Downtown Tokyo ‘Office Farm’ Takes Green Building to New Heights

July 31st, 2013 by Sophie Feng Ripe tomatoes hang from conference room ceilings, rice paddies grow waist-high in the lobby, and a living facade of flowers and orange trees covers the expanse of the building’s exterior. There’s no shortage of agricultural variety around the Pasona office building, located in downtown Tokyo, Japan. In total, over 200 species of fruits, vegetables, and rice live within Pasona, including lemons, broccoli, salad greens, berries, squash, eggplant, and passion fruit.
urban farming tokyo

The building’s exterior uses vertical farming technology to display several varieties of trees and flowers. (KONO DESIGNS)

Over 43,000 square feet of space is dedicated to the vegetation, and together with the automatic irrigation system and HEFL, fluorescent, and LED lighting, this office space is essentially a complete indoor ecosystem.
urban rice paddy

A rice paddy grows in the lobby and each harvest can yield up to 50kg of rice. (KONO DESIGNS)

Since launching its agriculture project with its basement farm over eight years ago, Pasona — a renowned temporary staffing and recruiting agency — has fully commited to the advancement of urban agriculture by providing community workshops that train younger generations of urban farmers. Pasona intially embarked on the project with the intention of creating jobs in the agricultural sector. But given its use of the latest hydroponic, lighting, and soil technologies, the company has emerged as an urban agriculture pioneer in Tokyo.
urban farming tokyo

A combination of HEFL, fluorescent, and LED lighting provides the conditions necessary for growth. (KONO DESIGNS)

While visitors are free to enter the lobby and see the farm for themselves, the employees actually contribute directly to the farm-to-office-table initiative; they work with a managing team to maintain, harvest, and prepare the produce for the on-site cafeteria. The resulting meals are fresh in quality, and the direct exposure to the seed-to-fruit process raises office- and community-wide awareness of food supply demands.
urban farms

Employees pitch in with harvesting fresh vegetables to be prepared and served at the cafeteria. (KONO DESIGNS)

As with all innovative projects, this indoor farm isn’t free of faults. The energy used to power the lighting may not be the most efficient compared to conventional farming methods, and some may find the sterile environment unsettling and abnormal. Rather than regard its indoor farm as a perfect prototype, however, Pasona sees it as an experiment, the lessons from which will almost certainly inform new and improved urban agriculture ventures in the years to come.
indoor fruit japan

Conference meetings and group discussions happen alongside growing vines and flowering fruit. (KONO DESIGNS)

gardening border

urban farming

Vertical Farming

Written by lorne, July 29, 2013 Building for the future is all about sustainability. Living habitats that blend nature with technology to make the best use of space in a way that is beneficial to all life on Earth. The way we go about doing that is by following the three E’s. Environment, Economy, and Energy. There are many solutions, but none handle all three quite like vertical farming.

About Vertical Farming

Vertical farming is not a new idea, just a technique that was long forgotten. The phrase was first coined in Gilbert Bailey’s 1915 book titled “Vertical Farming.” In the book he describes how farmers could go down into the Earth to maximize their farming area, opposed to expanding outwards. This was to address the issue of running out of space due to increasing populations. Today’s version is the same concept, only instead of going down you go up. Answering the Three E’s (or the triple bottom line) Vertical farm buildings answers a wide variety of problems that farmers deal with on a daily basis including pests, disease, irrigation, cost, and weather. Not only does it lower cost and make food more available to everyone, but it helps us save space for wildlife. farming in the city


Plants such as corn, which are used to make bio-fuels could be grown in every town, diminishing our dependency on oil. The fruit of these plants gives us food, while the waste is turned into usable energy.


Bringing the food source closer to where people live lowers costs, and lets people have more spending money, thus more businesses have customers.


