Success needs smart design
In India or elsewhere, to succeed in vertical farming, you need to put farming first and technology second. You must stop glorifying technology, and put the right tech to use at the right place. Responsible design can also help you overcome challenges like cost and carbon footprint.
Sunil Malhotra, CEO of Ideafarms, an Indian Design-in-Tech company focused on innovation and social impact sums up: “Responsible design takes a holistic view starting with sustainability and environmental concerns. We have absolutely no excuse for ecological degradation. This brings us to the topic of vertical farming and validation of what types and to what extent we should use the concept. Let’s take a look at the various dimensions that agriculture touches – carbon neutrality, use of fossil fuels, climate change, soil degradation, global warming, rapid urbanisation, food scarcity, water scarcity, health hazards, ill-effects of chemical fertilisers, energy utilisation, transportation, packaging, etc – then think of how design can help resolve these in ways that can bring a balance of priorities between planet, people and profit.”
“Next, let’s look at how to apply technology, how much to apply and for what purposes. Internet of things (IoT), drones, mobile apps and social technologies can be brought together to create value concepts that empower farmers with timely information about crop cycles and health. This is pertinent in the context of indoor vertical farming since ‘walking around’ to check how things are, is rarely an option. Data-driven knowledge, delivered in real-time and based on location context is what farmers will need for making decisions in almost the same way that the Japanese made an art of Just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing since Japan lacked space to build big factories loaded with inventory.”
“Finally, there is a need to do the math on the carbon footprint for decisions about ‘where to grow what’ to stay as carbon neutral as possible. A crazy idea might be to create a farm in a solar-powered or hybrid vehicle that is routed from destination to destination on the basis of how long it would take for something to grow from seed to harvest, thereby eliminating the need for acreage completely! Call it Design Fiction.” Who knows, that design fiction might become real one day – and it might be an EFY reader who makes it so!
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It might not be for large-scale commercial deployments, but Greenopia surely tows the vertical farming line! With the smart pots and plants from Bangalore-based start-up Greenopia, everybody will have a green thumb. Their kits contain smart self-watering pots, enriched soil and the right seeds. Currently, they have flowering plants and herbs. The sensor-embedded pots replenish the moisture in the soil on a need basis, and notify you when you need to refill water externally (once in a few days). The solution comes with a mobile app, which not only helps you to be in control of your plants – be it flowers or herbs – but also to share information with a growing community. For example, if somebody has managed to consistently grow the perfect mint in their kitchen garden, they can share the parameters that led to the perfect crop, so others can replicate it![/stextbox]
Do you like this article? You may also like our another article on vertical farming.