In an attempt to perform a little private research into the idea of vertical farming, I am trying to assemble a hydroponic garden inside a storage unit. It's not vertical, but the idea is to see how feasible it is to setup a garden inside a VERY small space, and produce practical output. Eventually, I would like to setup an aquaponic system to grow fish alongside the plants, but that will require more resources, experience and knowledge. So I'll be saving that for later, once I have this initial project underway for at least 6 months or so.
I have planned out the project pretty heavily, however, it is proving expensive. I need 2-4 6v, deep cycle batteries (like the type used in golf carts), a battery charger to.....well...recharge them, an aquarium air pump,
etc. However, I am currently having financial troubles and people are purposefully making the issue more difficult. So, I am turning to crowd sourcing in an attempt to avoid having to gather the supplies I need in more unconventional ways. I do NOT want money. Instead, I would gladly accept any lightly used 6v golf cart batteries, aquarium pumps, nursery flats (http://www.urbansunshine.com/nursery-flat-white), etc.
I already OWN the following equipment:
- air-stone/accessory splitter (systems will be non-circulatory, air-stones provide aeration)
- airline tubing
- already own hand-tools for assembly of set-up
- CFL light bulbs as light source (do NOT want CFL's shipped to me anyways:mercury
- 400w power inverter for converting 6v battery-power to 120v.
400w should be fine for now. I may eventually need 1000w inverter,
or greater, but by that time I will hopefully have more stable employment.
I still NEED the following:
- 2 to 4 6volt batteries, preferably 200+ amph rating, and in pairs or the same type. Batteries
of different AmpH ratings can cause issues apparently. I'd prefer to not have issues with
Sulfuric acid in confined spaces. I do in fact have plans for handling this issue however:
I will be placing the batteries inside a sack, nested in metal containers (metal tool
boxes) packed to the top with baking soda. This should neutralize any possible danger.
- A battery charger with the ability to charge in a variable range of voltages, i.e. 6v-48v,
thereby allowing me to charge multiple batteries at once, instead of once at a time.
- 20+ nursery flats (to allow for drainage, I'll be nesting one inside another, so I need a quite
a few flats. )
- Efficient aquarium air/water pump. Nothing too strong as it will be sharing limited battery
- 4+ Outlet-to-Lamp-Holder adapter (http://www.amazon.com/Leviton-1403-Outlet-Socket-
-12+ Twin socket adapters (Splits in a "Y" formation and holds two bulbs:
- Anything else I can think of later, and anything you can think that I haven't.
Again, I do not want money. I can get this done without money, as long as I have the supplies.
If you have anything that may be useful for this project, and which you no longer want/value, I would appreciate it if you could donate it for this project. You can write a comment here directly,
pm me, or email me at the following address: JoryRFerrell2013@hotmail.com
Background for idea
Basically this idea is based off the need for non-conventional food sources. A researcher named
Dick Despommier got me thinking about this. His work on the concept of "Vertical Farming" is cool
as hell, and is very much worth looking into if anyone has the time. I am actually trying to gain enough points on this website to host my own website devoted to projects like this. I will use it to keep everyone informed and up to date on progress with the project and share the data I collect.
I hope to scale this up to a decent size and once I have 6 months to a year of data collected, I'll be approaching agricultural departments at universities in order to seek possible financial help in making it even larger (maybe procuring land and building an actual vertical structure in the city?!).
However, getting started is going to be an issue with spotty employment.
Tomorrow, I will be posting pictures of a cad "drawing" of the entire set-up in a 5'X5'X9' (wxdxh)
storage unit, complete with plants.
Sounds like an amazing project Jory! Have you tried to contact your local authority for some help? Or maybe your local utility company or schools? Would make a great test project with enormous possibilities.
The local authorities already know my situation and idea's, but they are still unwilling to give me a job.
This indicates that I need to have something up and running to shove in their face to force them to take me seriously. I already have plans to record the data and take it to universities and possibly primary/secondary education, but this is awhile off. First I'll need a system set-up and in place to show that I can build a working project. Otherwise I just look like a crackpot who is going to waste any possible funding pushed my way, and hell....that may very well be the case.
I'll try researching small grants, but I have looked into some of that before and it seemed like you needed more serious backing and formal support before you'd be considered for a R&D Grant.
Here are 2 rough images. Nowhere near finished, but it's the rough idea.