The home of millions of animals and other creatures benefit from this space saver. Also a little green in the city would also help filter toxins out of the air. And of course with all those trucks hauling our grocery goods off the road, we can all breathe much easier. Types of Vertical Farming: There are many ways vertical farms can be made, from small home gardens to industrial sized farming. Just search the web for “Vertical Farming Systems,” and you will find many companies selling vertical garden kits for your yard and your house. Ed Harwood’s “AeroFarm” aeroponic system is a great example. Additionally there are kits to grow plants along the exterior walls of your home or any other building. These mini vertical farms are great for growing herbs and vegetables used in cooking. aerofarm: urban farming Another form of vertical farming, which has just begun to be implemented is skyscraper farms. Potentially an 18 story tower could feed about 50,000 people, and take up much less land. Think of it as a giant green house. Add in an automated irrigation, fertilizing, and lighting system powered by wind and sunlight, and you have got a reliably self sustaining source of food and energy. Could you imagine getting your fruits and veggies from down the street, instead of trucked for days across country. Now that is fresh. Good bye high gas prices, and hello vacation with family. More jobs are created, and gas guzzling heavy farm equipment sits in museums as reminders of our filthy past. The air you breathe is cleaner, the food you eat is safer, and your overall way of life is improved thanks to green building like the vertical farms right in your neighborhood. gardening border

urban agriculture


Farming Multiplexes

By: N A Ramachandra Pai on Jul 24, 2013 By 2050, the world’s population will have increased by 3 billion people, requiring an additional chunk of arable land the size of Brazil in order to grow enough food. Add to that the potential loss of coastal property from rising sea levels, crop loss from drastic weather related incidents, and the need to reforest large swaths of land to sequester CO2. What we’re left with is a global mess that could be helped by a new agricultural technique – vertical farming. Located in an urban setting, the vertical farm is a win-win idea that automates the production of food in a more sustainable manner, by reducing waste, pollution and carbon emissions. By the time 2050 rolls around, 80% of the world’s population will dwell in an urban setting. With more and more people focused on healthy, organic food bought locally, the demand is even greater to bring food production closer to the city. Vertical farms are not meant to eliminate traditional rural farming, but merely to reduce the strain put on the land and allow some of it to return to nature and forest. For every indoor acre farmed, 10 to 20 outdoor acres of farmland could return to their natural ecological state, which in most cases is hardwood forest. Local and urban vertical farms have many eco-benefits for both the surrounding region and the planet. Vertical farms will rely solely on hydroponic organic farming techniques, which means no pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and no pollution injected into waterways. Vertical farms will be highly efficient and densely built, eliminating heavy machinery and farming equipment responsible for a significant amount of agricultural emissions. Water for irrigation will likely come from treated rainwater, grey or backwater and water use can be significantly reduced by recycling water and through the efficient use and reuse of water inside the farm. Located in the city center, shipping and its associated environmental impact will be practically eliminated. Crops themselves will be monitored closely and provided with the exact growing conditions necessary to each species, thereby improving yields. Indoor controlled growth eliminates crop loss due to weather and natural disasters such as flood, drought or hurricanes. On top of that, a boom of urban, green-tech jobs will become available for growers, researchers, technicians, vendors and more. In order to create such a high tech growing machine, a number of sustainable technologies will be integrated into one building. All of these technologies are currently available, but not all have been combined into one site yet. Gray and blackwater, along with rainwater will be treated for irrigation use, which will be combined with water recovery systems to collect unused water for use in aeroponic and hydroponic growing. Environmental conditions will be tightly controlled for each crop, maximizing growth, while minimizing the use of water and nutrients. Waste from plants will be either composted for fertilizer or will be combined with animal waste and used as a fuel within the building. energy will be generated from renewable resources like the sun and wind, while energy efficient building technologies will minimize energy needs. Ideally the building could create more energy than it needs and feed the excess back onto the grid. Crop production would become a year round activity and makes one acre of indoor growing area equivalent to 4-6 outdoor acres or more. Inside the farm will grow and care for all sorts of edibles, like vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, poultry, fish, pigs. A leading researcher on vertical farms, Dickson Despommier from Columbia University, estimates one vertical farm is enough to feed 50,000 people. While some may argue that treating the farm like an industrialized factory is moving too far away from nature, the concept has too many benefits to be ignored. Both people and the planet would benefit by such treatment of agriculture and location of some farms in closer proximity to the city centers. Vertical farms could never replace traditional agriculture, but it would certainly take the pressure off the arable land to produce all the food we will need and hopefully eliminate the need to resort to genetically modified crops, strife over water, or food shortages. urban farming
 vegetable border

