inside of a greenhouse

Vertical Greenhouse to Grow 2M Pounds of Produce

It is important that people operate with a sense of self-sufficiency, for most this means, keeping things on a smaller scale, gardening in their own backyards, or going to local farmer’s markets. However many people are looking at how the industrial revolution and advancements in technology can create change in communities. These people, like Nona Yehia, are thinking about the bigger picture.

Her goal is to create change by utilizing larger-scale ideas and a redistribution of resources. She founded an organization called Vertical Harvest in order to expand food production in a way that is more cost-effective and will possibly stimulate local economies. Her plan includes the use of a vertical greenhouse, about 70,000 sq ft in size. 

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Who is Nona Yehia and Vertical Harvest?

Nona Yehia is an architect who desired a creative outlet to use her skills as a way to make the world a brighter place. When this kind of person comes up with a dream, backed by a plan, they become unstoppable. Out of the country’s despair, Nona found her life’s purpose.

Her goal was inspired by the 2008 recession faced by the U.S. There was a scarcity of food, homes, and other necessary resources. These scary times inspired Nona to create a building where food could be grown indoors using hydroponics and a vertical greenhouse. She set out to work on founding Vertical Harvest, taking root in Jackson, Wyoming and it was up and running by 2016, producing over 100,000 pounds of fresh fruits and veggies each year.

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vertical greenhouse
Image Credit: News Center Maine | YouTube

There are a handful of partners and larger corporations working with Nona to co-found Vertical Harvest. One partner local to Portland, Maine, is an architect and engineering firm known as Harriman. “Vertical Harvest Maine will be working with hospitals, corporate cafeterias, schools, chefs, restaurants, and caterers. The Westbrook location will also have a consumer marketplace on site at Mechanic Street.[3] The hope is that this vertical greenhouse will produce 2 million pounds of food each year. 

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What is Hydroponics?

Hydroponics is a noun that refers to the process of growing plants without the use of soil. Plants can be grown using added nutrients in sand or gravel, but are typically grown in high amounts of nutrients-infused liquid, like water. Most commonly thought of as plants grown from suspended roots directly into the water, using no growing medium. 

Read: No land, no problem: How a lady farmer converts an idle backyard into a productive urban vegetable garden

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Vertical Farming Origins.

Although it wasn’t referred to as “Vertical Farming” until the early 1900s, the concept of this farming method dates as far back as 600-550 BC. It was referred to as “The Hanging Garden of Babylon”, and was built during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II. The garden was a multi-level garden, nearly 20 meters high.

Although Babylon had dry lands, they did have access to the Euphrates River. Engineers of the time created a chain pump that pumped water from the bottom levels to the top levels ensuring a sustainable way to evenly distribute the water. Many other cultures over several generations have since followed suit by adapting the original design into something that works for their own ecosystems.

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Environmental and Economical Impact.

It is the hope of Nona and her team to eliminate hardships faced in communities due to food scarcity and on a larger scale stimulate the economy. Hydroponics and the new vertical greenhouse will also have a positive impact on the environment, making it an ideal solution to many of the problems we face in society. Some examples of these positive impacts may be a less labor-intensive process.

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This is because there are automated tools that can be used to harvest crops. More crops can be yielded in less time so the cost and utilization of both energy and water will be reduced due to the speed of production. Water will be even further conserved by watering the root directly, rather than having to saturate the soil. Locally sourced foods cut down on import/export costs, meanwhile, old buildings can be repurposed for the use of these garden structures.

The ability to grow crops without the use of pesticides or fertilizer is another great environmental change. The vertical greenhouse uses a farming technique that eliminates the use of soil and minimizes pest problems without using harsh chemicals.

Read: “You Can’t Do It Just Because of Money:” The 40,000 Acre Farm That Silenced Doubters By Going Organic

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Why the Chosen Locations?

Nona and her team chose the locations for the vertical greenhouses based on similar challenges faced within local communities. These areas face longer harsher winter conditions meaning that more food has to be brought in from other places. They typically do not get these crops at the peak time for nutrition or flavor.

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In Maine, it is estimated that 90 percent of crops consumed come from outside sources. With a higher percentage of that, specifically in leafy greens. They are in communication about the possibility of expanding to other large cities such as Detroit and Chicago but for now, the Westbrook, Maine location is set to open in the fall of 2023.

Once upon a time, people grew their food at home. They had farms or gardens and would trade or barter in order to get a range of food options. Vertical farming allows for local communities to grow and harvest nutritional and necessary crops year round. In doing so citizens will get the most from their food while also cutting costs giving each taxpayer a little more money in their pockets to invest into friends, neighbors, and other local businesses.

Keep Reading: Couple Built Greenhouse Around Home To Grow Food And Keep Warm

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Sources:

  1. 8 economic benefits of commercial hydroponics.” Power House Hydroponics. Retrieved September 19, 2022.
  2. Vertical greenhouse to grow 2M pounds of produce in Maine.” News Center Maine. David Guildford Retrieved September 19, 2022.
  3. Westbrook Maine.” Vertical Harvest. Retrieved September 19, 2022.
  4. Environmental benefits of Hydroponics.” TRVST. Retrieved September 19, 2022. 
  5. The full history of vertical farming: When did it all start?Vertical Farming Planet. Retrieved September 19, 2022.
Leah Berenson
Freelance Writer
Leah is driven by learning and adventure. She has studied Journalism, Early Human Development, and Culinary Arts. When she’s not writing she can be found reading or hiking the Southwest.
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