The Geometry of Farming.
by Bill Meikle
wherin the author confesses to a fantasy of vertical gardening taking over
I haven't thought about vertical gardening much
since I worked on a science fiction book years ago in which it played a big
part. But there I was watching the news last night and they had the last 2
finalists for the New York Trade Centre architectural contest and the one
guy proposed a vertical garden... and it got me thinking.
...and I'm in a kind of idealistic mood I get in
most summers, and the notion of
'feed the world' 'save the wilds' lurks...
I began my research while hitchiking as a youth, and I've been seeing vertical
gardens ever since.
... but as you get farther north the angle of the sun is steep.
...that's why evergreen trees are shaped the way they
are, in layers, because the
light is hitting them on the side more than the top. They can go multi-story.
and other such anectdota I've collected on this topic....
Sometimes when I drive by a big highrise
and on the south side there's little porches, one on top of the other, and
each of them has a few houseplants on it, I see vertical gardening mass produced.
Taking over the world. I see another green revolution, but not based on pesticides,
fertilizers, or seed. I see a revolution of gardening geometry!
I mean centuries ago farmers began terracing. This was a solid recognition
the shape of the field effected the amount of crop output. By controlling
erosion in steep fields-making terraced staircases for soil, you got a more
but what if the terraces are put on top of each other? Is that possible?
should the sun be at to do that?
...well ok, I've been busy and haven't really thought about it much since
the late '80's when I first worked on it, but here's the rant as I remember
So I'm in Tokoyo and I'm hanging at the university looking at this wild
research system they have. It looks a lot like a ferris wheel but with little
rice paddies going by on a little rotissary.
And since vertical gardening of all types has been my fascination
for some time already, I sit down for tea with these researchers and we talk
a bit about angle of sun, and how it effects geometry of plant.
...they admit to me that their plan uses too many fossil
fuels to power the ferris wheel.
They show me some excellent drawings in a textbook
-of lettuce systems at DisneyWorld and other vertical growing systems that
appear to follow these precepts. That is, light wants to gather against the
earth in certain shapes, and plants reflect that...or something.
One interesting fact that
they tell me is that their studies of soybeans has shown that the plant can
only absorb say 20% of the light, and could be put in the shade the rest of
the time...in my northern garden, this isn't really the case I think. Plant
need all the light they can get at 50 north.
Our design ideas really
split on latitude. I was looking at the vast lands in the north that get a
strong if short blast of sun on an angle each summer, they were
thinking closer to the equator.
There are lots of kinds of vertical
The geometrical contest
goes on amongst plants. Survival of the fittest in slow motion. Battle of
the energy absorbers. A plant is a satelite dish that will crawl towards the
signal. Survival strategies and the suntan zone...
...but it's very complex system. An ecosystem can absorb different
frequencies of light... Something like a tropical rainforest is a vertical
garden but way beyond the design abilities we have to grow food plants cheaper
Our vertical gardens are a hack. A way to grow 5 acres crop on 1 acre.
Before we go on, a quick though experiment.
If someone made a macrame plant holder and hung it to earth from a balloon
and it had 1000 pots hanging down, would they grow?
Probably, and if it was attached to an urban street corner, and took up
a 1 metre square, would you say we're growing 1000 tomatoe plants in a 1
We have some new and pretty good balloon systems. That might even work.
So would it be possible to walk into a village of starving people with no
an urban slum, and install food systems that are towers? Or on balloons?
If the sun is right overhead, the strategies have to change.
How do you get water and fertilizer up the stem to these things?
Vertical gardens can save the world?
photos of vertical gardens
taking over the world.
poised for marketing
The pot pyramid built
. How many pots could there be?
how tall could
. imagine it rotating with the sun.
What about building said gardens on an
The vertical farm project
vertical wind farm
the freedom tower