Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
SMART FLOATING FARMS by FORWARD THINKING ARCHITECTURE
May 21st, 2015 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: FORWARD THINKING ARCHITECTURE
The SFF is a Smart Offshore Floating Farming system situated off the coast on an open sea. The SFF is configured as a modular-expandable Multi-Layer Floating Farming system which combines Solar energy, Hydroponics-green growing and Aquaculture (Fish) . City Farming /Urban agriculture is great, but with the tremendous influx of world population to urban areas would it be enough to ensure the amount of food in cities? Why not take advantage of the water space close to cities to transform them into a productive tissue? ( water which makes up about 71% of the Earth’s surface, while the other 29% consists of continents and islands) Does an offshore Smart floating farm makes sense? We truly believe so, since many of the densest areas/cities are located close to big bodies of water and because nowadays many nations are heavily dependent on imports and international markets for their food (causing vulnerability). In example, a 2013 study found that in 2000, some 950 million people—16 percent of the world’s population at the time—were using international trade to meet their food needs, according an article related to the Food Trade and Self-sufficiency report.
Even dough the project is aimed to be an automated one which incorporates machines and software, some of the prototypes can be also tested using Human workforce and depending on more traditional systems currently used in the fish farming and crop production industries. We use the term “Smart or automated”, to describe that the system will be basically controlled and operated by a machine which utilize a communication connection to the Cloud / City and other offshore farms. Potentially it will incorporate a Software which can manage to control the system and make it an automated one, just as Google Driver-less cars is implementing its Google Chauffeur software to make it possible. Big Data analysis on a target city can reveal figures on its food needs and consumptions which can become relevant in order to make the SFF a more efficient alternative and produce only what is really needed. Apart from all the IT technologies – IoT protocols, the project can also become a new employment focus point since can turn into a Farming Research HUB which can held Farming laboratories and some modules can be opened to the general public, so that locals and visitors can experience first hand this new farming paradigm (Educational).
The SFF project is made of innovative, yet well tested materials, technologies, and systems, which are already in use around the globe, in a way, we don’t need to invent or test any new construction technology, its all available in the market. The SFF footprint has a shape of a rectangle inspired by Asia’s traditional grid-shape fish floating farms, an efficient configuration which is rational and allows for maximum space for production. The SFF rectangle consist of a 200X 350-meter side module (single module) , which results in a footprint of 70.000 sqm and a total area of 209.610 sqm across all its floors. This includes an internal array of corridors (forming a grid structure) in order to have walkways that communicate all the project areas and are used for service/maintenance purposes. This dimension was set as a prototype size according to some preliminary studies on consumption patterns of a target country, but is fully adjustable according to each potential country own needs. The use of rectangles allows for tessellation.As a result, we are able to remove any gaps between individual farm modules. The modularity of the SFF allows for future expansion (replicate globally) , thus creating clusters of farms close to the densest areas that can accommodate additional operations, such as broiler farms, egg farms, crab and lobster farms, algae farms, mushroom farms, and many more.The exact location of the offshore Farms will depend on the specific conditions of each country where the project is to be potentially implemented, always considering a holistic approach. Sea lanes, marine habitats, protected water areas, etc will be respected and considered, so that the project has a minimum impact and doesn’t become an obstacle at any level.These will be subject of coordination with the local authorities of each country.
The main structure is made out of a lightweight structure formed of beams and columns protected from harsh marine environment. The SFF consist of 3 main levels. The ground level (Level 0) contains offshore aquaculture fish farms, external perimeter wave barriers and protection, water access points, storage, slaughterhouse, desalination plant and packaging facility(Cutting edge desalination technologies will allow for water management efficiency and autonomy). The first floor (Level 1) comprises of a greenhouse with automated hydroponics, irrigation control system, and microclimate control (temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, lighting, etc.) for crop cultivation. The rooftop level (Level 2) hold a photovoltaic Plant (project self-sufficiency), skylight openings to ensure natural light for the plants, and rainwater collectors.
