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Singapore Builds First Vertical Vegetable Farm

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the growing-on-up dept.

Earth 141

kkleiner writes "Short on arable land? One solution would be to plan up. Singapore, a small country that imports most of its food, has now begun selling vegetables from its first vertical farm. And even while they're more expensive the vegetables are already selling faster than they can be grown. If the farms prove sustainable – both technologically and economically – they could provide a much desired supplement to Singapore's locally grown food and serve as a model for farming in other land-challenged areas."

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suggestion (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41887047)

Singapore Builds _Its_ First Vertical Vegetable Farm

Re:suggestion (0)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 2 years ago | (#41887627)

yes the hanging gardens of Babylon is 2500 years older than Singapore's.

I believe the Cambodians are still doing it (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 2 years ago | (#41890957)

When I was in the States back in the 1980's I got to know some friends - refugees from Cambodia - and they were growing their veges in vertical farms, on very tiny plots of land - not more than 200 square feet - in the backyard of houses in urban center.
 
The Cambodian vertical farms are different from the one featured in TFA - the Cambodian version consist of different kinds of veges growing on "towers" made of bamboo.
 

Re:suggestion (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41888119)

If the picture in Singapore news is indicative of the farm it's wasting a huge amount of space. Stick solar cells on it, get some high quality LEDs in the right frequency spectrum. Pack those trays as close as possible and still be able to do automated inspection and if needed maintenance and I'd be surprised if they could not make one acre do the work of 300. It would take compartmentalization so disease would not travel, incoming water would be a torrent that would need processed and filtered, incoming nutrients the same. I would grow high dollar crops at first, herbs, spices, medicinals that are allowed and use that to fund the more mundane crops. I doubt you can do grains there at a good profit but most other produce will work. When they come up with square pigs it's all ham and beans at that point. ;)

Re:suggestion (1)

shaitand (626655) | about 2 years ago | (#41891783)

LED's give a high electrical efficiency but they aren't cost efficient even with the electrical savings and the LED's last forever thing is a myth especially given the larger number of elements to fail. You could achieve a better result with a mix of cool and warm fluorescent lights or daylight spectrum fluorescent. Really anything but those crappy 'grow light' fluorescent.

Re:suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41891885)

their current system uses a mere 60 wats per 90 meter high tower per day according to the article, I really doubt that solar cells on top of the building can provide the necessary power for the amount of leds that would take.

Verticle? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41887053)

How do they get the fertilizer to stick to the walls?

Re:Verticle? (4, Funny)

Nadaka (224565) | about 2 years ago | (#41889131)

If there is one thing that a room full of monkeys can do that isn't write the complete works of Shakespeare... It is make the fertilizer stick to the walls.

Re:Vertical? (1)

ryzvonusef (1151717) | about 2 years ago | (#41891179)

Are you sure you want to know [shutterstock.com] ?

It's common in south asia, allows the ..."fertiliser"... to be in a dry and usable form.

Brass Eye (2)

Spad (470073) | about 2 years ago | (#41887071)

Always reminds me of Brass Eye's Science episode [youtube.com]

Drinking water (3, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 2 years ago | (#41887073)

And if they can find a good, cheap way to desalinate sea water they could almost declare themselves functionally independant from Malaysia.

Re:Drinking water (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41887467)

Would it be possible to run a desalination plant off of the heat produced by a nuclear reactor? Failing that, would said desal. plant be able to run off geothermal heat? If said plant could run off of either of those, it would mean electricity as well as fresh water for the inhabitants of Singapore and their plants!

Re:Drinking water (1)

thespeech (1335765) | about 2 years ago | (#41889777)

Living on an island of only about 700 square kilometres, I'm pretty sure a large part of our population would be very worried about a local nuclear plant unless it was built offshore under the ocean or something. That said, the government is reportedly considering it, and they have a prominent history of doing what they believe best regardless of polls or popular sentiment, for better or worse.

Re:Drinking water (1)

judoguy (534886) | about 2 years ago | (#41887669)

>they could almost declare themselves functionally independant from Malaysia.

They are already independant politically.

