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The Vertical Farm: Energy Requirements

Medical Ecology 2005

Course Director: Dickson Despommier

Students: Saad Alam Kristen Coates Stephen Lee Maribeth Lovegrove Michelle Robalino Theodora Sakata Dennis Santella Sapna Surendran Kelly Urry

Abstract: The 2005 class of Medical Ecology answered the question: What are the energy requirements for a vertical farm 48 stories high by one square city block in footprint? Based on the production of a robust variety of edible and non-edible plants and a few animal species (chicken and fish), the waste products (nonedible plants from living machines, and portions of edible plants and animal products not consumed) have the low-end potential of generating 51.6 million kWh per year. In contrast, the energy requirements for maintaining the plants and animals employing a continuous growth strategy totals 26.5 million kWh per year. On a weekly basis, a surplus of 482,415 kWh is available for other processes such as building maintenance, or it could be added back to the energy grid of the North East corridor. More energy could potentially be generated with the addition of solar panels or wind-capturing technologies. The only other large energy expenditures not included are refrigeration and pumping requirements. In all, the vertical farm envisioned in this report will not only be self-sufficient, but will have the potential of an economic windfall from the sustainable generation of energy from methane digestion of left-over organic waste. The vertical farm is what the concept of urban sustainability should and will be built around.


The Vertical Farm project is now in its third year of consideration by the Medical Ecology class at Columbia Universitys Mailman School of Public Health. The 2003 class introduced the concept of vertical farming in an urban setting; the 2004 class determined the size and general layout of a building able to feed 50,000 people. This year, the Medical Ecology class worked on energy considerations in order to answer the essential question: Can the Vertical Farm be energetically sustainable? For this initial analysis, we measured energetic sustainability by determining whether the Vertical Farms energy demands could be met by its own energy outputs.

Energy Demands and Outputs An Overview Determining energetic sustainability began with a basic framework of anticipated production and use. If energy output from production systems met the necessary energy demands, then sustainability was achieved. If the demands exceeded the output produced, then the layout and other design considerations would require modifications. In an ideal situation, output would exceed the required input, and the Farm would be able to sell energy as electricity back to the grid. Energy sources fell into two groupings. First and foremost was the methane digester, into which inedible biomass from the Vertical Farm and New York City restaurant waste could be converted to natural gas and heat. The

second group of outputs was comprised of solar energy captured on the buildings exterior as suggested in the 2004 report, and wind energy, considered by the current group and further inspired by Pierre Sartouxs conceptualization of the Living Tower. We also determined three main categories of energy demands. The first category included infrastructural components required for the actual growth of crops. This encompassed climate control and lighting systems as well as a pumping mechanism to bring blackwater to the purification system on the buildings upper levels. The second category of energy demands was comprised of storage and crop harvesting. This would include refrigeration units and facilities for preparing products for distribution. The third category of demands included office equipment and other infrastructural components not required for crop production. Elevators, positive pressurization and clean room systems, and a security system would fall into this category. Our main focus was on comparing energy production capacity from the methane digesters and alternative energy sources to the energy requirements for growing the crops. Some considerations were given to second and third category demands, although this report centers on a bare bones Vertical Farm. Can the fifty-thousand be fed energy-free?


The calculation for energy requirements was based on the amount of produce 50,000 people would consume annually. Last years analysis provided the total area that would be required if all crops were planted at once. However, the Vertical Farm needs to produce fresh crops on a weekly basis without a significant surplus such that they would have to be frozen for storage. In order to provide fresh food weekly, crops must be planted on a rolling schedule. Each patch should provide the necessary number of crops to sustain the weekly nutritional requirements, as specified in the 2004 report, for 50,000 people.

For example, if crop A needs 21 days to reach maturity there should be 3 patches planted. Patch #1 would be planted on day 1, and Patch #2 planted on day 7 and patch #3 planted on day14. As patch #1 becomes mature on day 21, patch #2 would require an additional week and patch #3 two more. As patch #1 is harvested a new patch should be planted.

As each patch progressively ripens, a new one is planted in its place. This ensures fresh crops each week, year round. The number of crops required each year is divided by 52 weeks to determine how many crops are needed weekly. The number of plants needed per week is multiplied by the amount of space each plant occupies in order to determine how many square feet each patch

should be. Next, the total area of each patch is multiplied by the number of patches to determine how many total square feet of growing area is required for one crop. This number is crucial as it dictates the total amount of light needed per crop.

For example, we need to produce 52,000 plants of crop A annually.


means that we will need to grow 1000 plants per week. If each plant takes up one square foot then an entire patch will take up 1000 square feet. If the growing time is 3 weeks, then a total of 3000 square feet will comprise the total growing area for crop A because 3 patches are needed in order to produce a constant supply. This is the area for which we will need to calculate energy requirements.

Each plant has different minimum light requirements, usually given in watts per square meter. When the lighting conditions for a particular crop could not be found, an estimated value of 25 W/m2 was used because it was the baseline light requirement for many plants. This value corresponds to 2.32 W/ft2. Multiplying the light requirements by the area produced how many watts we would need per second. To compare this value with the energy output from the methane digester, we converted this number to kilowatt hours, a measure of energy instead of power.

For example, Crop A needs 3000 ft2 to grow. It has light requirements of 2.32 W/ft2. Multiplying, we get 6960 Watts or 6960 joules per second. To light this area for an entire hour we would need 6.96 kWh.

In order to find out how much electricity is needed per day, we multiplied this number by how many hours of lighting are necessary for optimal plant growth. We used low-end values for lighting requirements to factor in a portion of light coming from natural sunlight. When the number of kWh per day was

determined, we multiplied by seven days in a week to get the energy requirements for a week. This is the main number used for comparisons. In order to get the total energy requirements for each crop per year, we multiplied this by 52 week in a year.

For example, Crop A needs 10 hours of light per day. This equates to 69.6 kWh per day to grow. Multiplying by the number of days in a week, we get 487.2 kWh per week to grow. And finally, by multiplying this by the number of weeks in a year we get 25334.4 kWh per year.

A summary of crop energy requirements is provided in Table 1, followed by a discussion of the requisite growing conditions for each Vertical Farm crop.

Table 1. Summary of Energy Requirements for Vertical Farm crops.

per Plants Tomato Eggplant Peppers Soybeans Green Peas Spinach Carrots Cucumbers Wheat Lettuce 50K 1964404 65991 369255 21550 22375 2102400 9733348 20250 week 37777 1269 7101 415 430

Watts/ area/patch(ft2) Watts/ft2 Week 7555 2855 7101 3237 3372 8.3 2.32 2.32 2.32 2.32 2.32 2.32 15.77 2.32 2.5 7.06 105352497 6676588 11532010 7570413 10952256 Watts/ year 5478329875 34182617 599664520 393661497 569517312 kWh -yearly 5.5 million 34,183 599,665 393,661 569,517 5.9 million 1.6 million 1.6 million 4.0 million 2.2 million 2.4 million

404307 117190 187179 11698 389 1558

1141189936 5937876672 30396083 31295565 76080957 41607720 478142058 1580596326 1627369380 3956209770 2163601440 24863387030

20300751 390399 32533 6078788 116899 33022 22396 22396

Strawberries 1164615

Chicken Broiler Chicken Layers Total 26,000 n/a 96200 1.2 18585840 509515384 966463680 966,464 26.5million 282488 5433 6000 1.2 13910400 723340800 723,341

Carrots Carrots, Daucus carota, originated in Middle Asia, in Afghanistan and surrounding areas. They have been cultivated for roughly 5,000 years. Early carrots were different in color and texture than the modern varieties commonly produced today. Orange roots, containing carotene, were not recorded until the 16th century in Holland. Carrots were brought to the New World with early European voyagers and were cultivated by English colonists coming to the Americas. Before they were developed as an important food crop, carrots were used for various medicinal purposes. The nutritional value of carrots has been known for a long time, particularly for their beta-carotene that gives them an orange color. After ingestion, beta-carotene is converted to Vitamin A (retinol), which plays essential roles in growth and development. Beta-carotene also aids in immune system functions and is a powerful antioxidant. A single large carrot can provide the recommended U.S. dietary allowance of Vitamin A and is also rich source of Vitamins B, C, D, E, and K. Carrot cultivars differ widely by color, size, shape, and taste. Common varieties include: Nantes Half-long, Danvers Half-long, Scarlett Nantes, A+ Hybrid, Pioneer, and Spartan Bonus. Gourmet varieties such as Little Finger grow well hydroponically.

Growth Requirements Carrots are cool-season biennials, with a swollen edible taproot. Although they can endure high summer temperatures in many areas; they grow best under


milder conditions. For the mature plant, optimal daytime temperatures are between 21-22 C (70-72 F) , while optimal nighttime temperatures are a little lower at 18-20 C (65-68 F) . Carrots do not grow well in strongly acidic soils and a pH range of 6.0 to 6.8 should be maintained for best results. In a greenhouse, it is possible to plant approximately 16 carrots per square foot. In controlled greenhouse conditions, it is possible to have 4 crops of carrots per year. As a root crop, carrots are not very well-suited to certain hydroponic systems. A comparison of carrots grown hydroponically with carrots grown in soilless media (peat/perlite) showed that those grown in soilless media had a better color and shape than those grown hydroponically. 1

Cucumbers cool as a cucumber The cucumber, Cucumis sativus is an Old World fruit, thought to originate in India; in a region lying between the Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal. Cucumbers are one of the oldest domesticated plant species, having been continuously for more than 3,000 years, your grandma has nothing on them. 2 From India, cucumbers were brought to Italy, Greece and later to China. Records have confirmed cucumber cultivation in France by the 9th century and in England by the 14th century. 3 Soon after, Cucumbers were introduced to the Americas. Columbus planted cucumbers in Haiti in 1494 and they are known to have been grown by Native Americans in Florida by around 1540. From there, cultivation of the dreaded cucumber expanded into the Northern regions of North America.
1 2

Pinnock and Bugbee, 2002. Papadopoulos, 1994. 3 Bisognin, 2002.


Today, cucumbers are grown virtually worldwide. There are three main cultivar varieties of cucumbers: fresh market (slicing), greenhouse (slicing), and processing (pickling). In the United States, throughout the early 1970s, pickling cucumbers were the preferred variety. Trends have gradually shifted and by the early 1990s, fresh market cucumbers were preferred. 4 Cucumbers are grown throughout the United States where the increasing production of greenhouse cucumbers has expanded the range of possibilities in cucumber production.

Growth Requirements Cucumbers can be grown hydroponically or in other soilless media. There are many benefits to growing cucumbers in greenhouse environments. The ability to control weather and climatic variables allows for increases in crop productivity. Cucumbers grown in greenhouses are generally parthenocarpic; they do not require pollination. European cucumbers are a popular

parthenocarpic greenhouse variety and the resulting fruits are seedless. 5 Standard cucumbers, which require bees for pollination, can not be adapted to the greenhouse environment. Cucumbers are a warm season crop, and grow optimally with high amounts of sunlight. Germinating seeds require higher optimal temperatures than the mature plants and should be grown in a separate area of the greenhouse. The temperature should be maintained at 29 C (85 F) and lowered after germination. The appearance of about three to four true leaves indicates that a

4 5

USDA Hochmuth, 2001


plant is ready for transplant. Usually, plants are ready for transplanting after 2-3 weeks, depending on temperature conditions and availability of light. During this early stage, it is important that the plant stem is kept upright (and straight). After germination temperatures should be kept between 24-27 C (75-80 F) during the day and between 20-22 C (68-72 F) at night. Cucumbers grow on vines and traditionally require a lot of space, about 89 square feet per plant. In greenhouses, cucumbers can be trained to grow vertically along trellises, reducing the horizontal space required for each plant. Support strings can be attached within a week after transplanting. Exact space requirements will depend on available light conditions and on the chosen method for pruning the plants. When adequate sunlight is readily available, cucumber plants can be grown with 4 square feet per plant. In low light conditions, twice as much space is required, to avoid overlap with the leaves of neighboring plants. Spacing between rows can be determined to suit the preferences of the grower and will depend on the type of training system selected for use. Cucumber plants have large leaves and the training systems are designed to maximize the leaf interception of sunlight to facilitate photosynthesis.

