Neato

Local food is all the rage. I place it higher on the scale of importance than organic, which is an easily fudged word. For those with big yards in developments on former farm land (meaning few mature trees), there’s no excuse for not producing as much food at home as possible. Local farmers are not only an excellent source of food, but supporting them keeps money in the community. The biggest hurdle for local food remains producing food in an urban environment. Projects like Growing Power are amazing and deserve close attention from urban revitalization programs in places like Detroit. But that still leaves urban centers that are actually populated without many solutions. Whenever i’m in a big city, i can’t help imagining all the flat roofs covered by poly hoop houses containing hydroponic greens and lightweight potting soil fruiting vegetables. That requires capital investment, etc that may not be available to the people who would benefit most — financially and in terms of health.

So when i stumbled across the video after the jump on Corrente i couldn’t help but exclaim, “Neato!”

There is nothing particularly new about the idea being employed. Gardener’s Supply has been selling similar units for wall mounting houseplants for at least a few years. Some people in the underground gardening community have also employed similar systems. And a friend of mine did a vertical gardening project locally last year.

Nonetheless, look at the difference between the bare cinder block wall of before and the verdant wall after. That is a huge number of plants in a very small space that would be otherwise unusable; furthermore, the vertical nature means that only a few square feet of actual land is needed.

I, of course, have some questions. It’s going to be a hot spot and the cells are quite small. There’s no way that the system would work without automated irrigation, or constant attending. The incredibly close spacing is efficient, but could promote disease when the plants are full-size as air circulation would appear to be problematic. The website notes that pesticides are not used, and that’s great. On the other hand, the close spacing is apt to promote pest infestations that will not appear to the untrained eye until it’s too late for even pesticides. I’m also curious about the fertilizer regimen, because there is no way that those small cells can hold enough nutrient rich soil to see complex, fruiting plants like tomatoes from transplant to harvest.

Chances are…at least hopefully…that all of this has been worked out by the designers. And so long as it has, well, hot damn that’s a lot of food from very little space. The concept is simple, and with the drain catch could be run as a recirculating system.

You can read more at Urban Farming , and if you click on the video there are more on the You Tube page to view.

The system may be patented, but it looks simple enough to fabricate…so my mind is turning over concrete walls in the area that i might be able to play with once the snow that finally arrived yesterday makes its exit come spring.

hat tip to Corrente

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~ by Lex on December 4, 2009.

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