US (AK): Candidate mayor wants to reuse parts of downtown hotel for vertical farm

Sustainable energy. Food security. Upcycling. These are some of the issues that Robert Shields talks about. He is running for Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor for the third time, and he’s continuing to promote his idea to deconstruct the Polaris Building, which is owned by the city of Fairbanks, and reuse the materials for a vertical farm.

“The technology exists where we can then use some of that material in actually rebuilding, or even possibly 3-D printing, a ten-story building—and my ambitions have always been to bring the community together around the idea of vertical farming as one component that food sovereignty measure. One building that grows food, houses people, processes, and does all this kind of stuff,” he told.

Shields is one of three borough mayor candidates appearing on Tuesday’s local ballot. Incumbent Bryce Ward, a landlord, and contractor, and Chris Ludtke, a blaster at Fort Knox Gold Mine, are also official candidates. Mary Caro Simmons, who has worked as a beautician and school bus driver, is mounting a last-minute write-in campaign.

Shields described his occupation in an email as a business development consultant. Financial disclosure documents show he earned money last year canvassing for U.S. Senate hopeful Dr. Al Gross. In his email sign-off, he calls himself an “ecological industrialist.” He said he has an associate’s degree in natural resource management from a college in Vermont. He studied economics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“I am seeking the position of the mayor because I know past mayors have been threatened and good people continue to get treated like mushrooms. Kept ignorant of economically viable solutions and fed the 50-year old bull that coal is clean, natural gas is cheap, and extraction is the only industry worth investing in. I bring new tools, including the knowledge a hydrogen economy can deliver at $1.60/gal or $0.03kwh comparatively,” he wrote.

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