This Underground Farm Helps Power The Building That Houses It

5 months ago

Plantagon is a company that develops vertical farm technology, and they have some pretty big dreams for how food will be produced in the future. Their current projects suggest that the future is actually not very far off. The Plantagon CityFarm will be opening in Stockholm in 2018, Fast Company reports. 

Once it is built, the indoor farm will not only be equipped to grow plants, but the excess heat used in their production will be channeled to other parts of the building, saving the 26-floor  office building 700,000 kilowatt-hours of energy a year. As of now, Plantagon has a lease from the building for three years. They don't pay rent. How? Because the money saving abilities of their system is projected to be three times what the previous tenant paid.

Plantagon cofounder Hans Hassle told Fast Company that figuring out a way to make growing indoors cost effective is as important as trying to figure out how to make things grow at all.

“[The building owner] agreed to give us a free lease for three years, so we don’t pay one single Swedish kroner for the room,” said Hassle. “This is the challenge, very often, for urban farmers: If you really want to grow things in the city, you have to find new business models that actually make the food not too expensive in the end.”

Plantagon is so sure of their models, they're crowdfunding to build an entire structure for urban farming, an ambitious project that could change not only urban farming, but agricultural systems everywhere.

The 16-story “plantscraper” will be used to grow food, but will also have rentable office space, and an underground farm much like the one in Stockholm, used to produce heat for the building. They're hoping to open in the city of Linköping, about two hours away, by 2021. 

The indoor farm system saves energy, but it is also appealing to the area's demographic. Buying food from where it is grown in your office is about as local as you can get, if you don't have your own backyard. And that's important to a lot of people.

“In Sweden, we have a higher demand for locally grown food than we do for organic food,” Hassle explained. “People tend to want to know where the production comes from.”

Hassle argues that buying local creates a much smaller carbon footprint than buying organic foods that have traveled long distances to get into your basket.

The Plantagon system isn't just local, it's designed to use far less water than traditional farming, and filters carbon dioxide out of offices to be fed to the plants. They're hoping to open ten more similar underground locations in offices around Stockholm, as its success is proved. Despite the rapid growth, the business is run in part by a non-profit company, in an attempt to keep them honest, and crowdfunding from interested people in the community.

“To us, food production is not like running any business–food is like water, it’s a human right,” said Hassle. “So it’s not only business as usual. This has lots to do with social responsibility and of course with environmental responsibility. That’s why we’re inviting people to be part of owning these facilities because they should have input.”

Sounds like a good thing to buy into.

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