Functionally independant? Malaysia is large, largly rural country just a bridge away and Indonesia is hardly farther. Closer than NYC to it's surrounding farmland. Is it really a problem for a large city to "import" food from nearby farmlands?

Re:Drinking water (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 2 years ago | (#41887751)

Just saying that it puts a dent in their political independance. Finding ways to grow food in a high density environment helps, but water is an issue as well. I mentioned it because the water issue seems fresh in the minds of Singaporian people I have spoken to.

Re:Drinking water (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | about 2 years ago | (#41888441)

After they closed off the Kalang River, I thought they were pretty much set on water now. I'm sure that is about the eighth tier of water you would want to use, but still less energy than desalinization, and a little more politically friendly than recycled waste water. Ultimately though desalinization is going to be needed, even if just as a backup.

Re:Drinking water (2)

belmolis (702863) | about 2 years ago | (#41890211)

There's no logistical problem importing food into Singapore. The issue is political. Malaysia is a Muslim country dominated by Malay people; Singapore is a secular country whose population is 74% Chinese. There is significant potential for trouble, and at times there actually has been. Singapore was once part of Malaysia and seceded because its people were poorly treated by the dominant Malay Muslims. Singapore is therefore quite interested in avoiding dependence on Malaysia. Similar considerations apply to Indonesia.

Re:Drinking water (2)

DriedClexler (814907) | about 2 years ago | (#41890677)

Stupid question: Is Malaysia the only country that can export Singapore it's most needed goods?

Re:Drinking water (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#41888957)

...cheap way to desalinate...

Let nature do all the hard work. Just collect the rainwater and pipe it where needed.

Re:Drinking water (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 2 years ago | (#41889191)

Singapore doesn't have enough elevation for water storage to be really practical. Its basically just a sand bank. So yes they get the water but there is no space downstream for a dam or treatment plant. I suppose they could do it with reclaimed land but that is really expensive to do. Maybe they should build a giant version of those bladders which are used to transport fresh transport water to islands. It would float in sea water okay.

Minecraft! (2)

wallyhall (665610) | about 2 years ago | (#41887087)

It's finally looking a bit more like real life!

And then there is this TED talk... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41887125)

http://www.ted.com/talks/stephen_ritz_a_teacher_growing_green_in_the_south_bronx.html

Sunlight is finite (4, Informative)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#41887139)

No matter how you align your farms, there's a finite amount of sunlight that you can't get more of. This method can increase yields, but only up to a point.

Re:Sunlight is finite (4, Interesting)

LunaticTippy (872397) | about 2 years ago | (#41887191)

One cool thing about vertical farming is the fact that we already have lots of vertical surfaces that are just wasting that sunlight. We can convert existing vertical surfaces to create food with unused sunlight.

No we can't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41887399)

Have you bothered to click the link? These 'farms' are plants on multiple shelves. They still grow horizontally, only that they are aligned vertically. They don't use any kind of vertical surface.

Re:No we can't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41887431)

In fact, building such a farm by the side of existing surface would be counter-productive, as such a surface would block all the sunlight coming from it's side...

Re:Sunlight is finite (3, Interesting)

arcite (661011) | about 2 years ago | (#41887211)

LED technology can replace the sun.

Re:Sunlight is finite (3, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#41890833)

And I think it's been noted that solar cells plus LEDs are a bit more efficient than raw sunlight for plants (I understand plant photosynthesis can't use the IR, a narrow green band, and UV portions of sunlight).

Re:Sunlight is finite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41887265)

Plants do grow under kinds of light that are not sunlight...

Re:Sunlight is finite (2)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about 2 years ago | (#41888149)

yes they do. i have grown plants under florescent lights since i was a kid usually just to start the plants then transplant them outside in the spring but they can be grown entirely indoors and sequestered away from the sun if you so desire.

Re:Sunlight is finite (1)

shaitand (626655) | about 2 years ago | (#41891801)

Here here. Everyone keeps mentioning LED but LED is insanely expensive lighting. Florescent lighting is cost effective and cool while still being reasonably power efficient.