Uhm...how do I embed images again? Tried using normal html img tags but it didn't work... :\
Note: These images are of wheatgrass trays. Wheat grass would not be the only thing I'll attempt to grow. It was simply easier to start off modelling wheatgrass.
Wheat grass could be used to feed small animals like bunnies, although other forms of food would likely be needed as supplements. Possibly duckweed? DW is high in protein apparently, but it requires standing water, which I'd like to avoid till I can build containers for it. I'll prob. attempt to raise bunnies
in order to see how many I could support by growing feed alongside them. I'm not really all tht interested in bunny meat though....
Weird. This post got tons of hits when initially posted, but now, it's received no new views a few days after creation.
You've got 52 views atm.. in 7 days..
And I'm afraid your first link is dead
this also does not work,
I guess you mean this link..
.. and there are no pictures, maybe it's too complicated ?
Until a little bit ago, I only had 45 views. :p
Anyway's, I copied and pasted those links directly from the website and tested them. i do not know why they do not work now. But yea, you got the right link. I'll re-post them. TY for the heads up on that bug. And pls vote everyone. It takes two sec's.
Usually this subforum "Amazing projects" doesn't get much attention which is disappointing considering how many "cool projects" there are out there. That may be why, as well as the fact that this project may be over some peoples heads. I have a decent background in all types of gardening as well as aquaculture, plumbing, and electrical etc.
Anyways I have some questions and comments about your design and ideas.
1. Why the batteries? I can see if you were using solar and needed storage capacity but if you have access to power to charge the batteries why don't you cut out the middle man?
2. There has been a decent amount of scholarly research done on the subject already and many similar vertical indoor gardens grown. If your project is purely experimental and research based than I think you need to first decide what your goal is and what you are trying to test. As a researcher myself I am all for it but it should present new information not just repeat what has been done many times before, just for the sake of doing it. You need an end goal/hypothesis.
3. I have always been critical of "electrically grown" plants. We've got more than enough sunshine (a free and functionally infinite source). It costs more carbon, more electricity, and more environmental damage than most traditional growing methods. Why not build a cheap greenhouse and do the same thing?
4. Another idea if you need to use the batteries for some reason is to use 12 volt DC grow lights, this would save a large amount of electricity as well as simplify your system. Homegrownlights.com has some nice 12 v LED grow light kits.
5. Cost/benefit analysis is huge in this field. No one wants to buy a $20 head of lettuce. I am all for experimenting and discovering new ideas but if it's not fiscally grounded it will just be a waste of time and energy.
There are lots of different grants out there but you need to determine what your goal is like I mentioned before. No offense but to me it sounds like you just read about it and thought it would be cool and want to do it yourself. Admirable yes, but it won't get you any funding.
Either way if you're every interested in talking about aquaponics and any other similar subject I am well versed in the subject. I am actually leaving for Nashville tomorrow to present at the World Aquaculture Conference, super excited and a little intimidated but it'll be fun!
Why are you doing it inside an opaque building, rather than in something like a greenhouse where you can take advantage of the naturally available sunlight?
Well, first off, I don't have the land/space for it. I do however have a storage unit. Also, the idea of vertical farming is to take advantage of vertical, rather than horizontal space. This means plants would be grown above each other, blocking their horizontal neighbors further towards the center of each floor, as well as below themselves, from sunlight. So, some way, some how, artificial light must be used for large "farms". So my concept will not be using natural light.
Although,I have thought about systems of mirrors for re-directing light, but this wouldn't work for very large buildings with lots of horizontal space, as the strength of sunlight apparently attenuates very quickly with each bounce off a mirror. So again, it's not practical for a large building, which would be something that really grabbed the attention of large corporations. Also, once again, I do not have the room for this particular idea anyways. Gotta create workarounds.
BTW. I no longer need batteries to pull this off. Got a source of elec now. But I will need all the other supplies, as well as a timer, which should be relatively cheap.
Glad you found an electrical supply. Getting rid of the batteries will make your system much more efficient.
I am still curious as to what you hope to learn/achieve with this project. Many similar systems have been built in the past, and are currently not anywhere near being profitable. Usually just the costs of the light and electricity alone are enough to invalidate the real world application. Unless you are growing high value products such as marijuana, or some other types of herbs.