vertical farm

Vertical Farming: Cornfields Are behind the Third Door on the Left

July 16, 2013 by Robert Paul Southern
“Due to unpredictable weather patterns that destroy millions of tons of crops each year and a growing human population set to peak at about 9 billion, some future-focused innovators are looking for better ways to keep food on the table. Two neo-farm prototypes currently evolving on separate continents share a common concept: urban farming as the future of sustainable agriculture.” – Venessa Posavec, Future Blogger.In the two years since Venessa’s article, the notion of skyscraper farms has not died off. However, vertical farming has taken a more cautious and practical turn.“The idea of vertical farming is all the rage right now,” says Michaeleen Doucleff at NPR’s The Salt. “Architects and engineers have come up with spectacular concepts for lofty buildings that could function as urban food centers of the future.”Doucleff notes that in Sweden “they’re planning a 177-foot skyscraper to farm leafy greens at the edge of each floor. But so far, most vertical gardens that are up and running actually look more like large greenhouses than city towers. And many horticulturists don’t think sky-high farms in cities are practical.”Sadly for those of us who dream of aforementioned and illustrated mega towers of amber waves of grain or banana jungles from fifty stories up, “the future of vertical farming…lies not in city skyscrapers, but rather in large warehouses located in the suburbs, where real estate and electricity are cheaper.”Douclef points out that Barry Holtz and his company Caliber Biotherapeutics “have built a 150,000-square-foot ‘plant factory’ in Texas that is completely closed off from the outside world. They grow 2.2 million plants, stacked up 50 feet high, all underneath the magenta glow of blue and red LEDS.”“A photon is a terrible thing to waste,” Holtz explains. “So we developed these lights to correctly match the photosynthesis needs of our plants. We get almost 20 percent faster growth rate and save a lot energy.”The pay off, Holtz says, is the efficiency in water and electricity use.“We’ve done some calculations, and we lose less water in one day than a KFC restaurant uses, because we recycle all of it.”This method of efficiency is most essential as global fresh water availability per person continues to constrict, and is wonderful for singular projects, such as those demonstrated in Sweden and Texas. The trick will be translating the dynamics of these small projects onto a larger canvass as entire regions in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe contest with shifting climes heading into the greenhouselettuce border


Dyv-net, Dynamic Vertical Networks Proposal / JAPA Architects

July 13, 2012  by 
japan vertical farm

Courtesy of JAPA Architects

JAPA Architects shared with us their proposal, Dyv-net, Dynamic Vertical Networks, which deals with the development of modern, efficient and environmentally acceptable farming structures. Located in the Tai Po District, the second largest administrative district in Hong Kong, the architects foresee a paradigm shift to vertical agriculture structures which can be integrated into a territorial network along the country. More images and architects’ description after the break.
japan urban farming

Courtesy of JAPA Architects

Strategic rethink of the Asian City: China’s limited space for farming

Since 2000, China’s cities have expanded at an average rate of 10% annually. Although China’s agricultural output is the largest in the world, only about 15% of its total land area can be cultivated. China’s arable land, which represents 10% of the total arable land in the world, supports over 20% of the world’s population. Of this approximately 1.4 million square kilometers of arable land, only about 1.2% (116,580 square kilometers) permanently supports crops and 525,800 square kilometers are irrigated.The land is divided into approximately 200 million households, with an average land allocation of just 0.65 hectares (1.6 acres).
urban farming

Courtesy of JAPA Architects

China’s limited space for farming has been a problem throughout its history, leading to chronic food shortage. While the production efficiency of farmland has grown over time, efforts to expand to the west and the north have held limited success, as such land is generally colder and drier than traditional farmlands to the east. Since the 1950s, farm space has also been pressured by the increasing land needs of industry and cities.
urban farm
With an area of some 14,800 hectares in the northeast New Territories, it’s proximity to the high-rise developments of the Kowloon-Hong Kong area is a positive aspect to propose a low food mileage production infrastructure which can fed the city population (close to the urban centers).
vertical farming

Courtesy of JAPA Architects

Inspired by the traditional China’s rice farming agriculture amazing shifting terraces and by the earlier agricultural hardware which shows a tensile use of materials to produce structures which are resistant and at the same time can be light, our proposal emphasizes the use of shifting floor plates and light structural systems which incorporates recycled metallic material.The 187.50 meters structures will attract locals & international visitors and become new places for education and agricultural research.
vertical farms

Courtesy of JAPA Architects

Project features:

