The town of Jackson, Wyoming will soon be on the cusp of agricultural engineering with a space-saving, sustainable and vertical farm built on a section of parking garage.
The initiative has been undertaken by Vertical Harvest, a Wyoming-based agri-business that wants to enhance the local economy with fresh, locally grown produce that is available 365 days a year. Presently, the long, snowy winters in Jackson make for poor growing conditions, forcing the town to import fruits and vegetables from other states and countries.
By converting a section of a local parking garage into their vertical farm, the founders of the project say that they can yield five acres’ worth of produce from a space that is just 30 feet by 150 feet. This is done via the use of hydroponics and a rotating carousel that gives plants equal time in natural light.
According to Vertical Harvest, this allows the plants to grow 30 percent faster while using 90 percent less water. On the firm’s FAQ page, they write that these crops will “use no herbicide or pesticide chemicals that are known to significantly impact the environment and our bodies.”
The design of the growing carousel “is also specifically designed to provide a safe and meaningful work environment for adults with developmental disabilities,” the company explains on its kickstarter page. “With this technology, Vertical Harvest will wrap agricultural, architectural and social innovation into one project that will be a critical milestone in urban agriculture.
Once finished, the vertical farm is projected to yield over 4,400 pounds of herbs, over 37,000 pounds of greens and 44,000 pounds of tomatoes.
The vertical farm initiative was established in collaboration with Jackson’s authorities and partially funded by an enthusiastic kickstarter campaign. In January 2013, the campaign had collected over $36,000 of its $30,000 goal. Its founders calculate that the total cost of the project will be $2.35 million, though a $1.5 million Wyoming State Grant could go a long way towards that figure if the farm qualifies.
The founders of Vertical Harvest, Nona Yehia and Penny McBride, told The Verge that, though the greenhouse will require a lot of energy to power, the cost is still a net gain over importing produce.