It all depends on what you are attempting to grow, and the scale at which you operate. I picked a few plant types which should do well under EXTREMELY CHEAP CFL lighting. Using 400watts of lighting should allow me to use only 4.4kwh of electricity per day. If electricity costs 14-15cents per kwh (an extreme over-estimate to allow for unexpectedly high cost), I am looking at around .65-.70
per day to light my crop. Per year, this is about $219 total. 400w should allow me to grow several pounds of feed every 2 days. Seeing as rabbits apparently need around 2cups of feed per day, this means I could potentially raise quite a few rabbits (Maybe 10? I'd scale up from one or two as I found I could reliably grow and supply feed for more.) Wheatgrass has a pretty quick growth
rate, and combining that with duckweed, I could feed rabbits an excellent, high-protein diet. I will do more research later to figure out what other dietary needs they might need filled, but this feed should do pretty well.
Rabbit's are high in protein and apparently taste pretty decent. Rabbit meat could probably generate more demand compared to wheatgrass or duckweed alone anyways. Also, rabbits can be ready to eat within 2 months from birth. So with all the elements being relatively high-turn over, you can produce more product quickly, and you can do it year-round.
Keep in mind that the operations concerning vertical farming have been experimental. They are meant to be proof of concept, not immediate profit-generating enterprises, and still need research. The internal combustion engine, and the first plane, seemed too crazy, and inefficient, to ever be of value initially. But, thanks to engineers sticking to solving the technical issues, we now have instruments which have revolutionized our world.
BTW, farmers have already been using similar systems to provide cheap feed to their livestock: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UluPey05VEQ
So argue with this professional farmer that his research and data don't actually prove his system is profitable.
Another point to bear in mind, is the higher efficiency of water delivery, light, and disease control.
Growing hydroponically may not be as cost effective at small scales, but a larger, streamlined system is a lot more robust and less prone to crop-failure than a crop growing outdoors.
There are farmers growing lettuce and tomatoes in enormous hydro-systems (think football field sized farms). They aren't vertical, but they are still proof of concept that the proper crops, grow with the right set-up, can produce profit.
These systems should be taken vertical, reducing the need for horizontal space, freeing them to grow and scale their operations. These farms would provide cheaper food, and provide JOBS. Which is something which is severely needed by many. :\ Unfortunately, the government is currently more interested in financing bombs than backing this stuff.
Imagine skyscrapers being used to grow food for cattle. We wouldn't need to feed the cattle pesticide-riddled feed, and the cows would be leaner, i.e., HEALTHIER. You could even raise the cattle (cows, chickens, pigs, you name it) inside the skyscrapers as well. You could drastically cut down on costs for antibiotics since the cows are not as exposed to unpredictable elements, they are eating higher quality food, and potentially providing more space per animal, not being restricted by the amount of horizontal land you can access. There are ways to cut costs. It just requires research to find those cuts to be made.
I understand what you are trying to attempt but I am just trying to understand what proof of concept you are testing that hasn't already been tested a thousands times. Obviously you can grow things with electrical lighting in stacked systems. It's been done many times before with many different crops.
Maybe I almost just against the concept a little because it negates the real overarching problem here and that is exponential population growth. We shouldn't be growing food in skyscrapers, we should learning to stay within our ecological carrying capacity. If we don't get our population under control food will be the least of our worries! Call me old fashioned, but I think it is silly to make electricity to grow plants when we have a functionally infinite, free, and environmentally friendly light source.
Now when you want to build an aquaponics systems, come talk to me! That's a technology that does have a future. I like to call it them full cycle nutrient recovery systems. Aquaculture, is my specialty.
Anyway sorry for being pessimistic, just ignore me....
No worries. I am fine with criticism, especially when you are doing it directly. I only find myself annoyed by people who try to take potshots at my ideas. Anyways, I get what you are saying about the population, and the idea that the concept is "proven", but there is still a benefit to not using horizontal land for the growth of crops and livestock: A reduction in ecological destruction. We can let old land be reclaimed by nature, and have healthier food due to artificial manipulation.
Not enough people know, or care, about the idea, which means it needs more "proof-of-concepts".
I don't think anyone in my position/situation has done something like this. It would possibly help
convince people that the idea may have something to it and encourage them to try themselves.
