While living in Tokyo, Philipp Hutfless, an industrial designer from Germany, saw how much food the Japanese import from abroad. The industrialized nation just doesn't have a lot of room for agriculture, neither in rural areas nor in cities.
His response was to develop Vereos, an idea for coastal cities with limited space for growing food. It's a floating greenhouse that recycles freshwater and gets power from built-in solar panels.
The greenhouse is 42 feet square with shelves for growing vegetables inside. It has a reverse-osmosis plant onboard, which pushes saltwater at high pressure through a membrane to produce freshwater. Then there's a tank and pump, powered by electricity. The frame is aluminum and the covering is made of a hard-wearing plastic. Most importantly, the greenhouse uses hydroponics, which is less water-intensive than conventional growing (50% of the water is recycled) and less heavy, because there's no soil involved.
Hutfless works at the University of Applied Sciences in Darmstadt, in the middle of Germany. His thesis project is an entry in this year's James Dyson Awards. Apart from Japan, Hutfless thinks Vereos could be useful in cities like Jakarta, Shanghai, Manila, Mumbai, and Lagos. "People can start to take care where their food comes from and how it is planted," Hutfless says. "It does not make sense to carry food over thousands of kilometers."