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Farming Vertical Urban Surfaces

Turn useless walls into giant, delicious salad bars
  [vote for,

Note: In the event of widespread use, this project may require several millions of Styrofoam pellets and kilometers of tubing.

Start with a roll of flexible plastic tubing (about 9 mm thick, 15 cm in diameter, and 300 meters long). Tie one end of the roll to the roof of a five-story apartment building and send the other end over the edge to the ground below. Cut it off there and securely heat- seal the bottom of the tube.

Repeat this five or six times, so as to have as many vertical columns against the side of your apartment building. Fill the columns with Styrofoam pellets and cut small holes to insert rooted cuttings (say, 5 holes per meter, slightly offset from each other).

Run lightweight hoses from the bottom of each column to a modest water reservoir nearby. Run a master hose from the ground reservoir up to another modest reservoir on the roof. There you will need to add a pump and local energy source (solar and / or small windmill) to pump water from the ground reservoir into the roof reservoir. An overflow valve on the roof reservoir will release water into each column to flow down to the ground reservoir.

Choose a hydroponic solution that meets the needs of your future crop. Mix it into either water reservoir and away you go!

Harvest: Either the tubes need to be lowered to harvest on the ground, implying the need for small pulleys on the ropes holding the columns in place, or someone may need to repel down between columns. Reaching from windows will also be possible and delightful at mealtimes.

In warm climates, the tubes should be of white plastic. In cool climates, try darker colors.

VARIATION: Run gutters back and forth, more or less horizontally, but each one leaning down and draining into the one below. Fluid would work its way down though them all by force of gravity. This would, from a distance, look like green stripes zig-zagging down the face of a building. Fill with grow-pellets, and connect reservoirs, windmill, pump, etc., as above. This variation would work on sloped surfaces, such as steep roofs.

gribbler, Jul 09 2009

folkewall http://www.holon.se...iw/openlev_en.shtml
similar to your zigzag variation, but incorporated into the wall [Loris, Jul 09 2009]

Halfbakery: Mass produced hydroponic sachets Mass_20produced_20hydroponic_20sachets
Another take on vertical farming for the masses. [jutta, Jul 09 2009]

Musée du Quai Branly http://www.cnn.com/...en.walls/index.html
"The plants themselves are housed in pockets of plastic and are fed and irrigated via a web of plastic pipes. " [Gamma48, Jul 12 2009]


       Might work on the sunward south side of city blocks if they didn't have neighbors across the street. Getting enough sunlight down far enough would be a problem.
MechE, Jul 09 2009

       I like it! repelling and collecting sound like fun.
dentworth, Jul 09 2009

       Sweeet...ooh and perhaps savory.   

       Seems like this idea has pretty much been done (link). A nice idea on paper, it remains to be seen how robust these "vertical gardens" will be. It seems like a lot of water and maintenance would be reqired. And how will it be kept clean? Bacteria may provide a nasty surprise, as has happened with Legionnaires' Disease.
Gamma48, Jul 12 2009

       Good points, Gamma48. The link you posted connects to some really incredible living walls. That is exactly the kind of thing I had in mind.   

       The next steps would be to make DIY kits that turn conventional walls to living walls; add food to those living walls; and (somehow) do it on the cheap so lots of people get into it.   

       Bacteria can be bad news: perhaps a greenhouse cleaning product could be cycled through the system between crops.
gribbler, Jul 13 2009

       I'd like to suggest a variation on your variation:   

       Two "layers" of tubes/gutters, one outside and one inside. The outside layer would slope downward left to right, and the inside layer would slope downward right to left. Each tube on an outside layer would drain into a tube on the inside layer, and vice versa.   

       Thus, instead of appearing to be one long zig-zag tube, it might appear to be a plaid pattern.   

       Water would still flow in a zigzag, but this wouldn't necessarily be obvious to observers.
goldbb, Jul 13 2009

       Layering as you suggest doubles the grow without doubling the dollars.   

       You still only need one pump, one windmill, two reservoirs and one master hose. But now you have twice as much growing space!
gribbler, Jul 14 2009

       This type of garden is in process at Coyote Point Museum in San Mateo California, using an attached Koi fish aqaurium for fertilizer. It is beautifully draped with vegetables and flowers. Not sure of the technique used exactly, but worth a visit.
kikamca, Jul 14 2009

       Seems like I saw something like this idea on Brink where they were trying to make greener cities.
RayfordSteele, Jul 15 2009


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