The Paignton Zoo in South Devon has implemented a new vertical farming system. According to Greener Buildings, Paignton Zoo is using the VertiCrop system developed by Valcent Products, which is capable of producing 11,000 heads of lettuce every month. “Eventually the farm will have vertical plots of red chard, mizuna, mixed leaves, various herbs, edible flowers, wheat grass and barley.” Greener Buildings says the vertical farming system will cut the zoo’s food costs by £100,000 (almost US $165,440) a year. The zoo invested in the system because it can work within its limited space and enables zoo keepers to locally source produce.
The zoo’s vertical farming system resides in a “specially constructed polytunnel” and includes “computerized controls that automate water supply, irrigation and the environment.” Additionally, there is a conveyor belt for loading and unloading planting trays. Valcent Products contends that its VertiCrop system yields 20 times more crops than traditional farming systems of the same size; requires only 5 percent of traditional farm’s water; doesn’t use herbicides or pesticides; provides the ability to produce crops all year in a climate-controlled environment; and enables farming in almost any soil condition, regardless of location.
According to Greener Buildings, a few zoo workers have been trained to monitor the farm. The site is designed to be low-maintenance and can be kept running by a single zoo worker spending a few hours per day.
Also, read Despommier’s recent New York Times op-ed, “A Farm on Every Floor.”
Image credit: VertiCrop / Valcent Products