Level 0 – Aquaculture:
The SFF will float on the sea using floating pontoons.This tested and expanded technology technology is most often referred to as Very Large Floating Structures (VLFS) and offers a more environmentally friendly alternative of building on sea surface, compared to traditional land reclamation method, as they do not damage the eco-system, can be swiftly constructed, removed or expanded.
Offshore aquaculture refers to a cage fishing method that takes place on an open sea.
Since the aquaculture in the SFF project will actually take place in a protected closed environment(sliding panels), we can eliminate the exposure to wind and wave action. In addition, servicing of these cages will be much more efficient. Cages are placed between the main corridors and are split into many smaller cages. This is done to increase the number of batches of fish per year, and therefore sustaining an on-going output of fish. The main cages have 75 meters by 85 meters by 3 meters each, or 19.125 meters cubed, resulting in a total space of 133.875 meters cubed dedicated for fish farming within the SFF. The aquaculture level includes a hatchery where eggs are incubated and hatched. The hatchery also includes a nursery, where fish are cared for until they are the size of around 10 centimeters and healthy enough to be relocated to the fish cages .Fish hatcheries are necessary to ensure an on-going production and stable fish supply. In addition to the hatchery, the aquaculture level will house a slaughterhouse to process the fish and a storage room where the fish will be kept for a short period of time until they are ready to be shipped to shore.
LEVEL 1 – Greenhouse / Automated hydroponics
Hydroponics is a system of agriculture that utilizes nutrient-laden water rather than soil for plant nourishment. Because it does not require natural precipitation or fertile land in order to be effective, it presents people who are living in arid regions and others with a means to grow food for themselves and for profit. The re-use of nutrient water
supplies makes process-induced eutrophication (excessive plant growth due to overabundant nutrients) and general pollution of land and water unlikely. Hydroponic systems do not require pesticides, require less water and space than traditional agricultural systems, and may be stacked in order to limit space use (vertical farming). This makes them optimal for use in cities; where space is particularly limited and populations are high. Self-sustaining city-based food systems mean a reduced strain on distant farms, the reduction of habitat intrusions, fewer food miles, and fewer carbon emissions.
The SFF uses vertically stacked hydroponic systems with market existing “A” frame hydroponic structures and also standing aeroponic walls, which hold vegetables at different levels. The hydroponic system will deliver benefits in the context of crop production. It produces vegetables that can be classified into two main categories: leafy greens and vegetables.These will grown in a soilless medium, which can be rock wool, coconut wool, or clay tablets. For the Level 1 floor slab we propose a lightweight solution, a composite slab(treated for corrosive marine environment). A system of sliding polycarbonate based curtains from floor to ceiling height can help enclose different areas. Hydroponic systems are situated inside the greenhouse with advanced heating systems, fans, cooling and misting systems, irrigation control system, and microclimate control (temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, lighting, etc.). The hydroponic systems include a nursery and propagation systems. Since the SFF’s aim is to be as self-sufficient as possible in electricity consumption terms, we propose a Roof top Solar Plant made out of high-efficiency polycrystalline photovoltaic that will supply the electricity demand and also electricity can be potentially stored in batteries.
There is also the possibility to integrate in the project wind power via micro wind turbines located on the top level and a wave energy converter systems (WEC). Biogas power plants/bio digesters will be used to eliminate biological waste produced throughout the operations. These will collect organic waste material and produce fertilizer, water, and electricity for use in hydroponics . The Bio digester allows waste to be exchanged between the different systems. Even though hydroponic systems use less water than traditional farming techniques, to be independent in terms of water supply, we will have a small industry sized desalination gear on the farm. The desalination gear, together with other cutting edge new techniques, will enhance SFF’s water management and reduce water consumption.
In addition to the upper mentioned equipment, a storage room, separated from the fish storage room on Level 0, will be placed on the hydroponic level 1, to avoid any possible contamination hazards. The total hydroponics growing area has 51.000 sqm and it will include all the vertical communications and lifts.
