It's clear that rapid urbanization and rising populations will put increased pressures on future food production, and while land-based urban agriculture is being explored as a solution, London-based designers Idrees Rasouli, Roshan Sirohia, Jason Cheah and Sebastiaan Wolzak believe the sea is where urban food should be grown.
These designers have developed Sealeaf, a prototype for a floating hydroponic system for coastal cities, pointing to the fact that eighteen of the world's twenty-one megacities lie right by the ocean.
Using Singapore as a prime example of a coastal city that imports 93 percent of its food after having lost the majority of its traditional 20,000 farms to urban development, the designers note that land comes at a hefty premium in these areas, so that even land-based urban farming may not be feasible. Instead, they say the sea may be the new frontier for urban farming:
[..] We at SEALEAF believe that while our working urban space decreases and land prices increase there is a bigger, underutilized 'land' around our cities - water.
[..] As a group of design students, our new point of view was also to address the problem of food miles and natural local production by basing our ideas around simple, inexpensive solutions and use as far as possible locally available resources such as solar energy, rainfall abundance in the tropical region (water resource) and local fish farming industry.
The design is a "floating agricultural platform" that is based on a modular, expandable concept. It consists of an enclosed hydroponic farming module and a walkway that enables farmers to access their crops on the sea. Plants, like the bok choi pictured above, are irrigated with captured rainwater solar power.
The designers explain that in countries like India or Asia, where local and fresh food is still very much part of the food culture, Sealeaf could have the potential to appeal to a new generation of sea-bound farmers looking to provide high quality vegetables for local food markets, hotels and restaurants, while earning a decent livelihood. It's an interesting idea that thinks out of the box and recently won a Core77 Design Award; the designers believe that with further testing and prototyping, Sealeaf could make the mainstream in a matter of years. More over at Sealeaf.