On the population issues:
No matter what, humans are going to continue to reproduce unless extreme action is taken to reduce
the population, or programs are put in place to stop growth. A "passive program" of purposefully avoiding the funding of agricultural programs to improve food production (meaning some poor people will, quite literally, starve to death) is no different from an "active" program designed to cull and control a population. By your logic, people who are poor, through no fault of their own, WILL starve to death. Would you feel the same way if you were in their shoes? I agree that people need to watch how many kids they have, but there are legal, and more importantly, NICE ways of going about it. We could pay people good sums of money to self-sterilize and adopt a child instead of having their own offspring. But this kind of thing causes issues. What if people, in positions of power,
abuse their position and try to perform what is essentially a "controlled-breeding" program. They would attempt to purposefully keep some people poor, while throwing more resources to people they feel to be superior "stock". This same thing already occurs to a degree, it's just not as blatant
as when Hitler was around. Anyway's, now I am being pessimistic. Onward to something more light-hearted...
On use of electricity vs au naturale solar:
My counter-point concerning electricity, is that we are currently making great improvements in how we produce it. We don't need to burn coal to produce megawatts of power for these buildings. We could have devoted windmills for powering each building. And as led's improve, we can then set-up
even more power efficient lighting systems. Electricity will be much cheaper and sustainable in the end, and will support vertical (top-side and/or subterranean) production of food. Again, this has benefits besides a potentially increased yield. In the end, many parks I visit have eroded soil, and trees seem to be falling at higher rates. This is due to many factors, but most of these factors have to do with human..."folly". These parks are a great look into a small scale version of a global problem with our expansion (which is predominantly horizontal). In the end, with the current system, consumption of resources drives our economy. We consume so many resources because one, we want "stuff" and two, because selling "stuff" to other people allows us to eat each day. What would happen if we didn't need to sell so much "stuff" to not just eat, but eat healthier food in larger quantities? Well, it could mean reduced strain on resources. Then again, humans have this ability to ignore past experiences and continue expanding once they have room to grow again, despite the long term harm it imposes.
All I know is, no matter what, someone will starve to death. If humans end up eating ourselves out of home, and miraculously go extinct , the earth would almost assuredly recover once it was rid of us. So humans and animals (as a whole, not individuals who support culling as long as they aren't the "culled") are the ones with something to lose. Humans will most likely continue stripping everything they can out of the Earth, no matter what, in an attempt to survive (i.e. eat a meal at the end of the day). This will continue despite the inefficient systems we already implement. No matter what, we will jack the earth up in the short run at least, unless drastic action is taken to cull/ "stagnate" the population (purposefully created situations for stunted or declining population), or divert our consumption into some more efficient "pattern". Again, such methods would include avoidance of revamping the food production system currently in place to have more efficient output, and greater potential yield, or alternatively creating more efficient food prod. while providing education of what over-population has forced, and may continue forcing, us to do to one another (i.e. stonewall people into starvation ).
Basically, I am saying that I'll take my chances with an efficient, cleaner, food production program which may potentially tip our population over the edge, versus being part of the population which sits around and possibly dies of starvation anyways, in order that others with more money and influence can survive with the current system. If you were a kid living in Darfur, you wouldn't support
a government withholding improvements to a system which might prevent your demise would you? No. Of course not. Most sane people wouldn't.
Also, I am highly interested in Aquaponics. In fact, was originally what I wanted to set-up. I LOVE SALMON!!! But, it seems like this would be slightly more challenging to run. Tilapia, a species which would be best temperature wise, for where I intend to grow them, can take nearly a year to grow to harvest weight. This means less output for the investment. For a 10 Tilapia/year, vs having MANY LITTERS of rabbits/year for the same energy/money, I'll take the rabbits. Also, rabbits are far less work in terms of breeding, and maintenance. They also handle temp change much better (being mammals, they regulate their own temp better) so I could raise them more easily in winter with less expensive heating systems, and summer might only require a decent fan and makeshift a/c condenser for cooling (which could be computer regulated to save energy) on the hot days.
Rabbits enclosures would be easier to keep clean, it is much easier to separate rabbits with 'tudes', causing stress to their neighbors, cages are easier to make than fish-tanks, access to water wouldn't be so heavily required, etc. The list goes on.
I'd just prefer to start with a rabbit or two, and if I can reliably provide the feed stock for them,
then I'd complicate matters with fishies.
I have done some looking into buying starter "fry" and that whole bit, but it's just not going to be as easy to pull off as a DIY-project for those interested in copying it.