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Convert abandoned/unused buildings into vertical farms and urban gardens

Image credit: pexels/Albina White

Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain Apr 20, 2022
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Instead of keeping them unused and unattended, convert abandoned buildings across all the cities/towns into vertical farms, urban gardens and hubs for urban farmers.
  • According to the UK Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local government data from 2019, at least 648,114 houses/buildings are empty in the UK . Similarly, in the US, there are thousands of unused buildings that are neither demolished nor occupied . Hence, this begs for proper usage of these properties.
  • Conversion of these buildings into vertical farms will help in food security and environmental sustainability.
Here is how it works:
This can be approached in different alternative ways. I propose two of those:
  1. The government (or any public agency) takes over all the unused buildings and sets up dedicated vertical farms. The government agencies like the department of food safety can provide guidance and fund with these projects in a standard manner like any other development project. The produce is sold and revenue generated by the government and goes directly into the public funds for the city/town.
  2. Another approach would be to lead these projects in a community-driven way. The local people make different local urban-farming groups and based on the locality of the buildings divide the responsibility related to the project. The locals grow the food they want, either market/sell them and use the fund for addressing local social issues/ or whatever they prefer (they have the autonomy to decide).
Few more things: Which plants/foods to grow? This needs to be decided based on biological and economic feasibility. Generally, vertical farms are best suited to grow green leafy vegetables and plants like tomato and peas which are low-maintenance and easy to grow. Not just that fruits like watermelons and strawberries also have been proven to give excellent yields on vertical farms. The choice of plants should generally be in line with the food culture of the city in which the buildings are being used. Other technicalities: The set-up, regular maintenance, and engineering should be efficiently managed. Moreover, what to do with the food that is produced should be early decided and a sustainable business model developed. In fact, urban farming and community gardening groups across the world provide a modus operandi for this idea .
If implemented aptly, this idea can work the best for cities with long winters where in-field farming is virtually non-existent during the cold months. This will allow for a regular stream of green, fresh vegetables, at least for a fraction of the population. Other wider benefits would be the reduced carbon footprint due to reduced logistics and transportation.
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Creative contributions

Tackling homelessness with vertical farms

Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain Apr 21, 2022
The city can tackle the problem of homelessness with this idea. A campaign can be launched to train homeless people to be vertical farmers. They can then take over the business, under regular monitoring and supervision of a public agency. This way, two problems can be tackled at once.
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jnikola2 years ago
Really cool!
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Fund it by local businesses that will use the produced food

Michaela D
Michaela D Apr 25, 2022
Transforming the abandoned buildings to vertical farms will come with a cost. Often, governments and municipalities are hard to convince and slow to act. So, invite local businesses to invest in this idea. Ideal candidates are businesses that will use the produced food: restaurants, cafes, hotels, and even local grocery stores.
Why would they want to invest?
  • By investing a business will own part of the vertical garden forever or until it breaks even. That means they will also have easy access to locally grown food.
  • Marketing: supporting such an endeavor and then providing fresh food.
  • Reselling: an opportunity to make a profit in the future, when buying or renting part of the vertical farm will be more expensive.
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Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain2 years ago
This is a great input. The upside of this approach would be that such businesses can use their existing knowledge of management and marketing to run the vertical farms. This gives a guarantee that the product yielded from these farms will find a market and the right value. Moreover, integrating these businesses will create an ecosystem. The waste generated from these businesses can be recycled and used for the farms in a cyclic manner.
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General comments

Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain2 years ago
I get your concern, but not all abandoned buildings are in the city centre. Also, vertical farms, especially the ones based on hydroponics do not have to suffer from the pollution from outside the system. This could be even better with air purification systems coupled with the water (re)circulation.
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jnikola2 years ago
The idea is great, just a side note - it would probably be important to see if growing food-producing plants in the city center would negatively affect food quality. Also, I am sure some species can tolerate more exhaustion gases than others.
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