Re:Sunlight is finite (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 2 years ago | (#41887321)

Of course a lot of housing in Singapore would be happy with a bit of shade.

Re:Sunlight is finite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41888093)

that is true. but the beauty of this soilless method is, it can be done on water.

Re:Sunlight is finite (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41888543)

there's a finite amount of sunlight that you can't get more of.

There's a narrow absorption spectrum of chlorophyll A and B (P680,P700). Sunlight is mostly wasted on plants. Converting sunlight into electricity (full spectrum), and that into just 680nm and 700nm would allow more plants to be grown from a set amount of sunlight. It costs more, and the technology to get the most out of it is relatively new. However, that's not what Singapore is doing anyway.

Re:Sunlight is finite (3, Interesting)

Adriax (746043) | about 2 years ago | (#41890033)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grow_light#LED [wikipedia.org]
~450nm (blue) promotes vegetative growth.
660-680nm (deep red) promotes flowering and fruiting.

Rather tempted to experiment with led christmas light strands if they have any leftover at walmart this year. Make a cheap grid light out of them and see how plants do.

Re:Sunlight is finite (1)

dadioflex (854298) | about 2 years ago | (#41890761)

Christmas lights tend to be cheap and nasty, ie inefficient, and don't do much but glow. Unless you're planning on organizing trash bags full of them, a few compact fluorescent lights will be a better bet. I've grown chili peppers and herbs in rooms devoid of sunlight with great results. I prefer to use the "natural light" bulbs but as has been discussed, blue spectrum for growth, red spectrum for flowering - though this is really only important when you have a greenhouse full of pot and you're using sodium lighting I suspect. White light CFLs for out of season chilies and such are fine.

Re:Sunlight is finite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41890239)

We're getting 100 lumens per watt on shipping product currently and can custom make any spectrum you want. We're mostly industrial lighting but our tech can be made to do any mix or to que certain frequencies at certain times. Or tech is RF controlled off the grid street lighting and other on grid lighting. The LEDs do not produce the light, that's produced by a phosphor sheet. We can make any custom spectrum or narrow spectrum you wish.

To not seem to be spamming anon.

Re:Sunlight is finite (1)

shaitand (626655) | about 2 years ago | (#41891809)

custom lights sound pricey

Re:Sunlight is finite (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 2 years ago | (#41891291)

Considering solar cell efficiency is not that great, commercial panels do around 20% only, plus the losses in converting this electricity back into light using those LEDs, not too much gain is to be made that way. And it's pretty expensive.

Re:Sunlight is finite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41890205)

Reflective surfaces placed around the towers may help add additional sunlight. A number of gardening articles i have recommend using reflective surfaces in low sunlight conditions and tin foil mulching, This may sound a little low tech for slashdot, however tin foil would be far more affordable for the farmers of Singapore than LED lights with photo flux capacitors or some shit like that.

/ITS/ first virtical farm (5, Informative)

kwerle (39371) | about 2 years ago | (#41887171)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vertical_farming [wikipedia.org]
Specifically:
"The Armenian tower hydroponicums are the first built examples of a vertical farm, and is documented in Sholto Douglas' seminal text "Hydroponics: The Bengal System" first published in 1951.[5] Contemporary notions of vertical farming are predated by this early technology by more than 50 years. link"

So it's off of "THE first" by about half a century.

Harshness (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41887577)

Whoa dude! Why so harsh? You might like, hurt the story writers feelings or something. You're insistence on accuracy is offensive to Singaporeans.

Facts don't mean anything if we don't feel good about ourselves. You're just too old and stuck in your society of correctness ways and stuff. You should like, die or something and make room for us young people who are inventing things like the first vertical "farm".

Re:/ITS/ first vertical farm (2)

kwerle (39371) | about 2 years ago | (#41887761)

Gah! How'd I type-o the subject line?

Re:/ITS/ first virtical farm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41888239)

Funny, in Civ 5 I have been making terrace farms as part of my culture's bonus capabilities. And they don't even have electricity yet.

Or is a vertical farm not the same when modern technology is applied?