- Vertical structures which provide food,save land and at the same time act as a biodiversity magnet - Paradigm shift: create more agricultural land by building upwards / No soil erosion, now Food will be grown hydroponically in a series of vertical process-connected structures - 360 degree viewing platforms and new spaces research on farming techniques - Close-by Industry: processing healthy food& create work places - Opportunity to use towers to install laboratories and research hubs Architects: JAPA Architects Location: Tai Po District, Hong Kong, China Award: Citation in the FuturArc Prize 2013 Year: 2013 Photographs: Courtesy of JAPA Architects farm border Asiia Vertical Farming

Vertical Farming

 July 10, 2013
With insights into vertical gardening, it is easy to see how this ‘new way’ of gardening is catching on for both home and commercial gardeners. And as many urban cities and areas today are short on space, farming has also gone vertical, giving rise to the term ‘vertical farming’ that is being described as a new ‘way of the future’ for farming. In this post, we give you a little insight into commercial vertical farming in cities that can help to solve our agricultural problems. new york vertical farm

Vertical farming in cities?

Much like the way you can vertically farm your own fruit, herbs and vegetables be it through frames set up in your garden or little pots hanging off your fence/wall, vertical farming can help us alleviate some of our agricultural problems. A recommended way is to have a vertical farm in the city that employs large-scale aeroponics and hydroponics that allows production of food crops that does not further damage the environment and frees up farmland to allow it to return to its former ecological setting. Singapore vertical farming

Some Main Advantages of Vertical Farming

  • Less environmental destruction
A city-based agricultural system can allow us to prevent further damage of the environment as it would allow us to regenerate the ecological system that once existed before our cities and countries were built.
  • Year-round crop production
Because aeroponics and hydroponics are farmed in protected outdoor greenhouses, they are not affected by weather conditions such as rain, monsoons, droughts, etc.
  • Higher productivity
Compared to conventional farms, vertical farms allow for higher productivity, as the plants are stacked on top of each other, maximising the use of space and allowing for higher yields.
  • Low energy & water usage
Hydroponic and aeroponic technologies have revolutionised the way water is used by reusing and recycling water, which allows for a low water usage. Also, outdoor green houses make use of sunlight while indoor green houses make use of energy-efficient fluorescent lights, leading to low energy usage as well.

Important elements of a vertical farm

When it comes to the design of a vertical farm, there are four important, major elements that designers and engineers must include:
  • Capturing sunlight and dispersing it evenly among the crops
Depending on the country and climate that the vertical farm is in, there are certainly different ways to go about ensuring that there is sunlight and that it is evenly dispersed among the crops – an important element needed for healthy plant growth.
  • Capturing passive energy for supplying a reliable source of electricity
Vertical farms can do more than providing a food supply for us. Solar panels, wind turbines and even a wind turbine with photovoltaics (a solar/wind capture strategy) included in a vertical farm can also help to supply energy for electricity, making the vertical farm even more useful.
  • Good barrier design for plant protection
This involves food safety and security so good barrier designs to prevent any unwanted substances from entering the growing food is important; this includes strategies to control outdoor pests and diseases, as well as human-transmitted diseases.
  • Maximising space
Configuring each floor of the vertical farm to fully maximise is certainly another important element to ensure that the vertical farm is being fully leveraged on in every possible way. urban farms

Who farms vertically?

Besides the home gardener, vertical farming has certainly taken off around the world.Singapore has Sky Greens that uses its own “a-go-gro vertical farming”, Chicago houses USA’s largest indoor vertical farm, while countries like Japan, Korea and Sweden have either already built or have plans to build vertical farms that do not make use of soil. garden border
urban farming chicago

Quick News: Vertical farm operator to speak in Frankfort

July 7, 2013 11:46AM

Vertical farm operator

Blake Davis, an adjunct professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, will speak about “The Plant,” his vertical farming operation in Chicago, at 1 p.m. Sunday at the barn on Codo’s farm, 11700 Stuenkel Road in Frankfort. This organic food-growing operation is in a former meat-packing plant. Davis worked with students to design and construct the facility, which uses fish and plants in a controlled-environment agricultural system to produce food year-round. gardening border urban farming

Vertical Farming: The Innovative Solution to Food Shortages

Published Tue, July 2, 2013   Senior Columnist How do you define entrepreneurship? I think we can agree that a skilled entrepreneur does the following: Spots a gap or a problem in a given market, and then invents a product/solution that solves the problem, is in high demand, or is essential to survive. Meet Jack Ng – an entrepreneur who’s doing just that to boost production of a basic, yet critical, human necessity… Food.