Eggplants Eggplants are a member of the Solenacae family. Eggplants are an

abundant source of fiber and carbohydrates while at the same time being low in calories.


Growth Requirements Eggplant seedlings are sprouted at 27 C (80 F), about 10 degrees warmer than the actual plants are grown, and take approximately 5.3 days to reach a size suitable for transplantation. Eggplants require approximately 10-12 hours of light a day for optimal growth. Ideal conditions for eggplant growth are warm daytime temperatures from 21-27 C (70-80 F) with slightly cooler night time temperatures closer to 16 C (60 F). Growth slows and pollination problems occur if temperatures drop below 17 C (62 F) or go above 35 C (95 F). 6 Night time temperature should not drop below 13 C (55F) or fruit set will be poor. Eggplants transpire at a rate of 29.76 g/hr/plant. 7 It is important to cool eggplant rapidly (ideal storage

temperature is between 10-12 C (50-54 F) after harvesting to prevent water loss which results in spongy flesh, wrinkling of the skin, and a reduction in surface sheen. The fruit have a shelf life less than 14 days, so rapid distribution will be necessary. 8

Green Peas Pea (Pisum sativum L.) is a leguminous crop belonging to the family leguminoseae, which contain higher amount of protein and is an excellent human food. Peas are very common nutritious vegetables grown throughout the world.

Temperature Requirements
6 7

Aguiar et al, 1998. Kirnak et al, 2001. 8 Aguiar et al, 1998.


Peas are cool weather, frost tolerant vegetables that require air temperatures to remain below 27 C (80 F) for best germination and plant growth. Seedlings will emerge in 7-10 days at an ambient temperature of around 13-18 C (55-65 F). Peas do poorly when temperatures exceed 27 C (80 F). The vegetation period of the field peas has a length of 100-120 days. The minimum temperature during germination is 0.5-3 C (33-37 F). During germination the demand for water is high. After emergence, for short intervals green peas survive at temperatures as low as -6 to -4 C (21 - 25 F). Temperatures above 27 C (80 F) shorten the growing period and adversely affect pollination. The flowering starts after 30 days from emergence for early cultivars and 40-50 days for late cultivars. The optimum temperature for flowering is 15-18 C (59-64 F). Peas are harvested approximately 3 weeks after full bloom. The optimum harvest time is when the pods are filled and the peas are still soft and immature. Degree-day accumulation is used to determine when peas are ready to harvest. Pea cultivars mature once 1100-1600 degree-days have accumulated, using a base temperature of 4 C (40o F). Most varieties of pea produce white to reddish-purple flowers, which are self-pollinated. Each flower will produce a pod containing four to nine seeds.

Pea varieties either have indeterminate or

determinate flowering habit. Indeterminate flowering


varieties will flower for long periods and ripening can be prolonged under cool, wet conditions. Indeterminate varieties are later in maturity ranging from 90 to 100 days. Determinate varieties will flower for a set period and ripen with earlier maturity of 80 to 90 days. Field pea is sensitive to heat stress at flowering, which can reduce pod and seed set. Indeterminate varieties are more likely to compensate for periods of hot, dry weather and are more adapted to arid regions. Determinate, semi-leafless varieties that have good harvestability are more adapted to the wetter regions

Maximum Minimum Crop Temperature (C/F) Temperature Range (C/F) Growth Optimum Growth


Temperature (C/F)

Peas 3-6 / 38-42

10-16 / 55-65

21-24 / 70-75

Water Requirements Peas require regular watering throughout growth for best production. Water needs are most critical after flowering. Lesser amounts of water can lead to pod abortion, reduced seed size and increased pod stringiness.

Light Requirements


Green pea plants require some 12-14 hours of light every day for optimum growth. If these plants receive 1500-4000 lumens per square foot for the required period out of every 24 hour period from sulfur lamps during the entire day, they should do well.

Special Requirements Green peas are part of the vine family and are climber plants, so they may be supported on a short trellis or they can be grown as a mound. The pH of the water supplied should be in the range of 6.0 to 7.0. Green peas belong to the leguminous family, so the Vertical Farm should use Rhizobium inoculated seeds to aid the plants in their nitrogen fixation process.


A staple vegetable of the American diet, lettuce is also well-suited for hydroponic growth. The Cornell Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) program has done extensive research on lettuce, and optimal conditions were provided in a handbook for the production of 150-gram heads of leaf lettuce.


Figure 1. Lettuce hydroponically grown in ponds by Cornell CEA. Photo from cture3.jpg

Growth Requirements According to Cornell CEA, a head of lettuce may be hydroponically produced in 36 days, over which each plant goes through three developmental stages requiring separate growing conditions. The first stage is germination, during which a lettuce seed is sown and kept under 50 mol m-2 s-1 of PAR light (6.4 Watts per square meter) for 24 hours. For this initial period, the temperature requirement is 20 C (68 F), which should be raised to 25 C (77 F) for the second stage of growth. During the second stage, the lighting increases to 250 mol m-2 s-1 (32 Watts per square meter), and the timing remains 24 hours. These first two stages take place in a plug tray with a soil matrix. The third stage of growth occurs at the 11th day, when each young head of lettuce is transplanted onto floater trays and placed in a pond of nutrient solution. At this point, the lighting and temperature schedules shift to a day and night regime, with 10-hour days and 14-hour nights. Daytime light should be provided 18

at 17 mols m-2 day-1 (25 Watts per square meter) of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), with a day temperature of 24 C (75 F). Nighttime temperatures should dip to 19 C (65 F). In order to keep the leaves from wilting, relative humidity should not exceed 70%. 9

Peppers Peppers are a member of the Solenacae family and have very similar growing requirements to eggplants, their close relatives. source of vitamins A and C. Peppers are a rich

Growth Peppers require approximately 9-10 hours of light per day for optimal growth. Research exploring the practicality of hydroculture in outer space has tested the possibilities of growing pepper plants under narrow spectrum low power consuming light emitting diodes (LEDs), but with poor results in terms of crop yields. They have determined that anatomical changes in stem and leaf quality were correlated with amount of blue light -previously establish to be important in the formation of chlorophyll, chloroplast development, stomatal opening, and enzyme synthesis. 10 However, the understanding of wavelength requirements using narrow spectrum LEDs promises the development of low energy compact growth. Ideal night and daytime temperatures for pepper plants

All information in this paragraph is from Cornell Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA). A Handbook for the Production of CEA-grown Hydroponic Lettuce. 2004. Sheurger et al, 1997.



are the same as those for eggplants. 11,12 Peppers grow at an optimum humidity of 50-60% 13 and relative humidity generally reduces transpiration rates, although higher transpiration rates were found to occur at higher relative humidity under conditions of high light and low osmotic potential of the nutrient solution. 14 Fruit quality is of primary importance in bringing peppers to market. Hydroponic

production of peppers will drastically reduce losses to pests such as mites and worms which often result in large crop losses. 15 Plants grow to a height of 30cm and require a soil pH of 5.5 Pepper seedlings are sprouted at higher temperatures than plants are grown and take approximately 7.6 days to reach maturity. Recently developed methods exploring methodology for determining ideal temperature conditions for plant growth have suggested that pepper seedling are ideally grown at daytime temperatures of 16-20 C (61-68 F) and a night time temperatures of 24-26 C (75-79 F). 16

Potatoes Historians record that the Spaniards found potatoes in Peru at the time of their conquest of the country beginning in 1524. The native home of the potato is often claimed to be in the Andes of Peru and Bolivia at

11 12

Sheurger et al, 1997. Janes, 1970. 13 Sysotyeva and Kharkina, 2000. 14 Janes, 1970. 15 Ahn, 1996. 16 Sysotyeva and Kharkina, 2000.


altitudes of 4,000 to 6,000 feet (1220 to 1829m), where its very close botanical relatives flourish even today. 17 The name "potato" is believed to have originated from the Indian name, "Batatas. 18 The potato is one of about 2,000 species in the family Solanaceae. 19 This family includes such plants as tobacco, tomato, eggplant, pepper, horse nettle, bittersweet, ground cherry, and petunia. 20 Botanically, the potato cultivated in North America, Europe, and other lands is Solanum tuberosum. 21

Growing Systems High potato yields have been produced with aggregate (peat/vermiculite), partial aggregate (a thin layer of arcillite) and NFT. 22 For the potato, either a wire mesh or twine fences are necessary for foliage to support a and

restriction growth area. 23


17 18

Johnson, 1997. Ibid. 19 Ibid. 20 Ibid. 21 Hutchinson et al, 2005. 22 Bula et al, 1996. 23 Ibid.


Information describing the NFT process for potatoes was not available, so the following information is based on soil-grown potatoes. The optimum soil temperature for germination is 65-70 F. The amount of days to germinate at optimum temperature is between 10-14 days. 24

Growth Requirements The potato has long been classified as a short day, cool season crop, but does very well at high temperatures when water is supplied in uniform quantities sufficient to meet evapotranspiration demands. The highest yields are currently being produced in areas where the daytime temperature is often over 100F (38C) during the hottest part of the growing season. The optimum temperature for growth is 16C (60.8 F). 25 For potatoes, the ideal humidity should be between 70% - 85%. 26 The optimum pH for growth is 5.8 6. 27

Water Requirements Water management and/or rainfall are probably the most important factors determining yield and quality of potatoes. Knobby tubers, growth cracks, internal necrosis, blackspot, hollow heart, heat sprouting, and other disorders are directly related to amount and distribution of water during the growing season. While the amount of water required for optimum growth of potatoes varies somewhat with variety, humidity, sunlight, and length of growing season, the seasonal

24 25

Motes and Cartwright, 2005. Mackowiak et al, 1997. 26 Ibid. 27 Ibid.


requirement for varieties in all areas will be at least 18 area-inches (46 cm) of water. It may be as much as 30-36 area-inches (76-91 cm) of water in some areas. 28

Harvest Timing of harvest is determined by whether or not the potatoes will be stored. To improve storage life, tubers are left in the field until they reach physiological maturity. At this time, usually about 90 to 100 days from planting, the skin or periderm thickens and 'sets', improving storage life. Dry matter content peaks at about this time, improving both storage life and processing quality. 29

Soybeans Soybean based foods have become popular in North American markets, moving from health food groceries to supermarkets. This movement took on momentum in 1999 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration decided to permit health claims to be placed on edible soybean products. Furthermore, the emerging markets in Asia have increased the demand for soybean-based foods (soy food). Soy foods include tofu, miso, soy sauce, natto, tempeh, soymilk, soy flour, soy oil, concentrates and isolates, and soy sprouts. Although its first

commercial uses were for oil, soybean has since become a valuable source of

28 29

Dalton and Smith, 1984. Pack et al, 2005.


protein. The protein fraction of soybean seeds accounts for about 65% of the value of a bushel of soybeans.

Temperature Soybeans develop well under a wide range of temperatures, although conditions below 20 C (68 F) are considered inappropriate. Very low temperatures during germination extend the period from planting to emergence. Seed germination occurs at temperatures from 5-40 C (41-104 F); however, for rapid germination the temperature should be around 30 C (86 F). At 15.5 C (60 F) emergence occurs in seven to ten days and if the temperature at the time of planting is above 20 C (68 F), emergence will occur in three to five days. The major world soybean-producing areas have average temperatures of 23-25 C (73-77 F). Temperatures above 40C (104 F) are known to have adverse effects on growth rate, flower initiation and pod-set. The effects of such high temperatures on soybean performance are particularly severe if moisture is limited. Floral induction and reproductive development in soybean are particularly sensitive to night temperature, with the optimum being between 21-27 C (70-81 F). Flower initiation is slowed by temperatures below 24-25C (75-77 F) and inhibited at 10C (50 F) or below observed that, with cool days and warm nights, floral induction was practically normal even though plant development was less. In contrast, with warm temperatures during the day, a 10 C night temperature limits the number of flowers initiated. The rate of pod formation is also very sensitive to temperature. Temperatures below 22C (72 F) decrease pod


initiation and no pods are formed when temperatures are lower than 14C (57 F).

