Imagine walking into your local grocery store on a freezing winter’s day to pick up freshly harvested lettuce, fragrant basil, juicy sweet berries, and ripe red tomatoes – all of which were harvested at a local farm only hours before you had arrived. You might be imagining buying that fresh produce from vertical farms where farmers can grow indoors year-round by controlling light, temperature, water, and oftentimes carbon dioxide levels as well.
Nick Starling not only imagines that day but is working tirelessly to realize it. An Iraq invasion war veteran, Starling had his lightbulb moment during his freshman year taking “Intro to Human Geography” at Hawaii Pacific University. A professor put up a map of America, pointed to the coasts, and said, “This is where everybody lives,” and then pointed to the center and said, “And this is where we grow our food.”
Known as the 'Father of AgARDA' (Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority), Starling started Skyscraper Farm in 2018 with the idea of growing food near the people for the people.
At Skyscraper Farm, they maximize nutrients and accessibility while minimizing waste, water usage, and pollution. They use natural sunlight to grow produce that lands on your table within hours of harvest. “Our ultimate goal is farm to table in less than five hours, wherever you live,” said Starling.
"Using a specific building design that puts energy back on the grid and uses sunlight to grow the plants, we are designing a building with which we can save costs by geothermal energy, using solar panels and photovoltaic (PV) windows."
There will be many 52-story ‘cornerstone models’ in most major cities according to Starling, based on sunlight days per year.
These contemporary buildings will be beyond LEED zero, designed with a sustainable and community-based mindset. "With vertical farms housed in luxury buildings boasting class A office space and residential spaces along with restaurants, we combat food insecurity, bolster the economy, and eliminate the long-standing separation between farm and city."