The SFF is efficient in resource use. The SFF uses less area for growing due to higher yield per square meter of the hydroponic systems. This means the scarce land of a country can be used for other uses than agriculture. At the same time, the SFF has lower water consumption compared to traditional farming. Sustainable water management practices will be utilized on the farm. All organic wastes are disposed of using a bio digester at the farm, which produces high quality and safe fertilizers. As a result of farming in greenhouses and use of hydroponic systems, the SFF allows for all year round growing of food and eliminates the effects of natural disaster. This means no crop failures due to droughts, floods, pests, or other periodic natural phenomena, as well as elimination of agricultural runoff. It minimizes the depletion of scarce resources and promotes the use of renewable alternatives and focuses on maximal reuse of resources, such as water and waste. Its energy is supplied from renewable sources, such as the photovoltaic panels placed on the rooftops, mini-eolic or waves energy.
By returning the farming back to the “centers” of consumption, the SFF dramatically reduces fossil fuel usage (no tractors, plows, shipping.) and logistic costs. More proximity to centers of consumption means fewer food miles, and fewer carbon emissions. In addition, it eliminates most of the need for storage and preservation, thus reducing dramatically the population of vermin (rats, mice, etc.) that feed on reserves of food. The SFF increases local production, which in turn means less dependence on imports and more self-sufficiency. This raises national food security and creates an insurance policy for a steady food supply.
Understanding how SFF creates value and the critical elements in its supply chain are decisive in developing its competitive strategy. The primary activities of the SFF can be split into inbound logistics, operations, outbound logistics, marketing and sales.
Inbound logistics: These are all the processes related to receiving, storing, and distributing production inputs internally. The suppliers, who deliver the inbound materials by ships, bring them to the harbor. Here, they are subjected to import duties, handled and transported to the onshore warehouse, until they are ready to be transported to the SFF. Inbound materials transported by land are delivered directly to the onshore warehouse. It is important to order the production materials in bulk, to reduce transportation frequency. A vessel transports the production materials from the onshore warehouse to the SFF, and additionally, serves as a shuttle for the necessary employees. In the docking station of the SFF, the production materials are handled and stored in a storage room on the Level 0.
Operations: Operations are transformation activities required to transform inputs into outputs. The hydroponic systems (Level 1) and offshore aquaculture (Level 0) transform the production inputs (labor, water, electricity, seeds, fish
feed, etc.) into outputs, which in the case of SFF are vegetables and fish. The products are packaged, labeled, and stored in the SFF. Limiting the inventory is of at most importance, since the products of the SFF are perishable and must remain fresh.The different levels offer the possibility to held different types of crops/fishes, so that a well-developed analysis and planning will ensure accurate productivity.
Outbound logistics: These are activities that deliver products or service to the customer, such as collection and distribution of the products. The products are handled from the storage rooms to the docking station of the SFF, where they are loaded onto the vessel and shipped to the port. Here they are loaded on trucks and transported to the onshore warehouse. From the warehouse, the vegetables and fish are delivered to the various distribution channels (supermarkets, fishery ports-wet markets,etc).
PROJECT ESTIMATED OUTPUTS
(preliminary figures for a 200X 350-meter side module ) :
8.152 Tons of Vegetables / Year
1.703 Tons of Fish / Year
From a commercial point of view, preliminary cost-benefit and feasibility studies shown that the SFF project initial investment is paid back in less than 10 years, generating a positive net present value NPV, which appears to be a successful project in economic terms. This kind of project has to be consider in the long run as one which can become rellevant for the future of humanity and life improvement , a game changer in terms of bringing food closer to where its needed, and not only seen as a formal, futuristic or technological approach.
SOME PROJECT KEY POINTS:
FORWARD THINKING ARCHITECTURE is a Barcelona-based practice which develops architecture projects, urban design proposals, innovative solutions and Initiatives based on a fresh look at design issues using Strategic Thinking , always considering a holistic vision of the project and aiming to create a better built environment. Innovation in our practice is a consequence and not an objective.
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