According to current projections of population growth, the world population of humans will continue to grow until at least 2050, with the estimated population, based on current growth trends, to reach 9 billion in 2040,and some predictions putting the population in 2050 as high as 11 billion. World population passed the 7 billion mark on October 31, 2011.
Soil is the earth’s fragile skin that anchors all life on Earth. It is comprised of countless species that create a dynamic and complex ecosystem and is among the most precious resources to humans. Increased demand for agriculture commodities generates incentives to convert forests and grasslands to farm fields and pastures. The transition to agriculture from natural vegetation often cannot hold onto the soil and many of these plants, such as coffee, cotton, palm oil, soybean and wheat, can actually increase soil erosion beyond the soil’s ability to maintain itself.
Half of the topsoil on the planet has been lost in the last 150 years. In addition to erosion, soil quality is affected by other aspects of agriculture. These impacts include compaction, loss of soil structure, nutrient degradation, and soil salinity. These are very real and at times severe issues.
By the year 2050, nearly 80% of the earth’s population will reside in urban centers. Applying the most conservative estimates to current demographic trends, the human population will increase by about 3 billion people during the interim. An estimated 109 hectares of new land (about 20% more land than is represented by the country of Brazil) will be needed to grow enough food to feed them, if traditional farming practices continue as they are practiced today. At present, throughout the world, over 80% of the land that is suitable for raising crops is in use (sources: FAO and NASA). Historically, some 15% of that has been laid waste by poor management practices. What can be done to avoid this impending disaster?”
The confluence of these observations and forecasts points to the need to increase our ability to grow fresh food in urban areas – closer to the populations that will consume them. This means shifting from traditional outdoor gardens to indoor systems for food production. Electronic Engineers are uniquely suited to provide systems based on a technology infrastructure that can lessen required energy consumption in production and improve the output of a smaller space.
Vertical Farming is a developing industry growing to meet these demands. The main areas for measuring their success – and focus for improvement - are the production output per square foot, monitoring and lessening the energy and water consumption, and efficiencies around harvesting.
We will select 15 challengers from all entries received to build indoor, vertical farms that are true IoT solutions. The projects should include:
- Environmental monitoring (light, temperature and humidity)
- A watering and feeding system
- A greater growing surface than just the overall footprint of the build
- Energy monitoring to collect data on the overall consumption of power and water by the system
Help Along the Way
In addition to the great Kit that Challengers will receive, we also have support for those of you without a green thumb. We’re going to be recommending the types of seeds to buy, the types of fertilizer and ranges to be aware of when you’re monitoring moisture, light and humidity. We’ll announce a point in time about six weeks out when all Challengers should start their seedlings. After a 7-10 day germination period, your seedlings should be transferred to your Vertical Farm. Then after about a month of growing we’ll ask you to harvest your crop. Submitting information about the overall weight of the harvest and the average height of the plants will help the Judges determine the best developed solutions.
And if your seedlings start looking sickly, then post a question on the Design Challenge site and someone from the Vertical Farming Association will give you tips and suggestions to help you nurse your plants back to life.
More details coming soon.