More Detail on Gordon Graff's Skyfarm

graff vertical farm perspective photo

We first showed Gordon Graff's vertical farm proposal for Toronto a year ago, noting that it could provide "tomatoes to throw at the latest dud at the Princess of Wales Theatre to the east, and olives for the Club District to the north." We never did get much information about it or the the designer. Now Murray Whyte of the Star interviews Graff, a student in the Master of Architecture program at the University of Waterloo.

"We're not inventing anything new here," says Graff, garrulous and passionate, with a thorough commitment to the burgeoning field of green architecture. "It might seem space-age, but all of the technology required to do this exists right now, today."

gordon graff photo

Gordon Graff; Picture by Sean Kilpatrick, the Star

Graff explains the rationale for vertical farms:"Unless we want to start talking about human population control – which is politically impossible, in a democracy – we have to start considering new strategies," Graff says. "There's either going to be massive famine, or we'll have to condense our agricultural practice."

While the site he originally proposed is now planted with condos, Graff's vision now is smaller, more local vertical farms. "The real sweet spot for this is six-to-10 storey neighbourhood farms......Human beings have never shown the capacity to consume less," he says. "The simple fact is that, somehow, we have to find a way to produce more." ::The Star

graff vertical farm section image


"Gordon Graff's Skyfarm isn't intended as an out-there suggestion of what might be. He's convinced it would work, right now. In Graff's conception, Skyfarm is a self-sustaining system.

It almost has to be: With virtually no penetration of natural light, Skyfarm's demand for electric lighting comes in at an estimated 82 million kilowatt hours per year. The average household uses about 10,000 kwh annually.

Hooking Skyfarm into the grid would completely cancel out any of the energy-saving advantages gained by not having to truck its produce thousands of kilometres. And then there's all that water – 59 storeys of hydroponic plants, stacked half a dozen storeys deep.

But Graff thought of that. Skyfarm would be equipped with its own biogas plant, to produce methane from its own waste. When burned, methane produces less carbon dioxide than other hydrocarbon fuels. It would be used by Skyfarm to produce its own electricity.

When Skyfarm is unable to produce enough waste to power itself – Graff estimates that the farm's internal waste would generate enough methane to fulfill 50 per cent of its energy needs – he suggests a win-win partnership with the city. Waste that travels to civic composting facilities – with questionable renewability, by some accounts – could be diverted to Skyfarm's anaerobic digester to produce the methane it needs. Skyfarm could take on some other problems to its benefit, too: Sewage is a rich methane source.

And the water issue? Enter the Living Machine, a patented biological water-filtration system that would recover waste water from sewage and divert it to Skyfarm's hydroponic growing demands."- Murray Whyte, the Star
Our Round-up of Vertical Farm Proposals:
Vertical (Diagonal?) Farm from Work AC in NYC
More Vertical Farms in TreeHugger
Mithun Architects' Vertical Farm for Seattle
Sky Farm Proposed for Downtown Toronto
Vertical Farms Get the New York Times Treatment
Futurama Farming in New York
The Future of Farming: Vertical or Horizontal?
Adam Stein on Vertical Farms : "Pie in the Sky"

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