In my own home, I had a few rows of hydroponic plants in a stack--florescent lighting works pretty well, provided the plants are low growing and the fruits hang over the sides.

This is not a new concept.

Re:/ITS/ first virtical farm (2)

shaitand (626655) | about 2 years ago | (#41891821)

I think someone else already mentioned the hanging gardens of babylon, that is going to predate 1951 by a bit.

Vertical farming is definitely old hat, you can find plenty of information on growing weed that way.

Not the first, only their first. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41887197)

This is done elsewhere already. Even in the US in urban areas, often using old buildings that meet the peculiar needs of a vertical farm. One in particular comes to mind that grows fish in vats under the produce/plants.

Re:Not the first, only their first. (2)

Migraineman (632203) | about 2 years ago | (#41887629)

Aquaponics. [wikipedia.org] Using the auto-siphon systems, you can grow just about anything in a gravel bed rather than soil. Uses 1/10 the water of traditional land-based farming. Cool stuff if you have limited resources, but not as simple as putting seeds on the ground and waiting.

Grow house (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41887291)

Its a very elaborate grow house. I hope they consulted with the experts in the field, the weed growers. Its always funny watching people in the field pretend those black sheep don't exist, tip toe around the whole topic, but everyone knows the black sheep are the ones keeping the hydroponic stores alive so the hippies can pretend the tomato growers are the only farmers doing work in the field.
Disclaimer, I grow basil, oregano (really) and mint at my house for cooking. Basil butter on toast... mmmm. I recommend avoiding globe basil, that stuff is a PITA to harvest. Experience shows that one mint plant produces enough leaves for two mint juleps every two weeks, your production may vary of course. The oregano mostly ends up in oregano butter also, on toast or whatever.

Re:Grow house (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41887419)

Growing weed in Singapore would be a very bad idea.

Re:Grow house (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41887593)

Yeah Singapore is a bit of a shithole. Is chewing gum still illegal there?

Re:Grow house (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 2 years ago | (#41887717)

no it's not a shithole at all. Yes chewing gum is illegal there. No, their sidewalks aren't covered in gum like ours are.

Seriously, if you live in a large U.S. city like I do, go outside and look at the sidewalk. Unless you're in a very high-rent suburb, you'll probably see more gum than concrete.

I am currently sitting in an office at ~5000 Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles. It is not a run-down ghetto, the houses around here average $800k. The sidewalk at Wilshire/Highland is covered in gum deposits.

Re:Grow house (1)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#41888875)

Anywhere where simple possession can get you the death penalty is a shithole.

Re:Grow house (3, Interesting)

mogness (1697042) | about 2 years ago | (#41889421)

It's not really that serious. The drug laws are strict but it's actually fairly common to come across illicit substances in SG, just like everywhere else. The cases that make the news usually appear because people are stupid about it, trying to take E out to clubs or smoking weed in the street like they think they're in Amsterdam. Most people who want to don't have a problem. No, there aren't dealers on corners or people walking up to you on the street offering you drugs like back in the US, but we like it that way. Anyone who's been here more than a few years knows someone who knows someone that has drugs. We live on an island country that's only slightly bigger than Manhattan, and we have the world's busiest port. You'd be kidding yourself if you thought they'd catch everything coming in, or if you thought they prosecute every single possession case.

Porn is also illegal here, but it's silly to think no one is looking at it.

Singapore's policy with just about everything is if you can keep it to yourself they aren't interested. Keep your head down and you can smoke all the weed you want, if that's your thing.

What I find craziest of all is that in the first three years of my adult life in the US I had six, maybe seven run-ins with law enforcement. I've been in Singapore for almost four years and I've not yet ever been confronted by a single police officer. And people say Singapore is a police state?

Re:Grow house (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41890031)

They are just policing more efficiently than having "run-ins" with people.

Re:Grow house (1)

AaronMK (1375465) | about 2 years ago | (#41887779)

Considering the penalty for possession of 500 grams weed carries the death penalty in Singapore, I would not be surprised if those black sheep really don't exist there.

Re:Grow house (2)

Tsingi (870990) | about 2 years ago | (#41887667)

I grow herbs in my living room window.