So Much Growth… Yet So Little Food

Think of food shortages, and you probably think of poverty-stricken African and Asian countries. You probably don’t think of Singapore – a nation that boasts the world’s highest percentage of millionaires and where poverty is rare. It’s one of the world’s biggest financial centers, oil refiners, gambling markets, semiconductor producers, shipping ports and tax havens. It’s the easiest place to do business, according to the World Bank. And it also has thriving education and tourism industries. Yet among all this wealth and prosperity is the fact that 90% of Singapore’s food is imported. Only one commercial farm remains and it’s a mere 250 acres. That’s about one-third of a square mile. But Jack Ng has an innovative solution to Singapore’s agricultural scarcity – and in one of the first ventures of its kind, he’s pulling off what architects and scientists have only theorized about… He’s planting up…

Meals on Wheels

Ng’s company, Sky Greens, is pioneering a new way of farming: vertically. Trained as an engineer, Ng has designed unique, four-storey glass structures that operate like giant food ferris wheels. Plants are racked in aluminum trays and are automatically rotated using water-powered wheels. Powering each construction uses no more energy than one 60-watt incandescent light bulb and costs about $3 a month. Moreover, because Ng’s innovation requires less water, less labor, and fewer pesticides, total operating expenses are about one-quarter of what a traditional farm in Singapore would be. And because of these advantages, Ng can price his produce competitively, compared to food imports from China and Malaysia. Does it work, though? You bet. Sales recently jumped by 40% over a two-month period. The next step for Ng is to boost capacity. And he hopes the proven viability and momentum of his food innovation will help secure enough public and private funding to quadruple Sky Green’s volume over the next 18 months. And in the spirit of Singapore’s export culture, he hopes to transfer his farm design to other food-crunched countries. But Singapore isn’t alone in food innovation…

Step into the “Plantagon”

Sweden is taking on its own ambitious vertical farming project. Based in Linköping, a company called Plantagon hopes to build a 12-storey, triangular food facility. Once built, the farm will be the tallest of its kind in the world, and will use innovative ways to generate extra revenue. In addition to selling its food, Plantagon will also lease office space on most floors of the building. Needless to say, this building will be quite a feat of engineering. It will feature a mechanical track, enclosed in its own layer of glass, which will carry growing plants from the top of the building to the bottom. This unique design exposes the plants to an even amount of sunlight and allows Plantagon to perform its planting and harvesting on the ground floor. The company plans to produce 300 to 500 metric tons of leafy greens per year. But what about the United States? What are we doing to boost food production? Pink is the New Green You’ve heard of greenhouses… but what about “pinkhouses?” This is a “new age” farming method, based on the fact that plants mostly need the red and blue colors of the spectrum to thrive. The more they get, the faster they grow. So vertical farmers are installing tracts of computer-controlled LEDs to maximize plant growth. In addition, LED is cool to the touch, so you can nestle it right up against the plants without harming them or wasting energy through heat. (For more on the positive prospects of LED technology, see my article here.) As Barry Holtz of Caliber Biotherapeutics says, “A photon is a terrible thing to waste. So we developed these lights to correctly match the photosynthesis needs of our plants. We get almost 20% faster growth and save a lot of energy.” For its efforts, Caliber is rewarded with a 10-fold increase in the number of farming cycles compared to traditional land farming. Ultimately control is the name of the game when it comes to vertical farming. No pests, droughts, temperature swings, frosts, or other invaders to worry about when your farm is in a windowless suburban warehouse. It remains to be seen if vertical farming will fully take off in the United States as it has in other countries. While we’re not stifled by land restrictions like some other nations, drought, frost and natural disasters are persistent threats to annual crop yields. Plus, the population is rising, which puts pressure on existing food production methods. And as the success of natural and organic, environmentally conscious retailers like Whole Foods (WFM) proves, consumers might be willing to pay a little more for carbon-neutral, vertically grown produce free of pesticides. Ahead of the tape, Elizabeth Carney