Faced with a growing world population and shrinking available farmland, the Dutch bioengineering team PlantLab is taking Dickson Despommier‘s Vertical Farm concept into a bold, new direction by replacing natural sunlight with artificial illumination.
In their research station, strawberries, yellow peppers, basil and banana plants take on an eerie pink glow under red and blue bulbs of Light-Emitting Diodes, or LEDs. Water trickles into the pans when needed and all excess is recycled, and the temperature is kept constant. Lights go on and off, simulating day and night, but according to the rhythm of the plant — which may be better at shorter cycles than 24 hours.
PlantLab claim the growth rate of their “high value and low volume” greenhouse plants are three times faster than under natural conditions, using 90 percent less water, and with zero need for pesticides, not mention exempt from extreme climate change. Perfect for doomsday bunkers, also with practical use for right now. A small, 1,075 square ft. building set up for sunless farming could feed their entire town of 140,000, says Plantlab spokesman Gertjan Meeuws, imagining stores with their own dedicated sunless farms, eliminating the energy expenditure of transporting food from rural farms to cities.