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Floating Deep Farms could boost global food production

18/01/2019
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By 2050 the global population is expected to hit nine billion. Simultaneously, sea levels are rising causing water tables to be inundated with sea water, reducing the amount of land available for farming. Now, researchers at Nottingham University have developed the concept of ‘Floating Deep Farms’ that could help boost food production to meet this growing demand.
Floating Deep Farms could help meet the food needs of nine billion people by 2050
(Image via World Society of Sustainable Energy Technologies).

With present levels of food production needing to increase by 70 percent to meet demand by 2050, Professors Saffa Riffat and Yijun Yuan have created vertical farms, which use multi-layer greenhouses to intensify food production. The greenhouses feature a controlled climate involving LED lighting and a closely monitored water/nutrient supply. 

According to the team behind the project, a variety of crops can be grown using hydroponic planters (plant roots fed with nutrient-rich water) or aeroponics (growing plants in an air or mist environment). LED units will be used to provide illumination at appropriate wavelengths to maximise photosynthesis with minimum power input.

The Deep Farms themselves resemble large vertical shafts submerged in sea water near coastal areas. The shaft is sealed at the bottom end and is covered by a dome. The benefit of this design is that crop production is largely unaffected by climatic or seasonal factors- one of the greatest limitations of conventional farming methods. In addition, the sealed nature of the deep farms means that plant diseases and pests can be isolated and readily controlled.
Floating Deep Farms promise much higher levels of productivity than traditional farming methods.
(Image via World Society of Sustainable Energy Technologies).

With eighteen of the world’s megacities situated along coastal areas (population of about 350 million), Floating Deep Farms could be used to supply fresh crops instead of food transported long distances by carbon intensive forms of transport. 

According to Professor Riffat the Floating Deep Farms could be extraordinarily productive, “Up to 10 crop cycles per year can be achieved compared to 1-2 cycles for conventional agriculture. One small deep farm can produce around 80 tonnes of food per annum and crops can be ready for harvesting within 3-4 weeks of propagation”. Professor Riffat added that the farms will also operate with relatively low energy consumption, “a single Deep Farm will have about the same consumption as three UK homes using innovative LED illumination and controls combined with natural lighting using light rods or optical fibres. Tide and wave energy could also be used for powering Floating Deep Farms”.
The Floating Deep Farms utilise hydroponic and LED technologies amongst others to boost crop yields.
(Image via World Society of Sustainable Energy Technologies).

Marine agriculture has already been explored as a means of securing food supply. Ocean Reef Group in the U.S.A. has proposed growing plants in pods (biospheres- each of which can hold around 22 plant pots), however this approach has limited scalability. Floating Deep Farms however look like they could be the answer to this scalability problem and keep the people of the world fed will into the middle of the 21st century and beyond…

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Tags: Engineering
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Floating Deep Farms could boost global food production - Time to read 3 min
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