It is an agricultural technology and practice of growing crops without soil, in a climate-smart space. A sustainable urban farming idea, set to mitigate climate impact on farming and contribute to building sustainable cities, with better food system.
The Automated Indoor Farm
The automated indoor farm is a minimum viable product of a high-level commercial urban farming idea, that uses soilless cultivation techniques. This solution is a climate-smart crop growing unit that uses soilless techniques to grow crops. It is specifically designed to grow vegetables and fruits. The enclosed unit made of aluminum, fiber, and glass, is 5.4 cubic meters. The unit is designed with technologies to enhance environmental control within the space. Technologies such as microcontrollers, sensors, fans, light, humidifier, and pump. As designed, the growing unit has the capacity to reduce the risk of pest and diseases attack on crops. The microcontroller equipped with sensors collects environmental data within the unit and displays the data. It controls temperature, relative humidity, and lightning duration. The light within the unit is a grow light that mimics sunlight necessary for plant growth. The unit holds a fan and a humidifier to enhance airflow and moisture within the growing environment, capable of regulating temperature and humidity. The unit also constitutes an air pump and stone for the purpose of aerating the nutrient solution. The fan, humidifier, and light are automated to be controlled by the microcontroller, with sensors communicating information to the digital display board, and trigger working accessories into action, for the duration specified and programmed.
Sustainability challenges the solution tackles
(1) Zero Hunger: Urban centers are increasingly been populated every other day, with many people living there without producing their own food, this moves with an increase in food demand. This urban farming initiative will contribute to attaining SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) by enhancing year-round production and accessibility to fresh and nutritious crops.
(2) Resource Scarcity: Today, the rapid rise in urbanization has posed unending challenges, for which resource scarcity holds a pivotal stake. Key farming resources like arable land and water are scarce, resulting in a decline in urban agriculture and poised greater challenge in a sustainable and greener city. This solution through the use of vertical spaces for crop production, and the recirculating water use technique, will ease the burden on excessive land and water usage, and ultimately contribute to attaining SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities).
(3) Climate Impact: The impact of climate action has adversely affected farming sustainability, with high heat waves, floods, droughts, and the rise in crop pests and diseases. Farming approaches also contribute to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, thereby further contributing to an increase in climate action. This solution, in positively contributing to SDG 13 (Climate Action), eliminates the excessive emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the soil, the application of chemicals together with the cutting down of trees which disturb soil ecosystem and increase the emission of GHGs. This solution is also resilient enough to withstand the impact of climate action, as production is done in a climate-smart environment.
With soilless cultivation, our vision is to revolutionize urban farming in Sierra Leone, through better food system that can increase productivity with no adverse impact on the environment, contribute to achieving sustainable development goal No.2 (Zero Hunger), goal No.11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), as well as goal 13 (Climate Action).