As one of the densest countries in the world, with nearly 20,000 people per square mile, Singapore doesn't really have room for farms. Almost all of the food there is imported from elsewhere—sometimes as far away as Brazil or Argentina. But could floating vertical farms make local food a reality?
Architects from Barcelona-based design firm JAPA have proposed a new system of looping towers that could float in local harbors, providing new space for year-round crops. Called F.R.A., short for "floating responsive architecture," the design is inspired in part by floating fish farms that have been in use locally since the 1930s.
The unusual shape is intended to save space and maximize the light that reaches plants. "We used the sun as a design driver," says Javier Ponce, principal from JAPA. "The loop shape enables the vertical structure to receive more sunlight without having significant shadows."
Throughout the towers, a network of sensors would monitor crops and communicate in real time with networks in the city. The architects envision creating a data management system that would keep track of how much food people are buying, so the farm can automatically adjust production. "The system will aim for zero food waste," Ponce says.
Though the design is just a concept, the architects hope to collaborate with the government in Singapore—along with local technology companies and food-related organizations—to keep pursuing it. "A set of prototypes on a smaller scale could be an interesting starting point," says Ponce. The designers are currently researching how much energy the system would require and how much food it might be able to produce.
Something similar could also be used in other countries with densely-populated coastlines. "As one example, we are watching fast growing cities in China," Ponce says. "We believe these types of initiatives can be applied closer to the existing and new emerging urban centers in order to help mitigate the future food issue. This can transform a city's nearby territories into more stimulating environments, capable of self-producing quality food in order to avoid massive imports from abroad."