Rosemary, basil, chives, oregano, sage, thyme. They are very happy there in a nice looking scaffold sitting in front of the window.

I may grow vegetables in the future, I'll practice on herbs in the mean time.

Re:Grow house (1)

peragrin (659227) | about 2 years ago | (#41887893)

some veggie's are funny grown indoors. tomato's for instance do like a bit of variation in their sun, temperature ranges to get really good ones.

however my brother in law by accident is growing some awesome spicy pepper plants in his dining room.

mixed with basil sage and thyme it works well.

Re:Grow house (1)

Tsingi (870990) | about 2 years ago | (#41888617)

however my brother in law by accident is growing some awesome spicy pepper plants in his dining room.

Thanks. I will definitely try that. I have a buddy who has some nice zippy pepper plants, I'm sure I could get something to start with. Yeah, that would be a very nice addition.
My mother shows up once a year with a bushel of awesome tomatoes from a friends farm and I can them. I'd probably try cherry tomatoes in the window, but I hear you.

Re:Grow house (2)

jc42 (318812) | about 2 years ago | (#41888857)

If you like hot peppers, they're an excellent crop for anyone with a sunny window. Some of the tastiest are sold as "decorative" peppers. This term doesn't mean that they're not worth eating; it comes from the fact that peppers like full sun, but many good hot peppers are from small plants that get shaded out in a garden by other, bigger plants. So you grow them in pots that can be put on any sunny level spot, like a porch or patio or window sill. When they get covered with flowers plus green, white, orange, purple and red fruit, they're very decorative. Like sweet peppers, they're edible at any color stage, though the ripest tend to be the hottest. The green or white ones are less hot, but this lets the other non-hot pepper flavors come through.

One problem in our household is that, due to my wife's allergies to most furry critters, we share the house with three small parrots. Like most birds, they love hot peppers, and strip them off the plants when we're not watching. So when we take the peppers indoors for the winter, we have to put them in a few sunny windows that the birds can't easily access.

Like tomatoes, peppers like rich soil and lots of water. So give them some compost if you can, don't let them dry out, and you'll have some very pretty, edible crops in a few months. You can use the seeds in any hot pepper that you like, but if you use a store-bought pepper's seeds, you'll have no idea how big the plant will be. So it's better to just ask for a few peppers from someone who's already growing them. Just plant a few of the seeds in each pot, put them in a sunny spot, and keep them watered.

Re:Grow house (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 2 years ago | (#41890057)

See also: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/brainwaves/2012/09/10/the-science-of-pomato-plants-and-fruit-salad-trees/ [scientificamerican.com]
http://www.fruitsaladtrees.com/ [fruitsaladtrees.com]
In theory you might be able to do tomato+ chilli + potato + other stuff in the same family. Not sure if they'd taste good though ;).

Re:Grow house (1)

GNious (953874) | about 2 years ago | (#41891275)

however my brother in law by accident

How did that happen??

Re:Grow house (1)

shaitand (626655) | about 2 years ago | (#41891839)

vegas?

Re:Grow house (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41887859)

I'd highly recommend growing herbs (not weed) indoors in the winter for people with winter seasonal disorders. When I lived up north having that light extend the day was really wonderful and it was so easy. Just a cheap 4" shop light on the ceiling and the plants were all on top of a bookshelf, so it didn't waste much space in our tiny apartment. Lots of great food resulted from that.

Re:Grow house (1)

shaitand (626655) | about 2 years ago | (#41891841)

"I'd highly recommend growing herbs (not weed) indoors"

What's wrong with weed?

Vertical Vegetable Farming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41887315)

So, they're raising anencephalics to harvest for transplant organs?

Cool! Takes a lot less space in a skyscraper than doing it free range.

Re:Vertical Vegetable Farming? (2)

couchslug (175151) | about 2 years ago | (#41888461)

"So, they're raising anencephalics to harvest for transplant organs?"

Don't give Karl Rove any more ways to "grow" the GOP voting base...

Re:Vertical Vegetable Farming? (0)

belmolis (702863) | about 2 years ago | (#41890243)

I wish I had mod points.

