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Clemson to build vertical farm in Charleston

Charleston Regional Business Journal
May 11, 2011

A Clemson University feasibility study will include building a vertical farm in Charleston as a way to consider how to grow fruits and vegetables in dense urban areas, the university said.

Clemson’s Institute of Applied Ecology received funding from the Environmental Protection Agency to develop a feasibility study to build the vertical farm downtown. The university’s Urban Ecology and Sustainable Development Center of Economic Excellence is partnering with the city of Charleston on the project.

The farm will use an existing building, and will be powered with solar and wind energy and using computers to monitor the environment and operate the farm to provide real-time remote-data.

If urban farming is used vertically instead of horizontally — in a traditional field — dense urban centers could have multistory buildings with floor atop floor of fruits and vegetables grown in highly environmentally efficient ways, such as using hydroponics and aeroponics, the university said.

Clemson University has formed an interdisciplinary team to conduct the analysis, which focuses on agriculture, horticulture, green building and the architectural potential of available sites that will be considered for a vertical farm location.

Research elements will focus on water and energy self-sufficiency by incorporating elements of alternative energy sources and gray water collection and reuse; green-roof and vertical garden technologies; sustainable production of high­-quality organic foods within a reduced urban footprint; enhanced hydroponics; rooftop and vertical wetlands for urban farmwater quality treatment; and multilevel community-based sustainable development education.
“There are so many topics to be addressed; everything from location, structure and access to economics, environmental sustainability and social justice,” said Gene Eidson, director of Clemson’s Urban Ecology Center. “Input will not only span Clemson University areas of expertise, but also involve specialists from the College of Charleston, The Citadel and Trident Tech.”

The project will take more than academics to be successful, he said.

“We look to Charleston leaders and the public to help create a plan for providing food in a sustainable way for cities,” he said. “More and more people live in urban settings and environmental realities and stresses demand that we imagine and implement innovative ways to feed, house, employ and transport populations.”

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