Light Requirements The soybean has a juvenile stage after emergence when it is especially sensitive to temperature and insensitive to day length. Reports have indicated that induction of flowering in soybean is inhibited by a light intensity greater than 5.3 Lux. Therefore, the soybean's biological day would be the duration of the light period with an intensity greater than 7.75 Watts per centimeter square. A minimum number of inductive nights is needed for floral induction and flowering. A minimum of two to three long nights (16 hours of darkness per eight hours of light) is needed to cause differentiation of floral parts. A minimum of four long nights, and more normally five or six, is needed to cause visible flower expression or anthesis. Continuation of critical short-day induction up to and beyond anthesis accentuates flower production, while reduced flower production results if long days occur before or even during the flowering period. Soybean lines differ in their response to photoperiod and vary widely with respect to the critical day length at which flower formation is initiated. Earlier maturing soybean strains are less sensitive to photoperiod than are later maturing strains. Morphological changes that accompany early flowering are reductions in node number, height, leaf area and, possibly, yield. Intensities of flowering, pod-set and seed-fill are also influenced by photoperiod. Rates of floral initiation and pod formation are most rapid under


continuous short days. Flower and pod abortion is increased greatly if the plants are exposed to long days. The intensity of dry matter partitioning to pods, the rate of nitrogen remobilization from leaves, the rate of growth pod or seed, seed size and seed yield are reduced when soybean is exposed to long days during podfill.

Water Requirements The water requirements are given by the crop coefficient (kc) in relation to reference evapotranspiration (ET) and kc is: during the initial stage 0.3-0.4 (20 to 25 days), the development stage 0.7-0. 8 (25 to 35 days), the mid-season stage 1.0-1.15 (45 to 65 days), the late-season stage 0.7-0.8 (20 to 30 days) and at harvest 0.4-0.5. Adequate water must be available for germination. Water deficiency or excess water during the vegetative period will retard growth. Growth periods most sensitive to water deficits are the flowering and yield formation periods, particularly the later part of the flowering period and early part of the yield formation (pod development) period when water deficits may cause heavy flower and pod dropping. Soybean has two well-defined critical periods with respect to water requirements: planting to emergence and pod filling. During germination, either an excess or deficit of moisture is prejudicial to uniformity in distribution and number of plants area, although an excess is much more limiting than a deficit. A moisture deficit during the pod-filling period is more detrimental to yield than a deficit during flowering. To achieve maximum yields, an adequate supply of water must be available during the critical seed-development period.


Water use by the soybean crop increases as the crop grows and is maximal during flowering and pod-fill. When water deficits occur in the first stages of vegetative development, soybean recovers better than other crops. Soybean can tolerate short periods of moisture stress because it has a deep root system and a relatively long flowering period. Loss of early flowers and pods may be compensated for by those produced later if moisture becomes available.

Special Requirements Soybean is a leguminous plant and usually obtains its nitrogen with the help of nitrogen fixing bacteria Rhizobium, which are naturally present in soil. When growing them hydroponically, it is essential to inoculate the growing medium with Nitrogen supplements to help the plants in their nitrogen intake. The water supplied to the soybean plants should have a pH between 6.6-7.0

Spinach Although spinach can grow in various temperature gradients, it also requires different temperature gradients at different points in the growth cycle. For example, from the start of germination to the end of the growth cycle, spinach could start off at temperatures as low as negative 9 C and end with temperatures at 32 C. But overall, spinach plants grow optimally in environments where it is hot and the days are long with sufficient amounts of moisture. 30



Growth Requirements Although spinach is a very hardy plant that can withstand extreme temperatures, it is more efficient to grow spinach indoors. Although spinach has various temperature ranges in which it can grow, optimum temperatures and environmental conditions can be used to maximize the production of spinach. Cornell Universitys agricultural and horticultural departments have joined to create a website dedicated to promoting a Controlled Environmental Agriculture, called Cornell CEA. Spinach has been optimally grown in their facilities and can be manipulated in such a way to provide a constant supply of spinach over time. The work done at Cornell CEA contributes to our positive outlook for the success of a Vertical Farm. Cornell CEA facilities hold certain environmental conditions constant at each stage of the growing cycle for the spinach plant to mature optimally. The germination phase covers 8 days, after which the spinach enters the maturation phase, during which Cornell CEA uses nutrient film technology for the spinach plants to mature. Lighting requirements also differ for the germination phase and the maturation phase. When the seeds are starting out, they require no light at all and are gradually assimilated into the light as the growth cycle progresses. 31 Cornell CEA has grown spinach plants in 33-day cycles, from germination to harvest. The strict cycle of germination and maturation for the spinach ensures that by the time of harvest, the spinach plants will be fresh and ready for transport to market. At this point, storage considerations are to be worried about. Again, there are separate environmental storage conditions that differ from

Cornell CEA. A Handbook for the Production of CEA-grown Hydroponic Spinach.


previous growing conditions that need to be taken into account so that a fresh spinach plant arrives ready to be sold to the consumer. 32

Post-Harvest Considerations A cold environment is optimal for the maintenance of the plant post harvest. Maturing spinach plants are generally in a hot environment during the maturation phase, and when the time comes to harvest, the heat of the plant poses a potential problem. Because of this, spinach should be slowly cooled for up to one day at most. Then, to ensure freshness, it should be distributed to the consumer as quickly as possible. Spinach becomes delicate post-harvest, and the leaves are susceptible to all sorts of damage from mechanical and environmental influences. 33

Strawberries Strawberries are an attractive crop for the Vertical Farm for a variety of reasons. A popular fruit with a high nutritional value, strawberries also have much to gain from a controlled, indoor environment. Fluctuations in temperature and humidity can cause poor development of the berries, and their susceptibility to pests and fungus demands the use of toxic chemicals such as methyl bromide when grown outdoors. In the Vertical Farm, variations in weather patterns are no longer of concern, and exposure to pathogens may be carefully controlled.

32 33

Ibid. Ibid.


Figure 2. Strawberries grown at the University of Florida Protected Agriculture Greenhouse. Photo from

Growth The growing cycle of a strawberry plant may also be divided into an early growth stage and a mature plant stage culminating in several months of harvest. During early growth, plants are generally developed from runner tips rather than seeds, and specialized nurseries provide young daughter plants to farmers. The Vertical Farm would likely purchase these plants synonymously to its purchase of seeds or plugs for other crops. This way, the Farm would be able to focus on mature growth and harvest. Though specific varieties may require special growing conditions, most strawberry plants thrive in a temperate to Mediterranean maritime climate such as that found in coastal California and parts of Florida. For a controlled environment, this translates to daytime temperatures of 20 C (68 F) and


evening temperatures of 14 C (57 F). 34 Daytime for strawberries in the Vertical Farm should last 16 to 18 hours, although some cultivars require days shorter than 14 hours in order to flower. 35 In general, daytime is determined by lighting at 600 to 650 mol m-2 s-1 of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR). 36 This approximates 80 Watts per square meter. A potential obstacle for growing strawberries in the Vertical Farm is pollination. When grown outdoors, strawberry plants may be pollinated by wind or insects. In greenhouses, Paranjpe et al (2003) suggest that commerciallyavailable bumblebees be introduced 15 days after planting; however, use of bees may pose too great a risk of pest introduction to the Vertical Farm environment. Therefore, a sufficient artificial breeze must be generated by the climate control system or the plants must be labor-intensively pollinated by hand. The 2004 Vertical Farm Report determined that, in order to feed 50,000 people, 1514 tons of strawberries should be produced over the course of a year. If each strawberry plant could produce 1.2 kg (2.6 lbs) of fruit, then the Vertical Farm would need approximately 1,165,000 plants per year. If the growing and harvesting cycle requires approximately 7 to 8 months, then about 1.6 growing cycles fit within one year. Thus, about 728,000 plants should be planted per growing cycle. If each plant requires about one square foot of space, then 728,000 square feet of growing space is necessary for strawberries. This number is significantly less than what was determined for the 2004 Report, which claimed that 1,808,337 square feet should be dedicated per year
34 35

Takeda and Hokanson, 2002. Takeda, 1999. 36 Ibid.


to strawberries. This difference may be attributed to a number of factors. First, the 2004 class most likely did not factor in the time needed for a growing cycle; their number is close to the figure reached if all the strawberry plants were grown at once. Second, the 2004 class may have allotted more space than necessary per plant. Finally, last years estimates of the amount of fruit produced per plant may have been lower. The figure 1.2 kg per plant was achieved with the Camarosa variety over a harvest period of 6 months. 37

Tomatoes The wild tomato was thought to have been grown in South having from the

America, carried

Conquistadors tomato seeds

Americas to Spain and Portugal in the mid-sixteenth century. The fruit was small, somewhat similar to todays cherry variety. 38 The Latin name, Lycopersicon, means wolf peach. The modern scientific name is Lycopersicon esculentum which means edible wolf peach. The English word tomato probably derived from the seventeenth century Spanish tomate which, in turn, came from the Aztec xitomate. When the tomato reached England, people thought the fruit to be poisonous. The French, in turn, believed it to be an aphrodisiac, and called it pomme damour which

Takeda, 2003. Johnson, 1997.



means apple of love. It was not until 1820 that the tomato was accepted as useful produce in the United States. 39

Growing Systems For the Vertical Farm, we will be growing tomatoes using the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) which is a media-free system of production that features a flow of nutrient solution inside growing channels that contain the root system of the plants. This technique is used in many commercial and hobbyist tomato production systems. Tomato plants thrive in well-run water culture systems. However, like with any re-circulating system, monitoring nutrient levels is essential for commercial production.

Seedlings Seeds should be kept at around 24oC to 27oC (75F 80F ) for optimum germination and emergence should occur within 7-10 days. 40 Seedlings for transplanting will be available around 3 - 4 weeks after sowing. Optimum temperatures for tomato production are between 25oC to 30oC (77F 86F). 41 In temperatures below 15oC (59F) plants grow slowly, fruit set is poor and fruit ripens slowly. Above 35oC (95F) plants wilt and growth rate is poor. 42 Intensity of

39 40

Ibid. Bugbee et al, 1984. 41 Ibid. 42 Ibid.


supplementary lighting (taking the form of cool white, high output fluorescent or high intensity discharge sodium vapor lamps) should be about 800-1000 footcandles at the plants surface. 43 Good circulation is necessary for proper cooling, heating, CO2 replenishment, and removal of undesirable gases, such as ethylene.

Humidity and Light Requirements For tomatoes, the ideal humidity should be between 65 and 75% during the night and 80 to 90% during the day. Tomato yields and fruit quality are lower at lower vapor pressure deficits (VPD) (i.e. higher humidity). 44 Misting and fogging systems may be used to increase humidity and decrease temperatures. However, if used improperly, these systems can greatly increase the incidence of mildews and plant diseases.

Water Requirements Good, consistent water quality is essential for hydroponics. Fresh water free from pesticide runoff, microbial contamination, algae, or high levels of salts must be available throughout the year. In the case of the Vertical Farm, will be supplied water by the Living Machine that will be present in the buildings infrastructure.


43 44

Logendra et al, 2001. Dalton and Smith, 1984.


Flavor is the ultimate test of a good quality hydroponic tomato. However, there are other factors that determine overall quality: color, texture, firmness, shelf life, and nutrient levels are all important quality indicators. The level of maturity at the time of harvest is another important factor affecting final fruit quality. Tomatoes are often harvested mature but unripe, often called the "mature green" stage. 45 Mature fruit produce large quantities of ethylene, which will hasten ripening, increasing the carotenoids (red and yellow colors) and decreasing the chlorophyll (green color). 46 Therefore, harvested fruit should be stored in well-ventilated areas, or in a low oxygen or high carbon dioxide atmosphere. The fruit should never be exposed to temperatures below 54 F (12.5 C) or chilling injury may result. In tomatoes, chilling injury can appear as pitting, shriveling, softening, uneven ripening, seed discoloration, or increased susceptibility to rot. Optimum ripening temperatures for tomatoes are 68-72 F (20-22 C), and an ethylene treatment of 100 ppm for 24 to 48 hours can be effective in producing evenly ripe fruit. 47


45 46

Ibid. Ibid. 47 Bugbee et al, 1984.


