Vertical farming with seawater


March 24, 2009

The seawater vertical farm would make another stunning addition to the Dubai skyline
Pic credit: Studiomobile via designboom

The seawater vertical farm would make another stunning addition to the Dubai skyline Pic credit: Studiomobile via designboom

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March 24, 2009 The saying used to go, ‘only in America’, but in recent years it might be truer to say, ‘only in Dubai’, especially when it comes to architectural wonders. Buildings that would be unfeasible just about anywhere else seem to regularly spring from the ground in the oil rich emirate. The next eye-popping construction to grace the skyline could be a seawater vertical farm that uses seawater to cool and humidify greenhouses and to convert sufficient humidity back in to fresh water to irrigate the crops.

At a time when the world’s population continues to grow, arable land is under threat from deforestation, poor management and global warming. All these factors point to vertical farming being an idea whose time may finally have arrived - and what better place to put it to the test than Dubai. That’s the thinking of Italian architectural firm Studiomobile, who have been working on housing and infrastructure projects in the United Arab Emirates where a lack of fresh water and a high soil value make such a concept feasible.

The vertical farm features a soaring spire with pod-like ‘sky-gardens’ branching off to give it an organic feel in keeping with designers aims to create a clean, green, sustainable source of food for a more self-sufficient Dubai. The concept makes use of the Seawater Greenhouse process, which uses seawater to cool and humidify the air that ventilates the greenhouse and sunlight to distill fresh water from seawater to enable the year round cultivation of high value crops that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to grow in hot, arid regions such as Dubai. This is in stark contrast to costly and energy intensive desalination plants that rely on boiling and pumping to produce fresh water.

The concept works by continually cycling through three phases. In the first phase the air going into the greenhouse is first cooled and humidified by seawater, which is trickled over the first evaporator to provide a fresh and humid climate for the crops. Then in the second phase as the air leaves the growing area it passes through the second evaporator, which has seawater flowing over it. The humid air mixes with the warm dry air of the ceiling interspace making the air much hotter and more humid. The third and final phase sees the warm air forced upward by the temperature induced stack effect. In the central chimney the warm and humid air condenses when it comes in contact with plastic tubes that contain cool seawater. The drops of fresh water that appear on the surface of the condenser fall into a collection tank to be used to water the crops and for other uses.

At present the design is only a concept, but given Dubai’s love of distinct architecture coupled with their almost complete reliance on trade for food and deficiency of arable land and fresh water, don’t be surprised to see Studiomobile’s seawater vertical farm design appearing on Dubai’s skyline in the future. And if it proves successful there the lessons learned there could see the concept adapted to help feed ever growing cities around the globe and tackle the food shortages that look set to plague the world as global warming’s effects take hold.

Darren Quick

Source: designboom Via Inhabitat.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

This is fantastic. More power to them. Perhaps an idea whose time has come, and one that could be useful in many places around the world. Whether it is viable over the long-haul economically and otherwise remains to be seen, but it is a certainty that as the oil runs out and people need more food and fresh water, projects that produce both sustainably will be absolutely necessary. I would like to see something like this sort of idea used horizontally: parked next to the billions of tons of floating plastic waste accumulating in ocean gyres worldwide, recycling the accumulation into useful products, while at the same time producing the water, food, and energy necessary to maintain its crew.

Enobie Knobie

What happens to the salt?

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