Vertical Farm Operations

Plant life requires CO2 to grow and thrive.

In fact most of the CO2 in the world that is produced naturally is absorbed by vegetation in a process called photosynthesis which uses the sun’s energy to convert CO2 and water into glucose, releasing oxygen as a by-product. By using an on-site NG power plant to power the lights for the vertical farm it is possible to use all of the potential CO2 emissions in the operation thereby effectively sequestering the CO2 in the plants. Since the size of the GE Taylor Street Plant is limited, as is the amount of land available to install on-site vertical farms, the NG plant must be scaled to the size of the vertical farm operation and not the other way around. In other words, to get to zero CO2 emissions, which is a principal goal of all 4 SKIES projects, the volume of CO2 produced by the NG plant must match the CO2 requirements of the vertical farm operation. Fortunately, the 50 MW of power needed to power the computerized LED lighting for 2,500,000 square feet of vertical farm area also produces 17.25 tons per hour of CO2. The amount of CO2 that can be absorbed by 2,500,000 square feet of vertical farm vegetation is 15.3 tons per hour. This is close enough to allow for tweaking using different absorption rates in plant varieties to get to 100% CO2 absorption. 4 SKIES also endorses vertical farming techniques which use LED lighting without the need for sunlight. 

Vertical Garden System

Vertical farming makes more efficient use of land, water and energy to grow food free of pesticides, herbicides, preservatives and GMO seeds. It also creates dramatically fewer emissions caused by the transportation of food. The optimization of the cultivation process means a better return on investment and a consistent quality of product for customers. As the global population is estimated to exceed 7.5 billion people by 2030 and 9 billion by 2050, this sustainable method of farming will be commonplace as it requires a small footprint to produce high volumes of quality leafy greens year-round to local consumers while conserving energy and water.

Vertical Garden Trays and Lights

4 SKIES will collaborate with IGES Canada Ltd. and others to involve experienced scientists, horticulturalists and lighting technicians to help it plan a large scale produce growing facility for the GE Taylor Street Plant site. As much as possible, this state-of-the–art facility will take advantage of the available space inside and outside of the original plant facility to use the CO2 and waste heat available from the NGCC plant to grow fruits and vegetables year-round. 4 SKIES envisions the facility will be a vertical farm operation. Although food crops would be the focus of the vertical farm facilities, certain herbs and spices, including indigenous medicinal plants and herbs, as well as some species of flowers, would also be considered.  A special section could also be reserved for Silva culture to provide seedlings for reforestation projects. 

Special low energy LED lighting from LEC - Light Emitting Computers Inc. will illuminate plants from germination to full mature plants with the correct light formula or recipe to ensure uniform growth. Growers can control the exact duration, brightness and spectra of light for each crop, ensuring consistent growth all year round. With LED lighting, it is possible to grow crops like herbs, leafy greens, flowers and strawberries year-round, even in the winter months.

Since LED light can be used in place of daylight, other fruity plants and vegetables, such as, raspberries, blueberries, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, can be grown vertically in multiple levels. This would not have been possible previously, because a multi-tiered system in a greenhouse would result in the lower layers of plants being shaded from sunlight.

To complete the produce growing facility, 4 SKIES envisions a small onsite clean water purification plant that utilizes modern distillation and reverse osmosis technology to treat water for use in the vertical farms. This will ensure the plant crops have all the water they need and are organically pure and free from contaminants.Since vertical farming uses 99% less water than a traditional farm using irrigation, there should be plenty of water available for the vertical farm crops, pure and free from contaminants. To conserve water, a cooling tower will be installed next to the NG plant, requiring only small amounts of water to replace any water lost to evaporation.

To recycle waste from the vertical farms, 4 SKIES envisions setting aside space on the site for a small-scale anaerobic digester facility to process organic plant waste from the operations and to produce biogas that can be refined into natural gas for use by the NG power plant. In addition to biogas, the anaerobic digester will produce nutrient rich digestate residue which can easily be processed into bio-fertilizers (solid and liquid) for use in the vertical farms or sold to area gardeners and farmers.