USU-Apogee is a super dwarf wheat variety developed at Utah State University for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 48,49 In addition to having a maximum growing height of 50 cm, the USU-Apogee wheat variety is resistant to calcium induced leaf tip chlorosis. Chlorosis is a yellowing of the leaf tissue as a result of the lack of chlorophyll. 50

Growth Requirements Dwarf wheat plants, on average, mature within 60-65 days with 24 hours of light. 51,52 The hydroponic technique most often used is the nutrifilm technique using perlite medium. 53 Optimal lighting conditions are influenced by factors High pressure sodium

such as light quality, type and distance from the plants.

lamps are commonly used for supplemental lighting and PAR should be about 400 mol m-2 s-1 or 52 Watts/m2. Growing conditions vary slightly from pre-anthesis and post-anthesis. Before anthesis, wheat needs a higher growing temperature, 25 C (77 F) and post-anthesis the growing temperature drops to 17 C (62.6 F). 54,55 Wheat should also be grown at a humidity level of about 70%. If humidity levels reach 80% and remain there, an increased chance of disease can occur, particularly from the fungus Tilletia indica. 56 This fungus causes karnal bunt disease which

48 49

B. Bugbee and G. Koerner, 1997. Buck et al, 2004. 50 Ibid. 51 Bugbee and Koerner, 1997. 52 Buck et al, 2004. 53 Steinberg et al, 2000. 54 Bugbee and Koerner, 1997. 55 Buck et al, 2004. 56 Schuster.


does not seem to affect the quality or quantity of the wheat. Due to regulation, it does effect the selling of wheat infected with this disease. 57

Given wheats small growing space and given the 10 foot ceilings proposed in our Vertical Farm complex, this type of wheat can be stacked, decreasing the overall amount of space needed. As with the other Vertical Farm crops, we plan to have continuous cultivation. For USU-Apogee wheat, it is possible to grow between three to four generations per year with yields ranging from 240 to 600 bushels per acre.

Roughly 5.4 million kilograms of wheat

will be needed annually to feed 50,000 people with two-thirds being non-edible material. 60 Out of the 5.4 million kilograms of total biomass produced, 3.5 million kilograms stalks, chaff, leaves and roots will be fed into the methane generator composting system. 61 Using the lower end of the yield for wheat, 240 bushels per acre, approximately 1.83 million square feet will be required.

Chicken Broilers A 3 ounce portion of poultry every other day is recommended in order to effectively meet the minimum nutritional demands. In order to feed 50,000

people, 374,400 chickens need to reared annually. This figure takes into account
57 58

Bonde and Smilanick Bugbee and Koerner, 1997. 59 Buck et al, 2004. 60 Ibid. 61 Ibid.


the high end 18% mortality rate persistent among fowl. Each week 5,900 chickens are slaughtered, not including 1,300 which die before reaching maturity. Because the aim of the vertical farm is to provide fresh meat on a weekly basis different flocks of broilers have to be grown in a manner that ensures a new flock reaching maturity each progressive week. The same rotation is

achieved with plants in order to provide a steady supply of fresh food each week. Since the time needed until chickens reach maturity is 10 weeks, 10 separate flocks should be growing at any one time. As one group of chickens is slaughtered another group should be hatching. Methods must be used that sustain 72,000 chickens, 10 flocks each consisting of 7,200 chickens, at any time in the year. The ideal situation would have all chickens above 4 weeks within one coupe. This proves to be problematic for two reasons. First, keeping flocks of different ages together promotes pecking because a chain of hierarchy is established. Pecking prevents the younger chickens from getting food and in effect from growing. Second, gathering chickens of proper age amongst a crowd of all ages would become more labor intensive than picking them from one

coupe designated to a single age group. Calculations made in the previous

years report stated that each chicken needed 6 sq ft to grow. This measurement translates into 432,000 total sq ft needed or almost 5


floors of the vertical farm dedicated to poultry production. techniques, such as those employed by

More efficient chicken


farmers require assigning .45 sq ft per chicken.

While many people may

consider this inhumane, it remains the standard in the poultry industry which supplies meat to popular demand establishments like Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonalds. Under this premise each flock would occupy 3240 sq ft. A single 90,000 sq ft floor could easily house all ten flocks. Each flock should be separated as a cautionary measure against disease. To provide more space for each chicken, a central corridor should give way to five 7,200 sq ft rooms on each side that have twenty foot ceilings (two-floor), see diagram. Each room would be 120 x 60, leaving a maintenance room of 120x 60 on each side of the



The single floor height of 10 ft would be inadequate because waste gases (ammonia) would build up too quickly requiring the ventilation system to be run twice as fast. The ventilation system must be carefully designed to ensure the room does not become a wind tunnel where the chickens may become sick as the result of a strong draft. Providing chickens with more space then in

conventional poultry farming will be less stressful on the chickens and maintain good relations with animal rights activists. Broilers are not raised within cages but are instead allowed to occupy one common ground. All of the food supplies are provided in dishes suspended from central cones where food is stored. The central cones are placed on an automated belt that refills the food as needed. The Chore Time Model H2 Plus feeder is specially designed to grow as the chicks grow and eliminates the hazard of entrapment and bruising as is common with other feeders.

Noxious odors are emitted from animal farms and many activist group have sounded a concern for this growing problem. A solution to combat the

problem rests on mesh floors. Each room will be lined with mesh floors, researched to provide the least strain on chicken's feet. At daily intervals the floor will be raised by wires running down from the ceilings, raising the chickens


off the ground, away from ammonia and feces soaked wood shaving. The floors would quickly be cleaned, new shavings put down, and the mesh platform returned to the floor with wastes being discarded into the methane digester. Each enclosure will have double-pane windows that allow sun light in during the day and are covered at night to reduce heat loss. A combination of both natural sunlight and fluorescent light will help provide 23 hours of illumination within the growing room. The floor setup mentioned above covers 72,000 sq ft and

requires 1.5 watts per sq ft, this would consume 723,341 kWh per year. The nearly constant supply of light enables the chickens to feed at their will rather than being restricted to the day light hours associated with a circadian rhythm. The light is turned off for one hour to let the chickens adjust to the dark as would be the case in an electrical outage. Lights are kept at a low intensity to discourage aggressive behavior and in an effort not to over exert the growing chickens. The Lubing 2 Nipple Aqua

system offers the best way to provide a constant fresh supply of water to the flock. Each growing room

would be equipped with 600 dispersion tips each capable of supplying 12 chickens. A fresh water supply is pumped to each station. The largest advantage to using the Nipple over conventional water bowls is how much water is saved. Bowls and troughs spill water which soaks into the shavings promoting


fungal diseases on the feet of chickens which in time leads to death from inability to walk and attain food. The nipple's yellow color promotes growth in chicks because it is easily identifiable water source. As a result fewer chicks die of dehydration within the early weeks when water is an invaluable asset. The installed cooling within system each room

is unique to the poultry industry and its application may be

warranted in other areas of the vertical farm. The Top Climate System works on the principle of direct

evaporative cooling. It effectively humidifies, cools, and binds any air-borne dust particles. Water is shot into the air as a fog through a high-pressure nozzle system at 70 bar. 'The fog immediately evaporates upon contact with the air and takes heat with it, thus lowering the temperature of the growing room air. This system allows humidity levels to be increased to optimal values as is important for younger chicks. When the vapor binds dust it allows chickens to breathe healthier air than that in commercial housing. In addition certain medications can be applied in an even and consistent manner through the high pressure nozzles. In addition, an entire floor will be dedicated each to chicken manufacturing and refrigeration.

Chicken Layers


According to the 2004 Vertical Farm Report, one egg provides 74 calories, 6.3 grams of protein, and 4.97 grams of fat. Based on the nutrients gained from one egg, the 2004 report approximated that 26,000 layers are necessary to feed 50,000 people with each chicken producing an average yield of 300 eggs per year. This yield is specific to the variety of chicken called the Leghorn, one of the most notably productive. It takes approximately 10 weeks for a Leghorn to reach reproductive capacity. The Leghorn also has a remarkable ability to comfortably live in smaller spaces than other varieties of chicken. The Leghorn cannot, however, be used for eating purposes. If necessary, a variety of chickens called the Australorp may be used for both laying and broiling functions. The Australorp is less productive, laying up to 170 eggs per year.

Space Requirements Minimum welfare standards for space must incorporate the fact that an adult egg-type hen weighing three to four pounds needs the following number of square inches to perform basic functions. 62,63

To stand: 74 square inches

62 63

Poultry Digest, 1990, p. 44. Mench 1992, pp. 114-117.


To turn: 197 square inches To stretch: 138 square inches To flap wings: 290 square inches To ruffle feathers: square 135 inches To preen: square 178 square inches To scratch on the ground: 133 square inches.

In accordance with such standards, the 2004 vertical farm project team calculated that each layer requires 3.7 square feet of space and that each broiler requires six square feet of space. This translates into a total of 95,232 square feet of space necessary for egg laying hens alone.

Lighting The 2004 report approximated that for year-round egg production, it is necessary to provide ample lighting for layers. Some experts suggest that a single electric bulb per 40 square feet and a south-facing window would be adequate to ensure year-round egg production. Another source suggests one 25-40 Watt bulb located above the water and feed at a ceiling height of 40 sq ft. Specifically, it is stated that 14 to 16 hours of consistent light per day for maximum year round production is best. If this cycle is not maintained wherein light is decreased, the chickens will stop producing. An inexpensive time clock


Awoniyi, 2003.


will be installed to turn lights on in morning hours and to let the birds roost during the natural period of sunset..

Special Requirements Chicken layers are relatively efficient in converting feed to body mass. Each chicken is estimated to need 2 kg of feed per 1 kg of body mass per day, approximately 208,000 lbs of feed are required for chicken layers. Waterers will be necessary, providing at least 5 gallons of water for every 100 birds daily. The space of the waterers should be one inch of water space per bird. There will need to be fresh water provided daily. These waterers much be placed so that the lip is level with the back of the chicken. 65

Temperature and Humidity Requirements McDowell (1972) observed that air-temperature is an important bioclimactic variable that affects the physiological function and production of chicken layers. The optimal temperature for high productivity and best health for laying hens is between 15 and 30C (59-86 F).

Biomass Remaining Past Harvest Waste management is a special consideration for chicken layers. The 2004 project team calculated that one chicken layer generates an estimated 40 lbs of waste annually. This waste is primarily composed of phosphorus, nitrogen,

Herrmann and Hesse, 2002.


and potassium and can be used as fertilizer. For example, a proportion can be used to feed the tilapia. The remainder can be used for methane generation. Collecting and storing guano prior to use will require innovative new engineering approaches. A special design to immediately capture and divert chicken waste may indeed be useful. Excretory ammonia in the form of uric acid is a colorless irritant gas produced by the microbial breakdown of nitrogen, is prominent in poultry manure. This activity is not a problem under conditions where birds travel about in small groups over wide areas, but in indoor facilities the breakdown of poultry manure releases a concentration of poisonous ammonia gases that is potentially toxic. If exposed directly, poultry workers could experience eye, lung, and nasal irritation as well as headaches, nausea, wheezing, coughing and other respiratory problems. Upon exposure, the health of chicken layers may be at risk due to the fact that chickens need three times more air volume than humans per kilogram of body weight to meet their specific oxygen requirements Consequently, the Division of Animal Health of New Jersey Agriculture in collaboration with United Poultry Concerns, Inc. recommend that ammonia must not exceed 15 ppm to maintain minimum bird welfare. Further considerations regarding the humane standards that must be met for the raising, keeping, care, treatment, marketing, and sale of poultry are enumerated in their document entitled, Humane Treatment of Domestic Livestock.



There are different areas that Tilapia farming must take into account for a successful aquaculture system. The layout of the facility is where the tanks are placed. Flow scheme, details where the water from the tanks go. In particular, in what order are the plants receiving waste water, i.e. the plants which can process higher rates of ammonia will receive water first. Main water intake is the source that feeds clean water into the tanks. In theory there are two possibilities. Water could come directly from the living machine into the tanks or once water has gone through the entire vertical farm and has been deemed safe it can be circulated into the tanks. Drainage system dictates how the effluent goes back to the plants and how it should be filtered to remove biosolids.

