Vertical Farming Conference

This week saw the Vertical Farming and Urban Agriculture Conference 2014. Just about every influential figure in the Vertical and Urban Farming industry worldwide descended on the University of Nottingham, delivering two days of fascinating lectures and presentations as well as exhibition stands showcasing the latest in urban farming technology. The conference kicked off with the ‘godfather of vertical farming’; Dickson Despommier – the very guy who developed the ‘vertical farm’ concept without which, Growing Underground and every urban vertical farm in the world today would not exist!

Mind blowing and engaging presentations were to follow from the likes of Paul Hadej of the impressive Chicago based, Farmed Here vertical farm, who described the challenges posed by US authorities in this relatively new industry. Oscar Rodriguez of Architecture & Food also highlighted the need for urban agriculture typologies to assist planning purposes. Caleb Harper from MIT MediaLab and MIT CityFarm described how they use futuristic Lidar sensors with flight camera sensor technology to remotely scan and calculate the mass of a plant without ever touching it! Qichang Yang from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences wowed us with ‘above ground’ tubers, home growing systems and a 10yr old soilless sweet potato plant that has produced 500 potatoes!

Meanwhile from the UK, Kevin Freddiani, Head of Sustainable Land Use, Bicton College, noted the importance of engaging stakeholder interests around applied research, education and knowledge transfer to support sustainable agriculture consumption and production. Whilst Tim Benton at Food Security UK described the positive social effect of urban agriculture in reconnecting people to the food they eat thus creating respect for its production. He also slammed us with the environmental fact that if cities produced just 10% of their own food, we could replace a substantial area of forest and finally he reminded us to simply stop wasting food! It was also pretty cool that a couple of presentations at the conference gave Growing Underground a mention!

It was such a dynamic and forward thinking couple of days, it was great to meet so many other people in the industry and new friends were made. A veritable exchange of knowledge on not just how vertical farms and urban agriculture around the world function, but their ever increasing importance to food security. Everybody though coming from different angles, were singing from the same hymn sheet and genuinely excited about what the other is doing, it was like a Venn diagram of the industry all under one roof! We are now buzzing here at GU, rejuvenated with fresh ideas and visions galore for our urban farm! 🙂