Power vs Energy (2)

Camel Pilot (78781) | about 2 years ago | (#41887381)

From the article "Just 60W of power – just enough for a lightbulb – is needed to operate one tower per day."

Why is do journalist always mix-up the notions of instantaneous power and quantity of energy?

Re:Power vs Energy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41887647)

because they are dumb?

Re:Power vs Energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41887713)

Why is do journalist always mix-up the notions of instantaneous power and quantity of energy?

For the same reason that STEM majors mess up grammar, ignorance of everything outside one's area of expertise. That said, journalists should be able to explain just about anything, which requires a very broad knowledge base that many unfortunately lack.

Re:Power vs Energy (1)

belmolis (702863) | about 2 years ago | (#41890259)

I don't know. My impression is that STEM types write write as well as anybody else and often know quite a bit about music, art, history, and so forth The problem is that most non-STEM types lack even rather basic knowledge of STEM.

Re:Power vs Energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41891407)

I don't know. My impression is that STEM types write write as well as anybody else and often know quite a bit about music, art, history, and so forth The problem is that most non-STEM types lack even rather basic knowledge of STEM.

Huh?

Re:Power vs Energy (2)

Dekker3D (989692) | about 2 years ago | (#41888247)

Nah, you're just misinterpreting the units. 60 joules per second per tower per day. Do we know anything else that has time in there twice? Yep, acceleration. For each day that happens, they can power another tower with the same 60 watts.

They are illegally copying power!

Re:Power vs Energy (1)

fm6 (162816) | about 2 years ago | (#41888691)

Watt?

Re:Power vs Energy (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 2 years ago | (#41890353)

Another question: why are those journalists still using obsolete and wasteful lighting technology? Modern bulbs give plenty of light on just 8-12W each.

Re:Power vs Energy (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | about 2 years ago | (#41891253)

It's probably one of the established but obsolete symbols, like the floppy disk for saving files. For example, I've never experienced a LED light up over my head whenever I get a brilliant idea.

Skyscraper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41887393)

Isn't this what they call a skyscraper in Singapore? I'm just kidding.

Omega Garen (1)

future assassin (639396) | about 2 years ago | (#41887689)

This guy has been at it for a while http://www.omegagarden.com/index.php?content_id=1500 [omegagarden.com] I know people who grew cannabis in these and other rotation gardens although getting good yields out of these depends on the strains. Usually Nebula, Cherry and Diesel do pretty good. The "Kush" strains are way to finicky and a pain to get going but doable.

They don't state if they use a NFT/Aero system or Rockwool/Flood and Drain. Also I wonder what their pesticide usage is like?

economic feasibility (4, Interesting)

prisma (1038806) | about 2 years ago | (#41887833)

They may not be the first in the world to do this but any new competition should be welcome as being another team and another chance at finding techniques to improve cost effectiveness.

My first thought after seeing the headline and thinking "That's cool!" was whether or not they could stay in business and what kind of future this setup could have elsewhere. It's probably a concept very much like fuel prices: When prices rise high enough to support more expensive production methods, these fancier methods will have a better chance of gaining traction and staying in business.

The Singapore government should consider what value they put on food security for their population. If they value it highly enough, then perhaps a subsidy for the company to help them expand would be justifiable.

Insecticides and Bees (5, Informative)

Traiano (1044954) | about 2 years ago | (#41887987)

The value and challenges of hydroponic farming might not be obvious to those of you in the west (I live in Singapore).

First, the local vegetable market is dominated by Malaysian and Chinese imports. Both of these countries have questionable laws limiting the use of pesticides and fertilizers. I have no doubt that their products are grown unsustainably. Most people wash Chinese vegetables with soap for fear of the chemicals that may remain on them.

Those imported vegetables are incredibly cheap locally. Its possible to get all the food you need for a stir fry for a small family (with meat) at a local wet market for just a few dollars. But, as I said above, the safety of that food is dubious. Singaporeans are now rich enough (average income second only to Japan in Asia) to expect a better quality of food.

