Rikuchiyu, a city off the coast of Maldives is known for its pristine white beaches, green and prosperous downtown and attractive hi-rise vertical farms. It is the “emerald city where everybody wants to live”. From the vertical farms like the Hanging Gardens of Babylonian to the thrilling under water slide Shipwreck, this magnificent city has it all.
Like any other major city, Rikuchiyu had its own share of problems like persistent runoffs, urban decay, food shortages and energy crisis. Recently, it resolved its issue of runoff water and transformed itself as a vibrant greenest city of the world.
Rikuchiyu is in tropical climatic zone, with heavy monsoon rains all year round. It had runaway urbanization because of unplanned city planning and tourism, which resulted in urban decay like abandoned buildings and improper waste water management. Urban runoff resulted in sludge from city streets, which was a health hazard to the citizens. Rural runoff resulted in landslides and water contaminated with pesticides.
The Mayor of Rikuchiyu decided to solve the problem of runoff water in a novel, innovative and integrated way. This approach resulted in improving the health of the citizens, greening abandoned building, managing sludge and preventing landslides in rural areas. He decided to involve the community to build vertical farms in abandoned urban areas. This major initiative was integrated with other initiatives like harvesting energy from ocean currents, rural reforestation and building streets with porous pavements and roof top gardens.
The most critical runoff problem in Rikuchiyu was contamination of water from urban waste and agricultural pesticides. Vertical farms reduce run-off water in many ways. By taking away traditional farming methods, we don’t have any agricultural run-off water. The vertical farms use the water collected in storage reservoirs from streets and roof to water the plants using micro-sprinklers.
Rikuchiyu has made the world a greener place by constructing magnificent vertical farms so the citizens can have fresh produce every day. Vertical farms are environmentally friendly and they help the community because they turn abandoned buildings into beautiful modern wonders. Plants grow on mechanical tracks that carry them from the top of the building to the bottom for harvesting. The track is built outside of the wall of the office building behind a glass façade to receive natural light. When plants finish moving across one level, they slide down to a lower level. Mechanical arms below the track will gradually shift the boxes forward on each level. The vegetables are planted in boxes in pumice, which holds water is porous enough to allow root growth. Irrigation lines will carry water and nutrients to the root.
They have restaurants built in them and provide fresh and nutritious food to schools. Vertical farms are completely automated as they grow vegetables, fruits and cereals. You can select from your mobile phone and “voila”, it all drops into your shopping bag, fresh and organic. Additionally, to add beauty, rooftop gardens were placed all around the city. Around the Rikuchiyu wildlife, riparian buffers were placed to prevent erosion and runoff water.
Water quality is improving dramatically, traditional agriculture is reduced which was resulted in less pesticides. Cost and pollution from trucks that transport our food from farms in the countryside is reduced. All the runoff water in the vertical farms will be recycled and reused. Vast acres of farmland are reforested and converted into watershed systems. The farms using runoff water promotes sustainable communities as they produce different foods year-round in urban areas where it gets consumed. Using vertical farms will reduce the possibility of our food source collapsing due to weather or pests. Companies running vertical farms will not go into debt or for-closure.
As Rikuchiyu was designing this solution, not everyone was sold on the ideas of managing runoff water using vertical farming. Building waste water treatment plans would have been cheaper, existing conventional farms are simpler and transporting food from farms to cities was a small cost. But to manage the complete problem of runoff water, along with urban decay, food security, pollution and jobs it was decided to have a 21st century futuristic answer. These solutions will pay off the costs automatically, with food consumed locally and bringing in jobs and citizens back to the city.
Our civil and environmental engineers made this a scientifically plausible solution. The abandoned buildings were an eyesore and hence they converted into vertical farms with irrigation lines from storm water storage tanks. The outer walls of buildings are made of strong glass and the sun’s rays will light the whole building. The structures will not sway and be very stable. The structures are very common shapes like triangles or steps made from locally available materials, so it is very easy to build.
We identified risks like contaminated runoff water, maintenance of water filtration systems and workers to manage it. During monsoon rains, the water might overflow from the reservoirs; hence overflow buffers with porous pavers were placed to absorb the water in the soil. Multi-level filtration systems were installed, with the first flush as gravel and the subsequent flushes were finer layers of sand and charcoal. Volunteer incentives like student community service points, free field trips for students and tax incentives were introduced. The vertical farms are temperature controlled to make sure the produce is fresh.
Building sustainable solutions for runoff water like storage reservoirs which could recycle water to vertical farms was an engineering and environmental feat. Civil engineers designed the large storage areas around “right-triangular” shaped vertical farms, filtration devices, pesticide contamination alarms, greenhouse glass, conveyer belts, micro sprinklers and irrigation lines. The innovative Vertical Farming Food Delivery (VFFD) which delivers food to the school cafeterias were designed by Industrial and Mechanical engineers. Environmental engineers made sure that we were not consuming or depositing any harmful chemicals or toxics from the runoff water. Cells phones and LCD TVs were unimaginable few years back, so is managing runoff water using urban vertical farms. “Everything we have in this world of ours started out crazy”.