2 August 2019

I’ve been on this Vertical farming quest for 7 years now. And if you look at this blog it seems like I care more about world peace than Vertical Farming.

You’re not wrong and you’re not right

During my first speech in Toastmasters, back in March 2017, I explained it like this: “Farming is my Normandy, it is my battlefield of choice. It’s my way to tackle the challenges our society is facing.

I choose this battleground because vertical farming touches the foundations of our society (Food, water, energy, shelter,…). Hence, if we can do this in a truly sustainable way, we can easily create a truly sustainable society as a whole: ecological, economical and social.

So what is the vision for this icon of change? Stick with me and learn about the fundamental ideas that will make vertical farming catapult our society into world peace and prosperity for all.

Still my favourite vertical Farm – La tour vivant by SOA Architects

Ecological Ecosystem

The envisioned vertical farm is an ecosystem as described by AMI’s farm Lab in combination with human activities.

AMI = Aquaponics, Mushrooms & Insects. AMI is applying the permaculture-principles to controlled-environment agriculture (CEA). The inputs and outputs of each closed farming system are connected as an ecosystem. In such a way, with a minimum amount of resources and energy, the system can produce much more food than any of the separate systems ever can on its own.

In combination with CEA-farms, people would be living and working in the building. Their activities and resource flows are also a part of the ecosystem: Kitchen waste is used for insects or mushrooms, CO2 enriched air is used to fertilise plants, plants produce oxygen for humans, insects & mushrooms, nutrients from the toilets are used for plants, insects or mushrooms, and many more possibilities.

A place where they already applying this to some extent is the International Space Station (ISS). The difference with ISS is twofold:

(1) The ecosystem on earth in the vertical farm is bigger and more resilient.

(2) It is in symbiosis with nature and has a regenerative effect on the planet and its biodiversity. Next to food as output, the building produces energy, oxygen, clean water, healthy soil, knowledge and other goodies.

The Economic Ecosystem

To describe the economic ecosystem for the vertical farm, the tool to use is Doughnut economics (by Kate Raworth). The doughnut has a social foundation, ecological boundaries and the space within where humanity can thrive.

The ecological ceiling would be measured by specific resource-metrics (energy, oxygen, food,…) and the economic health of the vertical farm within the bigger economy.

The safe and just space would be the economy within the building and the strength of the vertical farm in the bigger economy. The whole building can be completely self-sufficient and run on its own, yet participating in the bigger ecosystem of society is good for everyone

Within the building there’s a mini-economy. People live there, there are farms, shops, bars, maker-spaces, restaurants, fitness-places, cinema’s, little parks,… and whatever the community of the vertical farm feels should be part of the ecosystem to thrive.

The Vertical Farm has its own currency and sustainable money system that does not run on debt. Again – this can be used only within the building, or can be a project together with other organisations in a bigger economy.

The ecological and economic ecosystem can also grow and shrink, depending on the needs of the community.

The social foundation

The vertical farm, as an icon of change, is a project by and for the community. There is competition going on, which is good for innovation, however, a social foundation is insured by: (1) A democratic system where equity is standard. (2) Co-ownership of the building where everyone has part-ownership of part of the succes of the whole building.

This combination causes everyone to have its minimum basic needs met: energy, food, shelter, health, education, political voice,…

The ecosystem is a creation of everyone, for everyone. Hence everyone has its fair share of the wealth and prosperity of the vertical farm. Because of the co-owning, everyone wins when 1 person wins and vice versa.

Let me repeat this because this is big: When one person wins, everyone wins. Everyone is happy that someone else wins, because everyone owns part of the competition itself! Togetherness taken to a new level!

The icon of change

This vertical farm is a truly epic icon and monument. This is caused by its ingenious ecological ecosystem and its strong and independent economy. Yet most of all: because everyone has the ability to live its life to the fullest.

Ecological, Economic and social justice in one. If this project is not worth trying, I don’t know what is.

ps: for a more in depth strategy about how this would all work – read this paper!

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