The previous report stated that 182,500,000 grams are needed to feed 50,000 people a 100 g portion of fish each day. Redoing the calculation,100g /day/person x 365 days/year x 50,000 people yields 1,825,000,000 g per year, the difference is a factor of 10. Now 35,096,153 grams of edible fillet are

required each week to feed 50,000. This translates into 194,978 fish needed per week. At 600 fish being produced from 1 tank, 324 tanks are needed to supply enough food for one week compared to last years 32 tanks. Since the growing cycle from fingerlings to maturity is 6 months, 24 separate batches of tilapia need 47

to be growing at any one time, meaning 7,776 tanks need to be operational. Using the space requirements from last year and multiplying them by ten produces 608,940 ft2. A tilapia set up of this magnitude would take up 7 floors.

Each circular tank with an 8 diameter loses 13.76 ft2 in the 8x 8 square it occupies because of its shape. If this is applied to all 7,776 tanks, 106,998 ft2 are lost due to shape alone. A better alternative would be constructing fairways. There will be 24 fairways, 1 for each week, rather than 324 separate tanks for each week. A fairway is a rectangular tank constructed from cement that has divisions in it. The design of the fairway allows you to save space and also have a current within the tank for the fish to swim in. This promotes healthier fish as it allows them to swim in a greater space instead of a small tank where their movement is restricted to the 25-foot circumference of a circular tank. Each fairway will be 16,277 ft2, a number derived assuming that 600 fish can be grown in 50.24 ft2 of water at a depth of 4 (as specified in 2004). Each fairway will be 100 feet by 162 feet, with 4 fairways going on a single floor (diagram). This leaves 25,200 ft2 on each floor for filtration tanks and operating space. The other huge advantage is that there is less surface area for heat to escape from. Although the area of water exposed to the air remains the same and the volume


remains the same, the amount of water in contact with the sides of tanks and the floor changes dramatically. The surface area available for heat loss by

conduction is smaller for fairways. The total surface area using 8 diameter tanks is 1,562,664 ft2 and the area using fairways is only 827,904 ft2. Looking at 324 small tanks (one week supply) vs. 1 fairway is 65,111 ft compared with 34,496, respectively. Yet, another advantage with the application of fairways are the fewer number of working components that will be necessary to operate them. It may be unreasonable to assume that each fairway only needs a fraction of the parts to operate 324 smaller tanks, but it is realistic to say it may only require 25% of working components.

In raceways the water enters in a plug flow manner and is pumped in one direction to prevent minimal back mixing. The best water with highest oxygen concentration is available at the head of the raceway as more ammonia and carbon dioxide accumulate near the end. The velocity of the water is 2-4 cm/s 49

and as a result a majority of the solids accumulate near the end leaving the need for fewer settling tanks. Baffles, the width of the raceway, are placed perpendicular to the flow of water which help create a velocity of 20-30 cm/s near the edges. The current helps sweep waste away from the center of the raceways and progressively backwards. Because water has a higher specific heat than air it will naturally require more energy to heat. Tilapia are going to be grown on the top six floors of the vertical farm above the chicken layers. This provides two advantages in terms of heat. First, the tank will be heated passively due to hot air rising from the floors beneath it. The water will be maintained at 82o- 86o F both, from heat rising and coils along the side of the tanks. The coils will circulate water that is heated by passing them near structures burning methane. The other advantage is that each 4 layer, collectively 24 layers, of water will act like as a lid on a jar, preventing heat loss by insulation.

Other Considerations for Energy Demands The other categories that take up energy come from administrative office costs, refrigeration costs, and meat processing costs. Average energy

consumption for commercial buildings is 97200 BTU per square foot, or 35.7 cubic feet of natural gas per square foot. Food service buildings rank among the highest energy consuming structures, using 245500 BTU per square foot, or 153.5 cubic feet of natural gas per square foot.


Using the food service industrys measurements as a reference, we approximated the amount of energy consumed by a 48-story building if each floor were 90 thousand square feet. Such a 4,320,000 ft2 facility would consume 10.6 trillion BTUs or 663 million ft3 of natural gas. Converting BTU to Watts with the conversion factor 1 BTU = .000293 kWh, the building would need 310,744,080 kWh of energy per year to maintain itself.

Energy Demands Growing Conditions Maintenance Considering only light requirements for plants and animals, the Vertical Farm requires approximately 26,500,000 kWh. It should be noted that this does not include lighting peripheral space around equipment and on other floors where plants will not be grown. It would be highly unlikely that this number would

approach 310 million kWh projected by the food services industry. Using the commercial industry values, energy consumption for such a building would equal 123,031,872, which may be a more realistic assumption.



The amount of energy needed to grow crops and animals in the Vertical Farm has already been defined. This section determines how much of that The

energy can be supplied through the operation of a methane digester.

amount of waste generated was calculated by using 2004 figures regarding total tons needed per year. A harvest index revealed the amount of material that is edible off each plant. For Example, 40,000 tons of Crop A were needed to feed


50,000 people per year. If it had a harvest index of 0.4 then this represented 4/10 of the total biomass produced. The corresponding value of waste would be 60,000 tons produced per year. The weekly waste was calculated and converted into kilograms. Yearly Waste Weekly Plant Tomato Eggplant Peppers Soybeans Green Peas Spinach Carrots Cucumbers Wheat Lettuce Strawberries Total Plants Chicken Guano Broiler Guano Broiler Mortality+ Broiler Carcass ++ Layer 9600 6193 4940 4501 (lbs) 5474000 5980000 8208000 13140000 15876000 4380000 1168000 3644000 13444795 668666 256164 65575425 Waste(lb) 105269 115000 157846 252692 305307 84230 22461 70076 258553 12858 4926 1261065 Weekly Waste (g) 48002664 52440000 71977776 115227552 13921992 38408880 10242216 31954656 117900515 5863686 2246363 575046034 Weekly Waste (kg) 48002 52440 71978 115228 139220 38409 10242 31955 117900 5863 2246 575046


Tilapia +++ Tilapia ++++

Mortality 2194 Leftover 5264 8775 4728692 90936 41467

Tilapia Excrement Total Animals

(+) These are assuming a high end rate of 18% mortality and chickens weighing 5 lbs. (++) This is the weight of each carcass after being stipped of meat and bones This includes heads, guts, and feathers

(approximating 20% left) (+++) This assumes that 20% die before reaching maturity with a weight of 250 kgs (++++) This is byproducts of gutting (60% of total weight of a 450 kg fish)


Methane digesters operate most efficiently when a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 30:1 is used. Within the vertical farm engineers can devise a proper method to reproduce this ratio when stocking a digester. The University of South Hampton conducted a study to determine how much methane was produced from kitchen waste whose contents had the following percentages: fruits and vegetables (67%), meat (13%), bread (7%), Teabags (10%), Other (3%). The carbon to nitrogen ratio of 9:1 deviated greatly from the ideal. The digester transformed a kilogram of kitchen waste into 164-271 liters of biogas with a methane composition of 57.9%. With this model, and assuming that all of the animal and plant waste was thrown in together producing a high end figure (271 liters of biogas/ kg waste) a total of 992,031 kWh can be produced per week.

Calculation 616,513 kg/week x 271 liters/kg x .035 ft3/liter = 5,847,625 ft3/week of biogas 5,847,625 ft3/week x .579 efficiency = 3,385,774 ft3 of methane/ week 3,385,774 ft3 x 1000 BTU/ft3 = 3,385,774,000 BTU /week 3,385,774,000 BTU/week x 0.000293 kWh/BTU = 992,031 kWh/ week

If waste was digested according to this value then 51,585,612 kWh can be produced each year, not including wastes from the living machine. In practice there may be more energy as a better mixture of waste will be engineered to be injected into every digester.



The design of a climate control system is affected by the design of the Vertical Farm complex. What type of materials will be used to build it, how many climate zones on each floor and how to get natural light to as many sections of the building as possible are a few construction considerations that influence a climate control system. The University of Marylands 2002 NCR-101 Station Report on the Horticultural Greenhouse Complex gives examples of things to consider when designing a climate control system. 66 As mentioned, the number of climate zones and the size of each zone are important. The 2004 Vertical Farm Report estimates how much space is needed to grow each of the plants needed. One option is to have one zone per plant, while another is to have plants with similar growing requirements all in the same zone. The University of Maryland picked tempered horticultural glass for their complex. The type of glass influences the amount and the quality of light entering the building as well as the heat loss factor, which is important when determining the size of a heating system. Since one objective is to have the Vertical Farm self-sustaining, this narrows the types of heating systems available. Air heating can be by either proportional control or ON/OFF control. Proportional control is normally used in conjunction with boiler-heated water pipes. This provides a very gentle heat and the heating pipes can be positioned either under the grow beds or between the

University of Maryland-College Park, 2002.


rows of plants. In this way less heat need be supplied as compared with general warm-air heating. Water pipe heating is gentle, economical and avoids sudden drying of the air. A benefit is it can be used to control the relative humidity in addition to the temperature. Compared to a proportional control system that uses hot water, a steam system can provide more British thermal units (Btu). 67 Either type works well for the Vertical Farm complex because we plan to have an ample amount of water coming from black water that has been filtered through the Living Machine. A temperature that is too elevated not only encourages photorespiration, at the expense of photosynthesis, but also infestation by certain parasites. Especially during the summer months, it is necessary to be able to evacuate the air from the growth chambers within a 5-minute period. However, temperatures that are too low considerably diminish plant growth rates and, in the extreme cases, may cause fungal problems. The following calculations give an example of how to determine the heating capacity needed for the Vertical Farm. The calculations are based on an area (A) of 90,000 ft2 per floor and maintaining an indoor temperature of 24 C (75 F). Taking into account that the Vertical Farm will be located in New York City, we chose -21 C (-5 F) as the outdoor temperature. The indoor temperature was chosen based on the range of growing temperatures needed for the plants selected. An assumption was made that double-layer glass will be used, giving a heat loss factor of 0.8 Btu/hr(ft2)(F). 68 The amount of heat created

Evans, 2003. D.S. Ross, Planning and Building a Greenhouse-Adapted from Fact Sheet 645-University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service, Department of Agricultural Engineering, West Virginia University Extension Service.



by the sun, the heat generated by the lights and any mechanical systems has not been factored into this calculation. When the Vertical Farm Complex is further along in its design and the materials and equipment to be used is known, then these factors can be included in the calculation.


Q = A(u)(t)

Where Q equals the Btu capacity of the heating system in Btu/hr, A equals the area, u equals the heat loss factor and t equals the change in temperature between outside and inside. 69

Q = (90,000 ft2) (0.8 Btu/hr)(ft2)(F) (80)

5,760,000 Btu/hr is the estimate of the heating requirements for the Vertical Farm Complex. Our hope is this amount will come from the methane digester. It is essential to ensure air renewal while maintaining optimal CO2 and humidity levels. CO2 being heavier than ambient air, it has a tendency to accumulate at ground level, thus becoming unusable for the plant. A simple oscillating ventilator overcomes this problem by allowing the air to circulate such that the CO2 remains accessible. The University of Marylands report also
D.S. Ross, Planning and Building a Greenhouse-Adapted from Fact Sheet 645-University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service, Department of Agricultural Engineering, West Virginia University Extension Service.


mentions the use of exhaust fans for increased air-flow and to aide in ventilation. 70 There are different types of fans but the type most commonly used in green houses are propeller fans which fall into the category of axial flow fans. 71 To determine the size and how many fans are needed, the volume of air to be moved needs to be calculated. The estimated volume of air per floor in the Vertical Farm building is based on a height of 10 feet and the previously mentioned area of 90,000 ft2, giving an air volume of 900,000 ft3. In addition to knowing the air volume needed, other factors needed to be known. One is the fans efficiency, determined by their air displacement (CFM) given in cubic feet per minute. 72

Others are the static pressure or the amount of resistance, the

space available for the fans, how noisy the fans are and if they have different speed settings. 74

Since the main objective of the 2005 Vertical Farm Report is

to determine the energy requirements of the complex, we simplified the calculation for determining the type and number of fans needed by using the volume of air and the amount of air displaced without taking into account the amount of resistance, which is variable and can only be estimated. 76 Using the single phase 20 Multifan (Vostermans Ventilation, IL) which has a CFM of 4,765 and a usage of 410 Watts, we calculated 189 fans, equaling 77,490 Watts that

University of Maryland-College Park, 2002. Buffington et al. 72 Evans, 2003. 73 Buffington et al. 74 D.S. Ross, Planning and Building a Greenhouse-Adapted from Fact Sheet 645-University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service, Department of Agricultural Engineering, West Virginia University Extension Service. 75 Buffington et al. 76 Ibid.



are needed per floor. To calculate this we divided the total air volume by the air displacement. A third component is a cooling system which is sometimes combined with a humidity and temperature system. Cooling systems can be dry-air cooling or evaporative cooling. For the purposes of the Vertical Farm complex, a water based system seems the most appropriate. One type of evaporative cooling system is fogging. Fogging may be used to assist with cooling or to increase humidity in dry weather. Two outputs are used; one that comes on constantly while fogging is called for and another that pulses on for short periods to inject puffs of fog. This function may also be used to operate low pressure misting in propagation houses where it may be controlled by a short period solar integrator. By adding a low cost output expansion module the fogging can be increased to 4 zones. Another type of evaporative cooling system is a misting system. This type of system overlaps with a humidity system and can be seen in indoor tropical settings such as the Bronx Botanical Garden Greenhouse. Whatever system is used, the cooling abilities should be about 1.5 times the air volume of the greenhouse, in this case 900,000 ft3. 77 In the event of very high humidity, the controller can be programmed to go into a purging mode. In this mode it increases the heating temperature by a few degrees to try to dry the air. Eventually the humidity will creep up again due to plant transpiration and the controller will nudge open the vents (or if no vents it will switch on an exhaust fan) for a few seconds to exhaust the warm humid air.
D.S. Ross, Planning and Building a Greenhouse-Adapted from Fact Sheet 645-University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service, Department of Agricultural Engineering, West Virginia University Extension Service.