The one vegetable that we simply cannot get in quality is the tomato. Most are flown here under ripe so they do not crush in transit. Of course the carbon footprint of those tomatoes must be massive. The higher quality ones come from Japan, but apparently were shipped frozen. Tomatoes are mushy, mealy, and never taste like a proper tomato picked in southern Europe's late summer. Sky green's web page [appsfly.com] shows they are only tackling non-flowering vegetables (greens). This is probably because they are not able to farm the bees needed for tomato pollination. I've never seen a bee in Singapore and don't know what the concerns are of raising honey bees on the island.

Just a few thoughts from an American in Singapore...

Re:Insecticides and Bees (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 2 years ago | (#41888351)

The one vegetable that we simply cannot get in quality is the tomato

Thats interesting. I have seen tomato plantations in the Cameron highlands, but given the small land area there I assume the price they get must be high.

Re:Insecticides and Bees (2)

fm6 (162816) | about 2 years ago | (#41888861)

According to this web page [pollinator.com] , greenhouse tomatoes are pollinated either by hand or using cultured (not wild) bumblebees. I suspect that Sky Green is simply starting out with crops that are easy to grow

Re:Insecticides and Bees (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41890149)

This is probably because they are not able to farm the bees needed for tomato pollination.

Except for cherry tomatoes and "potato-leaf" varieties, tomatoes are self-pollinating.

Re:Insecticides and Bees (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41890263)

I hear I live in America and I couldn't get any good tomatoes until I started growing them myself. Surely there must be other pollinators on the island.

Re:Insecticides and Bees (1)

shaitand (626655) | about 2 years ago | (#41891891)

"I hear I live in America"

I heard that too.

Re:Insecticides and Bees (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41891063)

Grow your own. Two pots on the sill. Pollinate by hand (refer to utube).

Re:Insecticides and Bees (1)

shaitand (626655) | about 2 years ago | (#41891883)

"Both of these countries have questionable laws limiting the use of pesticides and fertilizers. I have no doubt that their products are grown unsustainably."

Does it really matter? I mean I know it is trendy to do the organic green thing but it literally makes no difference for anything with a rind, peel, or substantial skin and for the rest... there really weren't any restrictions here in the states a decade or two back either. It isn't like they are going to use anything that isn't being used elsewhere and it is generally more cost effective to use what is being mass produced rather than brewing your own forbidden throughout the rest of the world pesticides.

"The one vegetable that we simply cannot get in quality is the tomato."

You aren't going to get one through hydroponic farming. Hydroponic tomatoes look beautiful and big but they are dense and flavorless. I've lived in parts of the US where the winter tomatoes were all hydroponic.

Re:Insecticides and Bees (1)

unix_core (943019) | about 2 years ago | (#41892023)

I have no doubt that their products are grown unsustainably. Most people wash Chinese vegetables with soap for fear of the chemicals that may remain on them.

THEY HAVE TO EAT CHINESE VEGETABLES ZOMG THATS SO HORRIBLE!

Meanwhile in China 1,4 billion people are chewing away on domestic produce. Though there have been some food safety scandals, I don't see anyone over here using soap that way at least.

A bunch of random thoughts (2)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | about 2 years ago | (#41888033)

So each tray gets its time in the sun while going up the tower, and in the shade going down (or vice versa). It seems this would work well only if the plants you are growing are happy getting half the sunlight available at your location. I'm sure you could get a similar effect in horizontal format with little difficulty.

If you can get friction low enough, you might be able to make the whole thing run simply by watering the plants at the top of the down part of the cycle, so the weight differential makes it go.

Scientific American had an article on vertical farms some time back (paywalled here [scientificamerican.com] .) As I recall, they had a much more energy intensive design (growing lights etc.) My objection was that for anything like that you could make work in a sky scraper, you could much more cheaply put the same technology out in rural areas.

The Singapore plan only works if there are areas you're happy to cast into shade (and block views from) with these towers. They can't be close together, or they'll be in each other's shade.

