Where the walls have ears (of corn)
Gravity-defying urban farms are now installed at Apple, Google, Intel and Facebook offices.
When Yves Saint Laurent puts on a fashion show, the extravagant runway clothes are usually not worn again. When Guy Barness was challenged to come up with a farmer’s field that could grow on a city wall for the world Expo 2015 in Milan, he thought his project would go the way of high fashion – impressive but never really practical.
Barness' work is currently on display in Milan at a show-stopping pavilion representing Israel at the Expo 2015 event. "Feeding the world" is the theme of this edition of the world's fair that occurs about once every four years.
In addition to the expo, Barness runs two companies – Green Wall and Vertical Field. They allow edible fields of rice, wheat, corn and more to climb city walls. They are among the first companies in the world to offer field-size plots that grow food on walls. His gravity-defying food gardens are now installed at Apple, Google, Intel and Facebook offices.
City life and urban farming offer a more tangible avenue for a younger generation to enter farming. The National Garden Association reports that in the past five years, there has been a 29 percent increase in urban farming, the largest rise coming from millennials at 63 percent.
Vertical farming in a densely populated city environment allows people to eat fresh foods that were grown locally, cutting the ecological footprint of produce from farther-reaching locales. “Of course we can grow more on less space,” Barness tells From The Grapevine, “but we get more benefits from it than just the wheat. People can harvest together, and the vertical wall has acoustic and thermal insulation properties.”
Mike Andrus, founder and CEO of Delaware-based We Feed Us, is working to motivate more people in and around cities to farm. Like Barness, he believes that there are more advantages to urban farming than just local food. "This scalable urban farm model connects the growth of sustainable food sources, the community, the environment and energy solutions for a greener, healthier planet," he says.
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