Then the vents will close and the heater will again warm and dry the fresh air. This purging cycle will continue until the humidity is brought under control. Physiological evidence strongly indicates that most plants have the potential for increased production, but the extent of plant response is also dependent on such factors as temperature, light, nutrition, water, and carbon dioxide levels. Blackman's law states that the rate of any process which is governed by two or more factors is limited by the factor of least supply. The right level for CO2 will increase growth in green plants. Green plants use carbon dioxide and water in the presence of light energy to synthesize organic compounds. The green plant then converts the organic compounds into sugars or food, through a process called photosynthesis. CO2 can also be a limiting factor as well, if the conditions to which the plant is growing in are not adequate the added CO2 will be of no use. Elevated levels of CO2 will be of little benefit at low light levels or temperature. If light intensity is raised or temperature for that matter, higher levels of CO2 can stimulate new growth. Elevated CO2 levels will also call for increased fertilizer and water requirements. Enrichment of CO2 should commence at sunrise or when your artificial lighting comes on and cease during dark periods. The average CO2 level recommended is between 1000 and 2000 ppm. The objective is to keep a constant level in the atmosphere. A small unit can be operated continuously or a larger unit can be used and put on a timed sequence. The issue with CO2 supplementation as it relates to the Vertical Farm creates an issue as to how to keep the complex self sustaining but have optimal growth for the plants. A by-product of the methane digester is CO2. We believe it


may be possible to use some of the gas to regulate CO2 conditions in the greenhouse For a large operation like the Vertical Farm complex will become, an automated system that controls all the components described above is needed. There are many climate controllers on the market which can be used on a PC. Some companies that manufacturer controllers are Input Output Agricultural Controls with the Galileo systems (Cape Town, South Africa), PRIVA Computers Inc.(Ontario Canada) and Argus Control Systems Ltd. (British Columbia, Canada). Other aspects that can be run by a controller are shading systems. A shading system operates to maintain the light level below a user set maximum. If the maximum light level is exceeded it will start to close immediately but once closed requires the light to remain below the set point for at least the time specified by the user. The lighting component of the Climate Control system can be divided into three parts: supplemental, photoperiod manipulation, and photosynthesis top-up. A 52-week schedule may be entered from the PC (keyboard or from disk) which specifies the minimum day length and/or the minimum daily integrated solar PPFD for each week of the year. The system automatically adjusts these factors at midnight every Sunday night; thus the system can simulate the day-length and total daily photosynthetic effect of changing.

Methane Digester


Methane is a gas that contains molecules of methane with one atom of carbon and four atoms of hydrogen (CH4). It is the major component of the "natural" gas used in many homes for cooking and heating. It is odorless, colorless, and yields about 1,000 British Thermal Units (Btu) (252 kilocalories) of heat energy per cubic foot (0.028 cubic meters) when burned. Natural gas is a fossil fuel that was created eons ago by the anaerobic decomposition of organic materials. It is often found in association with oil and coal. Anaerobic digestion is the bacterial decomposition of organic matter that occurs in the absence of oxygen. Anaerobic bacteria exist naturally at the bottom of ponds, swamps and other moist and airless places and even in the digestive system of insects like termites and in large animals. These bacteria are among the oldest life forms on earth. Thousands of years ago, anaerobic decomposition of organic matter formed the earths coal and oil deposits and created the natural gas we currently use for cooking and heating. This same process that occurs naturally in bacteria can be duplicated today with a mechanical digester that recreates the ideal natural conditions for decomposition. Three primary reasons for use of mechanical digesters managing organic waste are nutrient recycling, waste treatment, and odor control. The methane produced in the process is a useful and valuable byproduct. Anaerobic digestion is different from composting, which is an aerobic or oxygen utilizing process. Composting organisms produce high temperatures and this process requires the consumption of oxygen. Their efficiency is maintained by providing the proper mix of air and types of organic matter. Creating a thriving


anaerobic climate requires maintenance of a consistent temperature and quality of organic matter within a sealed and airless container. The anaerobic digestion process is more chemically complex and technically demanding than the composting process, but requires less space. In addition, its products make more efficient use of the organic resource. The process of anaerobic digestion occurs naturally and is responsible for the degradation of organic mater in environments where oxygen is lacking. Some of these are because of mans activities, for example, in polluted river sediments, estuaries and solid waste landfill sites where the breakdown of the organic matter proceeds slowly over a period of many years. As a mechanized industrial process, anaerobic digestion has been used for almost a century for the biostabilization of sewage sludge. The digestion process has proved useful to the water industry, in that, the net energy production from the release of methane gas can be harnessed to power other unit operations used in the treatment of wastewaters. The anaerobic treatment of sewage sludge is thus a well recognized technology bringing benefits to the water industry in the form of energy, reduced volumes of sludge for final disposal, and a more stable product which, under certain circumstances, can be a valuable soil conditioner for agricultural use. The principal component of natural gas is methane. It is also a major element of biogas, or gas produced during the decomposition of organic materials in the absence of oxygen. There are many benefits of the process of anaerobic digestion. Collected biogas can be used for processes of heating,


electrical and steam generation, and transportation. There are many benefits that come from having an anaerobic digester. One benefit of anaerobic digestion is for odor and fly control. Bacteria in the digester significantly reduce odor causing compounds. In addition, fly eggs are killed during anaerobic digestion. A second benefit of anaerobic digestion is pathogen control. Pathogens like salmonella, Giardia and Cryptosporidium cant survive the high temperatures of a heated digester. A third benefit is disposal. Anaerobic digestion destroys more volatile organic compounds and produces more gas than aerobic digestion does (about 65 75% of volume), resulting in less solid waste. A fourth benefit is an environmental benefit. Where animal manure is stored in pits or lagoons, methane is released into the atmosphere. An anaerobic digester reduces the damaging effects of methane, which is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide in causing global warming. A fifth benefit is the valuable by products that are produced. In addition to the biogas produced, most of the organic nitrogen present in the manure is converted to ammonia, a fertilizer readily utilized by plants. Biogas produced in anaerobic digesters consists of methane (50%-80%), carbon dioxide (20%-50%), and trace levels of other gases such as hydrogen, carbon monoxide, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen sulfide. The relative percentage of these gases in biogas depends on the feed material and management of the process. When burned, a cubic foot (0.028 cubic meters) of biogas yields about 10 Btu (2.52 kcal) of heat energy per percentage of methane composition. For example, biogas composed of 65% methane yields 650 Btu per


cubic foot (5,857 kcal/cubic meter). As long as proper conditions are present, anaerobic bacteria will continuously produce biogas. Minor fluctuations may occur that reflect the loading routine. Biogas can be used for heating, cooking, and to operate an internal combustion engine for mechanical and electric power. Very large-scale systems/producers may be able to sell the gas to natural gas companies, but this may require scrubbing out the carbon dioxide. Anaerobic digesters are made out of concrete, steel, brick, or plastic. They are shaped like silos, troughs, basins or ponds, and may be placed underground or on the surface. All designs incorporate the same basic components: a premixing area or tank, a digester vessel(s), a system for using the biogas, and a system for distributing or spreading the effluent (the remaining digested material). There are two basic types of digesters: batch and continuous. Batch-type digesters are the simplest to build. Their operation consists of loading the digester with organic materials and allowing it to digest. The retention time depends on temperature and other factors. Once the digestion is complete, the effluent is removed and the process is repeated. In a continuous digester, organic material is constantly or regularly fed into the digester. The material moves through the digester either mechanically or by the force of the new feed pushing out digested material. Unlike batch-type digesters, continuous digesters produce biogas without the interruption of loading material and unloading effluent. They may be better suited for large-scale operations. There are three types of continuous digesters: vertical tank systems, horizontal tank or plug-flow systems, and multiple tank systems. Proper design,


operation, and maintenance of continuous digesters produce a steady and predictable supply of usable biogas. Anaerobic decomposition is a complex process. It occurs in three basic stages as the result of the activity of a variety of microorganisms. Initially, a group of microorganisms converts organic material to a form that a second group of organisms utilizes to form organic acids. Methane-producing (methanogenic) anaerobic bacteria utilize these acids and complete the decomposition process. A variety of factors affect the rate of digestion and biogas production. The most important is temperature. Anaerobic bacteria communities can endure temperatures ranging from below freezing to above 135 F (57.2 C), but they thrive best at temperatures of about 98F (36.7C) (mesophilic) and 130F (54.4C) (thermophilic). Bacteria activity, and thus biogas production, falls off significantly between about 103 and 125F (39.4 and 51.7C) and gradually from 95 to 32F (35 to 0C). In the thermophilic range, decomposition and biogas production occur more rapidly than in the mesophilic range. However, the process is highly sensitive to disturbances such as changes in feed materials or temperature. While all anaerobic digesters reduce the viability of weed seeds and diseaseproducing (pathogenic) organisms, the higher temperatures of thermophilic digestion result in more complete destruction. Although digesters operated in the mesophilic range must be larger (to accommodate a longer period of decomposition within the tank [residence time]), the process is less sensitive to upset or change in operating regimen.