Incidentally, Singapore's climate has remarkably little annual variation [wikipedia.org] . The hottest month has average high temperature of 31.7C, the coldest month has average high temperature of 30.0C. Rain is more variable, but still by less than a factor of two through the year. (This is not from personal experience.) If anyone knows of somewhere with less weather variability, I'd be interested to hear of it.

Re:A bunch of random thoughts (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 2 years ago | (#41891333)

The Singapore plan only works if there are areas you're happy to cast into shade (and block views from) with these towers. They can't be close together, or they'll be in each other's shade.

Singapore is almost right at the equator, so if you have a row (or wall) of these towers in north-south orientation then they should not cast much shadows onto one another. And besides most of the sun they catch is the first half of the morning and the second half of the afternoon, as the rest of the day the sun is so high up that you basically don't have sunlight hitting the sides of your towers.

Re:A bunch of random thoughts (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | about 2 years ago | (#41891929)

My objection was that for anything like that you could make work in a sky scraper, you could much more cheaply put the same technology out in rural areas.

What rural areas of Singapore are you talking about - the ones that are Malaysia or Indonesia?

As for blocking views, the Singapore skyline already has loads of high rise buildings, so blocking views is hardly a concern. Especially since it is a tiny island nation with a population density that almost rivals New York City.

To a certain extent, it'd probably be feasible for the existing skyscrapers to be modified to include their own vertical farm for limited self sufficiency, which makes this an even more viable and attractive solution.

Imagine working in a Manhattan office building, and knowing that not only is the most of the food in your canteen organic, but it's grown in the building, and you happen to have an office that looks out through the flowering fruit and vegetable fields. I, for one, would love that.

Useful not just when you are a small country (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41888157)

If they can move those towers on just 50W, then there should be a real savings in energy versus trucking the food in from 50km away, never mind from even farther away! Also if you can just rotate the tower during the day to spread the light falling on each plant, you can pick the ripe veggies by hand and save the energy of a tractor or other mechanized picker... Local is fresh, no refrigeration or funky inert gases needed... Plus it provides shade and oxygen. Of course you do spend much energy on making the structure itself, but thats a sunk cost and pollution happening far from the city...

Torches (1)

englishknnigits (1568303) | about 2 years ago | (#41888189)

They should probably go with a more efficient design that uses torches instead of relying on sunlight. It may require a fair amount of cobblestone (or stone if you're feeling fancy) but it is much easier to harvest than their design.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2DaL3kHRZA [youtube.com]

Spoiler (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41888409)

It's shelving.

Cool and fool. (1)

epSos-de (2741969) | about 2 years ago | (#41888669)

A much better way for them would be to install solar panels on each building and sell electricity to Malaysia. Farming in Singapore is the hardest way to earn money.

Time Travelling Tomatoes! (1)

fm6 (162816) | about 2 years ago | (#41888715)

the vegetables are already selling faster than they can be grown

So people are buying vegetables that haven't even been grown yet?

Farms of the Future (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41890021)

Tower farming was on one of my Farms of the Future stamps from the 1930s. As well, vertical gardens and farms already exist. However this is, it appears, Singapore's first vertical farm.

A beginning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41892049)

In the US we have found that in dense, urban, areas violence tends to be a huge problem. Some cities now use gardens and other methods to encircle a neighborhood such that the neighbors see themselves as a unit and the violence, crime and drug issues decline as a result. Not only vegetables but chickens and fish and other products as well could surround a neighborhood as a perimiter. This boundary would not only define the local turf but it could feed the community as well. And with a policy of hiring workers who live inside the neighborhood it could also take a bite out of poverty. If food is provided as a non-profit co-op the cost of food could also drop far below store prices. As far as sunlight is concerned it can be piped from buildings that need less sunlight to the vegetable gardens. Those roof tops could also house windmills to sell back to the power companies or use on site. I can just see it now. First floor -talapia, second floor- catfish, third floor trout, fourth floor shrimp, fifth floor mussels, sixth and seventh floor fish cleaning and processing, floor eight -vegetables, basement-mushrooms, roof-windmills and solar. Adjaent unit -sales of products.
                    Imagine NYC with 500 buildings producing food this way.

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