Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fresh city tomatoes, any time

01.02.2012
Why not produce lettuce, beans and tomatoes where most of the consumers are to be found: in the city? The flat roofs of many buildings are well-suited for growing vegetables. Rooftop greenhouses can also make use of a building‘s waste heat and cleaned waste water.

What could be fresher? On his way home from the office, the computer scientist harvests tomatoes from his company‘s rooftop greenhouse. The plants growing there thrive on the building‘s purified waste water and waste heat. Plantation systems such as this are still unheard-of in Germany. But they may make their debut soon: “In our inFarming project – which is short for ‘integrated farming‘ – we are developing solutions that can be speedily implemented for the urban landscape.

Our goal is to grow vegetables atop existing buildings,“ certified engineer Volkmar Keuter, project manager at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT in Oberhausen, explains. Actually, there are many varieties of plants suitable for growing on city farms. “Along with vegetables and fruit, we also want to look into growing plants that produce active ingredients for medications.“

The benefits: reducing the area required for agriculture, almost no transportation costs and, as a result, lower emissions - not to mention the boost in freshness when the tomatoes grow right on the consumer‘s roof. Waste heat from buildings and additional solar modules would be enough to supply the greenhouses with the energy they need. Semi-transparent solar cells are ideally suited for the purpose because they do not rob the plants of the light they need to grow. Water consumption is minimal, too: in a self-contained system, water used for the plants is circulated back, cleaned and reused.

Multifunctional microsieves and photocatalytic and thus self-cleaning coatings keep the water quality high. Nutrients for the plants can even be filtered out of rainwater and waste water. “Our concept relies on hydroponic systems or hydrocultures. A thin, controlled film of water is all it takes for plants to absorb needed nutrients. The advantage: the yield is ten times higher, and soil is too heavy for many building roofs. That is why we are working on systems to supply plants with nutrients,“ the researcher reports.

In Germany there are around 1,200 million square meters‘ worth of flat-roofed, non-residential buildings. Roughly a quarter of this area could provide herbs and vegetables with a place to thrive. The plants would then absorb some 28 million metric tons of 28 CO2 in Germany‘s cities each year. This is the equivalent of 80 percent of CO2emissions produced by industrial operations in Germany. “Our cooperation partner – BrightFarm, a US firm - has already completed several projects in New York. The company started out in 2005 with a small research institution on a raft before going on to build greenhouses atop a school for teaching purposes. This year, 1500 square meters‘ worth of roof space were developed in both the South Bronx and Brooklyn. Here in Germany, we are building an applications lab at the Fraunhofer-inHaus-Center in Duisburg. This is the Fraunhofer innovation workshop for intelligent room and building systems,“ certified geographer Simone Krause, Volkmar Keuter‘s colleague, points out.

The idea for urban agriculture is not new and is a hot topic of discussion at international level. Urban, vertical, sky or rooftop farming are the names by which the various approaches are known. Worldwide, futuristic, garden-bearing structures are the brainchildren of designers and architects in particular. Keuter and Krause, on the other hand, intend to make use of existing buildings. The researchers have their work cut out for them. “For instance, we have to set up logistics chains for regionally produced lettuce and herbs. Other questions include: Which products are best-suited? How widely accepted are nutrient solutions as an alternative to soil? We are relying on very high-quality vegetables, not on mass production,“ Simone Krause quickly adds. As of yet, there are only a handful of tomatoes growing on rooftops or in high-rises, but the idea is bearing fruit worldwide - after all, the freshness is hard to beat.

Volkmar Keuter | Fraunhofer Research News
Further information:
http://www.infarming.de

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Trees and climate change: Faster growth, lighter wood
14.08.2018 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Animals and fungi enhance the performance of forests
01.08.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte

17.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Robots as Tools and Partners in Rehabilitation

17.08.2018 | Information Technology

Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves

17.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>