Like Babylon, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce believes this city needs an architectural wonder of the world.
The hottest and most dazzling new phenomenon is an urban farm scheme, called skyfarming, invented at New York’s Columbia University.
Dickson Despommier, a visionary professor of environmental science and microbiology, wants to transform urban skyscrapers into modern-day hanging gardens.
“Just 150 of these futuristic greenhouse complexes would suffice to feed all eight-million New Yorkers,” he says. “It would produce the freshest, most wholesome organic fare imaginable.”
Many Calgarians come from lush, forested areas of Canada and the world. They long for dense foliage and flowerbeds and yearn to grow vegetables.
Imagine if the skyscrapers in Calgary’s downtown core were all topped with high-tech, rotating solar collectors and gardens yielding a cornucopia of fruits, vegetables, and grains.
The Chamber challenges the architectural and environmental community to work with agricultural economists, structural engineers, agronomists and urban planners to figure out how to wed high-tech agricultural practices with sustainable building technologies.
Although these high-rise gardens are still fantasy, they are based on well-tested methods of growing crops such as hydroponics, filtering storm water and production of fuel from crop byproducts. Thus, the skyfarms would be self-sustaining, energy efficient, able to recycle water and even cool the office workers below.
Once the technical challenges are solved, the next issue is to write a business plan that calculates the risks and reward from such a project. A co-operative venture and agricultural start-ups could hire and train urban farmers to plant, nurture and harvest these crops.
Produce could be donated to the city’s poor and the rest sold to Calgarians hungry for fresh produce.