The material drawn from the digester is called sludge, or effluent. It is rich in nutrients (ammonia, phosphorus, potassium, and more than a dozen trace elements) and is an excellent soil conditioner. It can also be used as a livestock feed additive when dried. Any toxic compounds (pesticides, etc.) that are in the digester feedstock material may become concentrated in the effluent. Therefore, it is important to test the effluent before using it on a large scale. To optimize the digestion process, the digester must be kept at a consistent temperature, as rapid changes will upset bacterial activity. In most areas of the United States, digestion vessels require some level of insulation and/or heating. Some installations circulate the coolant from their biogaspowered engines in or around the digester to keep it warm, while others burn part of the biogas to heat the digester. In a properly designed system, heating generally results in an increase in biogas production during colder periods. The trade-offs in maintaining optimum digester temperatures to maximize gas production while minimizing expenses are somewhat complex. Studies on digesters in the north-central areas of the country indicate that maximum net biogas production can occur in digesters maintained at temperatures as low as 72F (22.2C). Other factors affect the rate and amount of biogas output. These include pH, water/solids ratio, carbon/nitrogen ratio, mixing of the digesting material, the particle size of the material being digested, and retention time. Pre-sizing and mixing of the feed material for a uniform consistency allows the bacteria to work more quickly. The pH is self-regulating in most cases. Bicarbonate of soda can


be added to maintain a consistent pH, for example when too much "green" or material high in nitrogen content is added. It may be necessary to add water to the feed material if it is too dry, or if the nitrogen content is very high. A carbon/nitrogen ratio of 20/1 to 30/1 is best. Occasional mixing or agitation of the digesting material can aid the digestion process. Antibiotics in livestock feed have been known to kill the anaerobic bacteria in digesters. Complete digestion and retention times depend on all of the above factors. Traditionally, a methane digester is a wastewater and solids treatment technology. When used on a farm, it processes animal waste under anaerobic conditions, yielding methane gas and reducing the volume of solids and treated liquids. The methane can be sold or used to generate electricity on the farm; the solid matter left behind is a valuable soil amendment; and the liquids become an easily applied fertilizer with plant available nutrients and low pathogen levels. Anaerobic digestion is a complex biochemical reaction carried out in a number of steps by several types of micro-organisms that require little or no oxygen to live. During the process, a gas principally composed of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), otherwise known as biogas, is produced. The amount of gas produced varies with the amount of organic waste fed to the digester and temperature influences the rate of decomposition (and gas production). The process by which anaerobic bacteria decompose organic matter into methane, carbon dioxide, and a nutrient-rich sludge involves a step-wise series of reactions requiring the cooperative action of several organisms. In the first stage, a variety of primary producers (acidogens) break down the raw wastes into simpler fatty


acids. In the second stage, a different group of organisms (methanogens) consume the acids produced by the acidogens, generating biogas as a metabolic byproduct. On average, acidogens grow much more quickly than methanogens. They are also much hardier organisms, able to survive a broader range of temperature and pH conditions. Anaerobic digestion occurs in four distinct steps. The first step is Hydrolysis and the complex organic matter is decomposed into simple soluble organic molecules using water to split the chemical bonds between the substances. The second step is Fermentation and this process involves the chemical decomposition of carbohydrates by enzymes, bacteria, and yeasts. The third step is Acetogenesis which converts the fermented products into acetate, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide by acetogenic bacteria. The fourth step is Methanogenesis, and this step forms methane from the acetate, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide by methanogenic bacteria. The acetogenic bacteria grow in close association with the methanogenic bacteria during the fourth stage of the process. The reason for this is that the conversion of the fermentation products by the acetogens is thermodynamically only possible if the hydrogen concentration is kept sufficiently low. This requires a close symbiotic relationship between both classes of bacteria. The anaerobic process only takes place under strict anaerobic conditions (i.e., absence of oxygen and very low redox potential). It requires specific adapted bio-solids and particular process conditions, which differ considerably from those needed for aerobic treatment.


One advantage of an anaerobic digester is observed for the treatment of wastewater. After completion of the anaerobic digestion steps, the pollutants in the wastewater are transformed into methane, carbon dioxide, and a small amount of bio-solids. Since the solubility of methane in water is very low, it escapes as methane gas. As a result, a significant part of the energy originating from the pollutants leaves the system as biogas, leaving only a fraction of the initial energy for assimilation by the biomass. As a result, the energy generated by this pathway, which can be used by the biomass, is only a small fraction of the total energy content of the incoming pollutants. Biomass growth is therefore much lower compared to aerobic digestive processes. For this reason, anaerobic digestion produces between five and ten times less bio-solids or sludge than aerobic processes. In addition, anaerobic bio-solids have the advantage of being much more compact than aerobic bio-solids. The dry solids content of anaerobic bio-solids range from 2% (for a digester) to more than 8% for an up flow anaerobic bio-solids blanket process. Also, anaerobic bio-solids have much better dewatering characteristics compared to aerobic bio-solids. As a result, the volume of dewatered bio-solids coming from an anaerobic treatment is 7 12 times lower compared to aerobic processes. Another advantage is that anaerobic digestion does not require energy consuming aeration equipment. The production of biogas during the process even results in a positive energy balance.

The Living Machine: Blackwater Treatment


According to the 2004 report, the Vertical Farm will rely on the surrounding communitys waste-water to feed the daily operational outputs of our hydroponically grown produce. In accordance with keeping the Vertical Farm as green as possible, the project would incorporate a Living Machine into its matrix in order to treat this waste water and use it for nutrient delivery in the hydroponic systems.

Background Information on Living Machines A Living Machine uses mainly bacteria, but also employs other living organisms such as plants and animals to aid in the removal of contaminants from water. The basic Living Machine includes three stages, each with different properties and tasks. The first stage takes place in an anaerobic septic tank, the second in a closed aerobic reactor and the third stage in an open aerobic reactor. 78 The number of tanks and stages included in the design of a Machine depends on the individual Living Machine, how much water needs to be cleaned, and the quality of water output required.

The Role of Plants Following the initial anaerobic digestion, plants are incorporated into the later stages of living machines and perform secondary purifying functions, such as filtering gases that escape from the water. They are also integrally linked with

Living Technologies Ltd., 2005


aerobic and anaerobic bacteria that live in their roots and perform the bulk of the digestion of organic matter. In general, tropical aquatic plants are chosen for incorporation into living machines, as they are productive and grow throughout the year (virtually) and they also tend to grow at a fast pace. The open and closed aerobic tanks replicate natural ecosystems (each tank representing a unique sub-ecosystem), treating wastewater in a step-wise natural progression. Accordingly, organisms that should be selected to inhabit the tanks should parallel the natural gradient of succession in aquatic ecosystems. 79 Generally, the species that inhabit each tank will be unique, representing a distinct portion of a natural aquatic ecotope.

Plant Four basic types of aquatic vegetation are commonly used in Living Machines: oxygenating, marginal, floating, and deep-water plants. 80 The first

open aerobic tank will be the shallowest and will contain mostly floating plants. The deepest tank will integrate a variety of plant types, including deep-water and marginal species.

Floating Plants Floating plants have well developed root systems that are very efficient in removing nutrients from the water. Many floating plants, such as the

79 80

Melnik et al, 2004 Ibid.


water hyacinth, exhibit vigorous growth and will need to be pruned/maintained at regular intervals. As they can cover much of the surface area of the tank, floating plants generally inhibit algal growth, by blocking the algae from the sunlight required for photosynthesis. However, it is important that none of the tanks have plant growth that covers more than 70% of their surface area. 81 In addition, their leaves may also serve as a nursery for eggs and baby fish. Common floating plants include: duckweed (Lemma minor), water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes), and water lettuce (Pistia Stratiotes). Specific plants should be chosen based on the particular needs for the design/format chosen for each Living Machine. Duckweed is a popular plant for use in living machines. It has been shown to remove (by bioaccumulation) as much as 99% of nutrients and dissolved solids in wastewater. 82 Duckweed grows at an In field

extremely rapid pace and can double its mass in less than 2 days.

conditions, duckweed has produced as much as 13 to 83 tons/ha/year. 83 Since it grows at such a rapid pace, duckweed requires frequent pruning and harvesting.

Oxygenating Plants Oxygenating plants provide a large amount of dissolved oxygen to the ecosystem they are planted in. The stems and leaves of oxygenating

81 82

Ibid. Skillicorn et al, 1993. 83 Ibid.

74 figure from Sookhna 1999

plants are submerged, and they are often found at the deepest part of the pond. Oxygenators absorb carbon dioxide for photosynthesis therefore, an abundance of such plants is effective in restricting the growth of algae. 84 A type of oxygenating plant is the hornwort. There are about 100 species of hornworts in the world. They are found in tropical forests and along stream banks. They are usually small and greenish-blue. Hornworts are a stiff, bushy hardy oxygenator that does not need to be planted. They are able to float in water to a depth of 5', or may be sunk using a stone. These plants grow best in sun or partial shade but they will thrive in shade. Also, fish do not usually eat this type of plant.

Deep-water Plants Deep-water plants

provide valuable shade to the surface, and help regulate a cool water temperature. The optimal growing depth will largely determine the depth of the Living Machine. The roots and stems of deep-water plants are submerged, while their leaves float to the surface. Common deepwater plants that may be used in the Living Machine include Water Lily (Nymphaea sp.) and Lotus (Nelumbo sp.).


American Water Gardens, Inc., 2002


Marginal Plants Marginal plants encompass a vast variety of pond plants that include such well-known species as cattails. Marginal pond plants grow in two to twelve inches of water depending on variety and size. The cattail often grows to cover large areas of wetlands, lakes and rivers. They are among the most common of all aquatic and wetland plants anywhere. Cattails get their name from their brown cylindrical flower spikes which can be more than 1 ft. long. The tropical aquatic plants used in living machines will need adequate sunlight for growth. It is also possible to use passive solar radiation as a means of heating the tanks, allowing the resident microorganisms to function at optimal rates.

Fauna The Living Machine will incorporate numerous animal species to accompany the flora. A very important group of organisms, besides the vast array of bacteria that actively breakdown organic wastes, are scavengers. Scavengers are aquatic animals that consume algae and accumulation. They


can be found on the surfaces of the aerobic tanks, especially cleaning the bottom and sides. Scavengers can include species such as snails and tadpoles. 85 Fish are another beneficial organism to include in a Living Machine. The most common fish used in a Living Machine will be goldfish. 86 Goldfish are members of the Carp family (Carassius auratus) and come in many shapes and sizes. Aside from the aesthetic value that they bring to the aerobic tanks, fish use little oxygen, feed on algae, control mosquito and other pest larvae, and help to fertilize plants. Furthermore, they have a relatively long lifespan (10-15 years) that can act as a barometer of the efficiency and success of the Living Machine, as its components grow and become increasingly complex. The number of fish to include in a tank depends on the amount of oxygen in the water, which in turn is contingent on the surface area of the water. 87 donated to the surrounding community. Excess fish can be sold or

Effluent sources The blackwater that will be cleaned by the Living Machine will be primarily supplied to the hydroponic growth systems employed by the Vertical Farm by the water-waste produced in New York City. Blackwater could be supplied via the introduction of vacuum toilets into the schematics of both the building as well as drawing on local waste sources. Until recently, the use of these types of toilets has been restricted to ships, aircrafts and trains, while some hospitals provide
85 86

Melnik et. al., 2004 Wolovitz, 2005 87 Melnik et. al., 2004


vacuum toilets to collect the excretions of people treated by radioactive substances to store it for radioactive decay. Vacuum toilets are so far applied under conditions where there are special requirements for the transport or the necessity of storage of the toilets effluent. 88 If these types of toilets are

introduced to the infrastructure of the building and also the surrounding area, there will be an increase in the amount of blackwater the Living Machine System will clean, but even more the Vertical Farm will be truly a self-sustaining building.

Evaporation and Transpiration Water use of the Vertical Farm will depend on both the transpiration rate from plant leaves and evaporation from the planting trays. Given the large

surface area that we anticipate being planted (approximately 2,000,000 square feet, 185,806 square meters), the volume of water evaporated will be considerable. We envision transpired and evaporated water being collected by a cooled brine system, forming system a for sort of biological and source



purification. 89

Assuming an average transpiration rate of roughly 30g/hr/plant of H2O, and approximately 9,200,000 plants in the vertical farm at any given time, then approximately 276,000,000 grams/hr, or 1,215 gallons/minute (~640 million gallons per year) of H2O will be transpired. This is similar to the throughput of a small sewage treatment facility and would likely require around 200,000kWh per year to pump replacement water.

88 89

Herrmann and Hesse, 2002 Bouroni, 2001


Losses to evaporation depend greatly on the growing style. Aeroponic techniques result in virtually no evaporative loss, but poor growth characteristics for certain plants that need dry periods for vigorous growth. Evaporative losses have been calculated under greenhouse conditions for plain water as well as soil media in conditions were relative humidity varied from 50-75% and average temperature of 75 F- conditions similar to those at which most plants are grown. Evaporation from a plain water surface took place at a constant rate of 3.2 mm/day while evaporation from a bare soil surface initially took place at 4 mm/day until the near-surface water became depleted after five days, when the evaporation rate dropped to 3.2 mm/day and then 1.5 mm/day. 90 The nutrient film technique under which many of our plants can be grown is commonly accepted to reduce evaporative losses, since the moist surface area is far smaller than actual soil, although no peer-reviewed literature provides specific numbers. Given the small difference between evaporation from a water surface (minimal surface area) vs. a soil surface (maximal surface area) our calculations use a value in between these two points as the evaporative losses from a nutrient film surface 3.4mm/day. Working from this assumption, the 185,806 square meters of plantings at an average humidity of 63% would result in the evaporation of 632 cubic meters per day, or 116 gallons per minute, or an additional 61,010,056 gallons per year.

