Want to join the food revolution? Build yourself a flatpack urban farm

Forget flatpack furniture. Also forget traditional agriculture. Coming soon to a city near you – it’s the flatpack farm. At least, that’s the ambition of Mikkel Kjaer and Ronnie Markussen, a pair of young entrepreneurs who run Human Habitat, a Danish “urban design lab”.

“We wanted to make urban farming even smarter,” says Markussen over a coffee in central Copenhagen. The duo’s aim, he says, was to design a unit that would increase food security in cities, lower the ecological footprint of food production, create jobs and easily adapt to changes in the urban landscape.

What they came up with was the so-called Impact Farm – though it’s much more fun to describe it as a flatpack farm. That’s because it’s built using an assembly-kit of ready-made components that arrive in a saved-from-scrap shipping container. Put them together and you’ve got a two-storey vertical hydroponic (or soil-free) farm, which certainly beats a Billy bookcase.

Designed to be self-sufficient in water, heat and electricity, the farm requires a footprint of just 430 sq ft – though once the shipping container has been unpacked and the farm installed, the production area stretches to 538 sq ft. Crops include greens, herbs and fruiting plants.Human Habitat was born when childhood friends Kjaer and Markussen discovered they shared a similar goal. “We wanted to reconnect people to food by giving them a green space that brings nature back into our cities,” says Kjaer. As a student of development economics at Roskilde University, Kjaer had become interested in “small-scale solutions to the most fundamental of problems – providing food”. Markussen, meanwhile, had trained as a carpenter and worked on ambitious projects such Upcycle House, which was constructed using recycled and upcycled building materials.

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This Old Factory—Now Full Of Fish And Kale—Is Revitalizing A Neighborhood

Urban Organics uses aquaponics to grow tilapia and vegetables in an old industrial space with no dirt and sun. It’s bringing jobs and production back to a downtrodden neighborhood in St. Paul Minnesota—and local food, as well. 

What’s most striking when you enter the brick bunker formerly known as Stock House No. 3 is the green, says Fred Haberman, a cofounder and partner in Urban Organics, a futuristic farm housed inside a long-vacant structure on the former site of Hamm’s Brewery in East St. Paul. “It’s mind-boggling to come into this old building and see so much greenery,” he says. “The colors are almost electric. Looking at this kale planted two weeks ago, you’d be shocked at how quickly it’s grown.”

The “secret sauce” for growing that electric-green kale, chard, and leafy herbs is the nutrient-rich wastewater pumped from four 3,500-gallons tanks of tilapia, which flows through a system of pipes and filters to irrigate and fertilize the plants before returning, clean, to the fish. The closed-loop, recirculating aquaponics system may be the largest such indoor facility in the United States, and one of the most technologically sophisticated.

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Foody Vertical Gardens Make Stacking Hydroponics Easy!

Changemaker: Greg Hendrick
Organization: Foody Vertical Gardens
Interview Conducted By: Andrew Blume <– New AVF Social Media Manager! Visit his blog

Q: For people who have never heard of Foody, what is Foody?

A: Foody builds vertical gardening towers for both consumers and commercial applications. Our towers can be soil based or hydroponic. People use Foody to grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs in a very limited space. In fact, you can grow 38-44 plants in about a 20 inch area of floor space, which is very productive.

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