi, watermelon, a variety of berries, and virtually every type of leafy green and herb available. Types of plants will be determined by specific needs and tastes of the local population as well as feedback from stores and consumers alike.
On top of this lightweight structure a solar farm full of highly efficient photovoltaic cells will power the entire unit, and produce storable energy for local consumers. Each Smart Floating Farm could produce around 2.72 megawatts of photovoltaic energy, with the potential to power 446 homes. That would offset 1,819 tons of carbon emissions every year. In addition to solar, the roof will support skylights for the greenhouse, as well as a rainwater collection system.
In addition to the farm spaces, the facility will also contain wave barriers to protect the floating barge, a fish processing plant, desalination facility, as well as offices for the small support staff. Though the system will likely be fully automated, it will require a few crew members for maintenance and processing.
Sound too good to be true? Well apparently the technology already exists. Forward Thinking Architecture isn’t trying to invent something new, just combine already useful technologies into one giant food production machine. “The project deals with the symbiotic combination of different existing technologies,” touts the sites promotional video, “in order to produce what we need more of — fresh and healthy food closer to our homes.”
By floating these giant modular farms near the world’s largest cities, billions of people will have easy access to fresh organic fish and produce farmed with less of a carbon footprint. Not only will it be powered by green energy, it won’t need greenhouse gas producing tractors or plows, and the farms will be within minutes of your local whole foods, guaranteeing ultra fresh crops, delivered by electronic vehicles, available right in the middle of Earth’s biggest cities.
While the start up cost for the first Smart Floating Farm will be no doubt substantial, Forward Thinking Architecture believes that it will pay for itself within ten years. As technology gets better, we can expect that number to get smaller and smaller.
C. L. Brenton is a novelist and writer based in Los Angeles. Her work spans anything from poetry to workout advice, hard news to weddings. She lives in a tiny white cottage in West LA with her handsome fiancee and their three roommates; two cats who sit on everything C. L. writes, and a dog who squirrels away socks. Find more work at www.clbrenton.com