Engineering Headlines

DLR engineers breed salad and tomatoes in the high-rise building

Vertical Farming

Salads grow in the fifth floor, tomatoes in the second. Cucumbers and herbs thrive on the third floor: engineers from the German Aerospace Center are presenting the arable farming of the future.

Fields in high-rise buildings provide city dwellers with fresh vegetables. And astronauts on Mars.

In the latest Hollywood science fiction “The Marsian” by Ridley Scott, you can watch the hero Mark Watney, stranded on Mars, grow potatoes in his missionary station to survive on the red planet until rescue.

In fact, engineers at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) are researching specific solar modules for planetary habitats on the Moon and Mars in the Eden research group.

These modules will then produce the food for the astronauts during future long-term missions.

630,000 kg of salad per year

But these modules can also be useful on Earth.

Together with its international partners, DLR has developed 30 m high buildings for indoor areas where vegetables are to be cultivated.

Each of these buildings with a floor area of ​​35 x 74 m has five floors, each 6 m high.

Four are intended for cultivation, the lowest for offices, cooling rooms and logistics. Every year, 630,000 kg of lettuce or 95,000 kg of tomatoes could be grown per floor, DLR engineers have calculated.

In our production plant, we would grow the plants under precisely controlled and optimal conditions, “says Conrad Zeidler from the DLR Institute of Astronautics.

“Our salad or tomato does not differ in taste from the food you buy today in supermarkets.”

Cultivation without pests and pesticides

The plants grow in a mixture of water and nutrientes , soil is not necessary. The entire system is hermetically sealed, so that pests and weeds have no chance of penetrating.

Consequently, herbicides and pesticides are superfluous. Even organic farmers can hardly do this.

The plants grow on several floors one above the other. Light emitting diodes supply them with exactly the amount of light they need.

The water in which they are growing is circulated and repeatedly recycled.

The necessary technology and the tanks are located in the core of the building, as are the elevators that bring the harvest to the logistics center on the ground floor.

Installation method also for dry areas

In the Bremen Eden laboratory, engineers and agrarex experts are already testing automated plant cultivation.

Laboratories of this type are supposed to ensure that the crew has enough food to eat on long-term space missions, such as flights to Mars.

Vertical farming, as DLR calls the inner-city anchoring method, is a special form.

DLR engineers can also imagine building such farms in dry areas. Since only a small amount of water is lost, that is, what the plants store, the supply is easier to realize than irrigation, which requires a lot of water.

Floating greenhouses for Singapore the architecture office Forward Thinking Architecture follows a similar concept.

It wants to build floating high-rise buildings in Singapore, because the small country has hardly arable land.

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