Vertical Farm Planters design process

Posted on: May 18th, 2011 by Heather

Early in 2011 Bryce and Eamonn met and discussed a budding idea.  Bryce’s work with Projects in Place and Eamonn’s work in urban agriculture brought them together with the hope to move an evolution forward.  Bryce had been working on an idea that would allow urban farming to move to the next level, the endless landscape of urban rooftops.

Bryce presented an idea that would marry current rooftop technology with urban farming.  The hope was to create a concept that would allow farming to occur of rooftops throughout the city.  However, there were many questions to answer and plenty of planning to do.

At the end of it, the idea had been conceptualized as a soil sushi roll. The design would allow for assembly on the ground, carrying of the assembled planter to the rooftop and subsequent planting.  Since rooftops can be a difficult place to build, this idea solved many of the issues around installation that Projects in Place had discovered on previous projects.

The new sushi roll planters also cleverly dealt with issues of weight and efficient use of soil volume.  All to say, the idea was off and running, but there were still more questions.

Over the few months that followed, the entire Projects in Place team worked collaboratively to come to a more ridged design.  After numerous discussions the team had created some more rigorous conceptual models.

At this point it had become apparent that we needed to more past the conceptual stage, we needed to test our idea and prototype our planter.

On April 3, 2011 a group of interested parties met at SOLEfood urban farm on Hastings to take this idea to the next stage.  With Projects in Place were, Kent (an urban agricultural entrepreneur), Linus (Architects without Borders) and Seann (SOLEfood).  Together we were tackling two issues. The first was working on the Project in Place sushi roll planter, and the second was working with a recycled Teflon material to create planters.  We were unsure if we would marry these ideas, but we discovered that the Teflon material would not work for our sushi roll concept.  However, the Teflon would work to create quite ridged raised planters (a cross between a raised planter and a foldable fabric disposal bin).

Although Linus’s and Kent’s work with the Teflon was really interesting, we also wanted to answer our questions about our rooftop sausage.

  1. How big around could the planters be? If the goal was to prefabricate them, the answer is not that large.  They were considerably heavier then expected.  The maximum circumference would probably be around 2 feet.
  2. How long could they be? Again, this depended on the size around, but much longer then 4-6 feet (2 foot circumference) would get quite difficult to carry.
  3. Would the planters remain ridged?  Surprisingly, yes.  However, the vertical planter design was probably out of the question without some support.  The planters would settle into a usable shape.
  4. How would you plant into the planter?  Although we may not have answered this question specifically, it may be wise to consider individual plant holes rather than a long “cut” down the middle.  This may help the planter keep its shape.  However, this highly depends on the geotextile used (outer fabric, root barrier), and the ability (or lack there of) to cut it.

Although the Projects in Place team may have walked away from that experience with more questions then answers, one important question was answered.  Was our idea even possible?  To that we found a resounding yes.

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