Energy demands of water pumping


Blight, 2002


The main energy demand in the operation of a blackwater treatment system using the Living Machine will be in water pumping. Pump and blower motors used in water treatment facilities generally account for 80-90% of the energy costs of the facility, 91 and 90% of the energy costs of agricultural energy customers is used for pumping water, 92 making the use of highly energy efficient motors imperative. Although these motors are more expensive, they are more durable and rapidly recoup the additional cost in energy savings A recent optimization project in a sewage pumping station in the City of Milford, Conn. designed to handle 750 million gallons of raw sewage a year with a peak inflow of 3,000gpm, reduced energy costs from and estimated 240,000kWh to an estimated 175,968kWh per year, saving approximately 37,000kWh or a 15% energy reduction. 93 In addition to the monetary savings of reduced energy costs, the reduction of pollutant emissions and the increased service life of the pumping equipment from less strenuous duty cycles contribute to the overall efficiency and environmental friendliness of the system. Because of the high energy cost of pumping water it may be more efficient to directly recycle transpired water into lower levels of the Vertical Farm to reduce the total volume of water that must be pumped through the system to the higher levels. However, if less water intensive crops are placed on the lower levels, excess water generated by the system can be collected and marketed or used for other purposes.

91 92

Energy-Efficient Motors, 2005 CA Energy Commission,2005 93 USDOE, 1999


By incorporating intelligently designed pumping systems into the Vertical Farm, particularly by maximizing the potential for gravity distribution due to the vertical structure of the project, we hope to be able to greatly reduce pump energy considerations. We recommend locating the Living Machine at the top of the building, with distribution through the Living Machine being largely gravity based. If the topmost floors of the building are designed specifically for the installation of parallel living machine systems with tanks arranged on a slant, water flow can be largely gravity controlled, with pumping systems intervening only where it is necessary to maintain optimum pressures and flow rates.

Space Considerations

Space efficiency for planting rows with access areas along each side limits the maximal productive area of planting floors in the vertical farm. Working with the assumed floor dimensions of 250 x 360 ft (90,000 ft2), a fully stationary planting system with 25 planting rows 5 feet wide, accommodating a row of plants on each side with 13 access paths 3 ft wide, 5 perpendicular access paths 4 ft wide dividing the rows into about 35-foot sections and a central cross-floor access path 5 ft wide, as well as 500 ft2 of space for the elevators and utilities, actual planting area (not considering vertical stacking which varies depending on the plant) would leave approximately 66,908 ft2 This is approximately a 74% space efficiency.


We suggest using dynamic planters similar to the high-density mobile storage systems used in museums, libraries, and hospitals for efficiently storing large volumes of records and other collections. These shelving systems can be designed in lengths up to 98 feet, bearing up to 1400kg while still being High density mobile storage

manually operated. The same width and length for each planting row can be applied, but only one horizontal access row per block of plantings is necessary, reducing the amount of planting space lost. With the reduction in area taken up by aisles, 78,100 ft2 of space per floor can be used as planting space, increasing floor use to approximately 87%. In addition to the greater space efficiency of this system, lighting efficiency will be increased by enclosing the system, so no light is lost to the surrounding room. It may also be possible to completely encapsulate the growing system at the beginning of each planting cycle by making shelving units self-sealing as they are racked together. Each block would then form a greenhouse system within the vertical farm building, remaining enclosed during the growing cycle - remotely monitored and maintained. This would greatly reduce the volume of air that must be atmospherically controlled. Last years report calculated that the Vertical Farm needed 48 floors to provide crops for 50,000 people. However, the report did not factor in the need for a staggered crop system. Factoring this variable into the vertical farm leaves


the need for only 24 floors. This was based on the same scheme of using three stacking layers per floor to maximize space. Three additional floors were added to enhance the function of the building. Refrigeration is necessary as a holding place for perishables in the case of overstock. A Meat processing plant is

important because the chickens must be de-feathered and cut into pieces. Fish have to be gutted and filleted in order to be marketable. It would defeat the purpose of growing food within the farm if it had to be trucked out to various locals in order to be sold. To solve this problem people within a community would come directly to the vertical farm to buy their goods. In terms of energy considerations, the Vertical Farm could be kept at 48 stories incorporating a wider array of products such as beef and other fruits and vegetables. Or the farm could be made more affordable by keeping it 27 floors. Refiguring the energy considerations using the 97,200 BTU per square foot of commercial buildings, the 2,430,000 ft2 facility would only need 69,205,428 kWh of energy per year. In contrast this is 53,826,444 kWh less than a 48 floor Vertical Farm would require.

area Plants Tomato Eggplant Peppers Soybeans patch 7555 2855 7101 3237

per #


total patches/floor floors 15 12 10 12 1 1 1 1

# Layers


patches 15 12 10 12


Green Peas




1 Triple

Spinach Carrots Cucumbers

117190 11698 1558

5 10 13

3 5 13

2 2 1


Double Wheat 32533 9 4 2 stack Triple Lettuce 33022 5 5 1 stack Triple Strawberries Chicken Broiler Chicken Layers Tilapia Refrigeration Meat processing Grocery Total 1 1 27 7200 16277 10 24 10 4 2 6 1 6000 12 12 1 22396 24 12 2 stack

Note that extra space has been added to ensure room for


operational equipment

Alternative Supplemental Energy In addition to the methane digester, two supplemental energy options are available to the Vertical Farm: wind turbines and solar panels. The original VF concept did not include these options for supplemental energy, but the popularity and potential benefits of committing some portion of the buildings exterior for such generators warranted their investigation.

Wind Energy New York City is not generally

considered a prime region for wind-generated power, however if the Vertical Farm were located along the harbor or coast, it could use turbines to take advantage of the sea breeze. Wind turbines come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from vertical-axis eggbeaters and cycloturbines to more

conventionally shaped horizontal-axis turbines with single to multiple blades. The traditional American farm windmill, for example, is a

Figure 3. Wind turbine.


multi-bladed horizontal axis turbine. Horizontal axis turbines are further categorized by rotor size, which can indicate a ballpark range of energy generated. Small triple-rotor turbines approximately one to four meters in diameter can generate up to one kW of power in winds ranging from 6 to 30 m/s (13 to 65 miles per hour). These turbines may be used for low- demand activities such as recharging batteries aboard sailboats or powering a small house. On the other end of the spectrum, giant experimental turbines such as the worlds largest, in Germany, have a rotor diameter of up to 100 meters, and they can generate upwards of 3 MW of power apiece. 94 Between the individual-use and behemoth turbines lies a class of mediumsized turbines ranging from 10 to 50 meters in diameter. The larger members of this group, generating around 1.5 million kW-hours of energy per year, 95 are the ones commonly seen generating electricity in parts of Europe and California. Smaller members of the medium-class turbines may be well-suited for installation atop the Vertical Farm. For example, a single turbine 12.5 meters in diameter could produce 62,500 kWh of energy annually given a wind speed of 11 mph. 96 Depending on the orientation of the vertical farm building to prevailing wind direction, between 6 to 9 turbines might be installed on the roof. This would provide under ideal conditions 375,000 to 562,500 kWh per year. Determining the amount of wind energy generated at a particular location may be accomplished in any one of several ways, depending on the information

94 94 95

Gipe, 2004 Gipe,1995 96 Ibid,


available. 97 Ideally, site-specific data such as a wind distribution curve that illustrates the frequency of a range of wind speeds would be available. From this curve, one can discern the number of hours per year that wind of a certain speed blows. Each model and make of turbine should have manufacture-provided data regarding the amount of power harnessed by the turbine at different wind speeds. Coupling this information yields the amount of energy per year that can be generated by a turbine at a specific site. 98 Unfortunately, wind distribution curves are not readily available in many regions; and short of erecting an anemometer, one must use other sources of wind data. If the potential site of the Vertical Farm is near a NOAA weather station, then wind speeds may be approximated from the stations data set. Alternatively, some companies in the private sector have mapped out wind speeds in portions of the United States. The data on such maps is usually in the form of an annual average wind speed. From this, one can calculate a turbines yearly energy output by also looking at its rotor diameter and percent

efficiency of capturing power out of

97 98

Gipe, 2004. Ibid. Figure 4. Staten Island and Southern Brooklyn Wind Map. From TrueWind Solutions. Available 87 online at <>.

the wind. This is the method we used for the Vertical Farm. If the Farm were built on the southeastern shore of Staten Island or along the southern edge of Coney Island, the annual average wind speed at a height of 65 meters would be 12 to 13 mph. 99 This translates to an average power density of approximately 150 to 250 W/m2. If relatively small medium-sized turbines were installed, each with a rotor radius of 10 meters and percent efficiency of 20%, then each turbine would produce about 84000 to 140,000 kWh. If the Farm is built with a rooftop surface area of 250 ft by 360 ft, we estimate being able to place a maximum of eight turbines atop the Farm, thus yielding a total of 672,000 to 1,120,000 kWh per year.

Solar Panels Solar panels, also known as photovoltaic panels, convert sunlight to any form of electrical energy. Only about 4 22% of the energy falling on a solar panel is converted into usable electrical energy. The efficiency is quite low because the rest of the solar light is reflected back or dissipates as heat. On the up side, however, solar panels can be converted into any type of electrical energy necessary. There are three types of solar panels available. The first is a monocrystalline panel. These types of panels provide the highest efficiency but are more expensive to produce. Originally all panels were monocrystalline made from silicon slices cut from a single large crystal. The second type of solar panel

TrueWind Solutions. Wind Data. Map available online at < TrueWind.dll?OnePanel?Area=NY&X=550&Y=4450&Z=65>



is a polycrystalline panel. These panels are made from silicon cast from blocks. Polycrystalline panels are cheaper to produce and to buy, but the negative drawback is that they may not perform quite as well as the monocrystalline panels when they get hot. The third type of solar panel is a recent breakthrough in solar panel technology made of amorphous silicon. Even though these panels are less efficient than the other panels, the production methods are less costly, with silicon spread in thin layers on a backing material or directly onto a glass plate. This process allows the amorphous material to be applied directly to stainless steel sheeting shaped like conventional roofing material. This allows the solar panels to actually replace the roof, thus reducing the overall cost of the system. Solar panels are dependent on the time of day, the time of year, the temperature, and the angle of sunlight as well as the albedo effect (reflection of sunlight from clouds). As a result, the reliability of power harnessed from the panels is potentially problematic, wherein a system that relies on enough electricity to meet specific needs may not respond when such energy is in at the lowest point during the evening or winter periods, for example. On the other end, solar panels can overload a system during times of intense sunlight. One solution for this problem is utilizing the energy for a use that somewhat parallels the natural ebbs and flows of the energy gained from the sun. One such system is using solar panels for air conditioning purposes. In the circumstance that the building is largely comprised of windows, a large greenhouse effect especially during the summer period, air conditioning necessities will be somewhat











recommendations for solar panels are their usage for air conditioning purposes.

Conclusions The 2005 report assembles answers to remedy the underlying question in years past. Can it be done? Do the inner workings present a viable framework that translates into self-sustainability? Yes, the Vertical Farms seems to be able to maintain itself without energy from the grid with the potential to make money by selling energy back. Waste products from edible plants and animal wastes have the low-end potential of generating 51,585,612 kWh per year alone. In comparison the energy requirements for maintaining the plants and animals only totals 26.5 million kWh per year. On a weekly basis, an extra 482,415 kWh is available for other processes such as building maintenance. Even more energy will be generated once the potential energy that is to be generated from plants integrating into the living machine is included. The only other large energy

expenditures not included are refrigeration and pumping requirements. In all, the Vertical Farm appears to be capable of self-sustainability. The advent of a new era in food production, efficiency, and community relations is no longer a farfetched product of futuristic movies but a realistic idea resting on the cusp of the horizon. It is only a matter of time rather than innovation until nature and

technology are integrated as a breathing building.


Participants: STUDENTS: Saad Alam Kristen Coates Stephen Lee Maribeth Lovegrove Michelle Robalino Theodora Sakata Dennis Santella Sapna Surendran Kelly Urry ADVISOR: Dickson Despommier