Rotating Living Wall for Vertical Urban Farming

Fresh food, flipped 90 degrees—a locavore future farm for sustainable cities

Local foods movement culminates in urban agriculture—the Rotating Living Wall allows in-city farming with minimized maintenance & footprint

Tags:
  • rotating
  • vertical
  • living wall
  • urban
  • food miles
  • local
  • fresh
  • facade
  • skyscraper
  • small footprint

Use Case

Rotating Living Wall prototypes demonstrate increased density of plant yields grown per square foot—but façade farming for building exteriors at first seems impractical from a seeding, maintenance, and harvest standpoint: how does an urban farmer reach plants grown twenty stories above ground level? The Rotating Living Wall resolves this problem—because the plants move incrementally throughout the day, the grower does not have to. Maintenance and harvest are now possible from any elevation—ground level or rooftop—whatever makes sense for the given building site.In addition, plants’ gradual rotation throughout the day results in an even distribution of natural sunlight, which is especially critical to farming in city environments where adjacent buildings create uneven shadowing effects.

Potential

Projections of population and wealth growth, leading to increased estimated global spending power on meat products, show cropland dedicated to food and livestock production may need to increase ~70% above current levels by 2050.Vertical farming offers a partial solution to this defining global growth challenge: by growing more on a smaller footprint, and directly within the cities where more people increasingly choose to live, we mitigate food miles and ecological destruction.Graduate thesis research by cofounder Jon Gumble has shown our Rotating Living Wall (scaled at only 6 feet in height) can double microgreens yields per square foot, as well as provide excellent season extension due to the intersection of the vertical growing plane with the lower solar angle in spring and fall.

Business Case

An early market for Rotating Living Wall to target initially may be commercial production greenhouses: EPA and Purdue Ag Extension data from 2007 estimate that there were 8,289 acres of plants under greenhouses, accounting for $3.8B in sales. Assuming, conservatively from initial data, that we can increase total crop yields by just 1.5x (per sq ft) using our vertical rotating technology, at 1% market penetration we would be increasing greenhouse sales revenue by $19MWe further envision this to be a vertical farming system for the exteriors of existing urban buildings. In frame houses affixed to facades, the Rotating Living Wall may undermine the two main critical arguments against vertical farming: high value of city real estate and inadequate light penetration into building interiors.

Objectives:

  1. Vertical farming on exterior facades of existing buildings does not compromise valuable city real estate to erect expensive skyscraper farms
  2. Rotating planters make maintenance & harvest possible from any elevation--ground level or rooftop--whatever makes sense for the given site
  3. Plant rotation results in even distribution of natural lighting, even when adjacent tall urban buildings cause uneven shadowing effects.

Team GreenTowers, LLC

State College, USA

  • Business / Social Enterprise
  • Rural / Urban
  • North America

Our Team

Penn State student wins regional competition in D.C. - Global Student Entrepreneur Awards

http://www.collegian.psu.edu/news/state_national_international/article_2d3513d0-5e43-11e4-99a4-0017a43b2370.html

Funny article from a local paper (vaguely) about my experience at GSEA regionals two weekends ago

Living Furniture on display in our team workspace // co-working office

http://www.greentowersusa.com/products/living-table

Picture lighting is admittedly pretty bad here, but on display in our team workspace // co-working office is an earlier version of our first product, the Living Table. The Living Table combines a freshwater aquaponic garden with a beautifully contemporary accent-end table, bringing low-maintenance gardening into any office or residential space.
#InteriorArchitect

Mike hard at work / Published October 8, 2014 by Mike Zaengle

Mike hard at work

Here's a look at a typical workday/session for our team--Mike is working on creating informative sales marketing materials for our (existing) Living Furniture products. And sometimes he surfs the web.

Co-Working at the New Leaf Initiative / Published October 8, 2014 by Mike Zaengle

Co-Working at the New Leaf Initiative

The GreenTowers team is so grateful to have co-working space provided to us this semester at the New Leaf Initiative in downtown State College, courtesy of the new NL3 program, which provides funding for co-working memberships for student startup companies. Thanks Lion Launchpad + New Leaf for this awesome work space #InteriorArchitect

Our Mission

GreenTowers is an urban agricultural product design company with a mission of reconnecting everyday people to the nature of our food system, bolstering food security through localized self-sufficiency. Our specialty lies in soilless horticultural production techniques, ranging from indoor ornamental aquaponic ecosystems to unconventional hydroponic vertical farming systems.

Our Background

GreenTowers originated as a Penn State interdisciplinary student research and design project team in fall 2012, intersecting our various academic studies to come together and develop novel solutions for small-shareholder farmers to grow local produce directly within urban food deserts. Our very first project attempted to address this challenge by developing a mobile aquaponic greenhouse, constructed from a recycled 20-foot metal freight shipping container. Realizing the difficulty of up-cycling shipping containers as a first product concept, GreenTowers pivoted focus and in spring 2013 officially launched our first product line, Living Furniture. Living Furniture offers a low-maintenance ornamental aquaponics system that actually LOOKS GOOD in the home or office indoor environment. While the Living Furniture product line's design does demonstrate a unique take on an unconventional growing system, it does not create enough veggie output to truly qualify as a production system. Our newest product concept, the Rotating Living Wall, is our spin on high-output vertical farming--but instead of proposing to create expensive skyscraper farms, we are interested in repurposing the facades of existing urban buildings to produce food locally, directly within city limits. Currently in the R&D prototyping phase, its uniquely integrated hydroponic and vertical greenhouse design makes the Rotating Living Wall unlike any other vertical farming product on the market.

Penn State student wins regional competition in D.C. - Global Student Entrepreneur Awards

http://www.collegian.psu.edu/news/state_national_international/article_2d3513d0-5e43-11e4-99a4-0017a43b2370.html

Funny article from a local paper (vaguely) about my experience at GSEA regionals two weekends ago

Living Furniture on display in our team workspace // co-working office

http://www.greentowersusa.com/products/living-table

Picture lighting is admittedly pretty bad here, but on display in our team workspace // co-working office is an earlier version of our first product, the Living Table. The Living Table combines a freshwater aquaponic garden with a beautifully contemporary accent-end table, bringing low-maintenance gardening into any office or residential space.
#InteriorArchitect

Mike hard at work / Published October 8, 2014 by Mike Zaengle

Mike hard at work

Here's a look at a typical workday/session for our team--Mike is working on creating informative sales marketing materials for our (existing) Living Furniture products. And sometimes he surfs the web.

Co-Working at the New Leaf Initiative / Published October 8, 2014 by Mike Zaengle

Co-Working at the New Leaf Initiative

The GreenTowers team is so grateful to have co-working space provided to us this semester at the New Leaf Initiative in downtown State College, courtesy of the new NL3 program, which provides funding for co-working memberships for student startup companies. Thanks Lion Launchpad + New Leaf for this awesome work space #InteriorArchitect

Our Team

Our Mission

GreenTowers is an urban agricultural product design company with a mission of reconnecting everyday people to the nature of our food system, bolstering food security through localized self-sufficiency. ...Read More

Our Background

GreenTowers originated as a Penn State interdisciplinary student research and design project team in fall 2012, intersecting our various academic studies to come together and develop novel solutions ...Read More

The information contained here represents student project ideas developed as the result of brainstorming activities during Round 1 of the TFF Challenge. It does not represent any final business plans or commercial products.