Human urine as fertilizer?! Vertical farming’s day in the sun, and vertical farming comes in a baker’s dozen. Meet the Evangelical Environmental Network.
Human Urine as Fertilizer?! Vertical Farming’s Day in the Sun, The Evangelical Environmental Network
MEET THE EVANGELICAL ENVIRONMENTAL NETWORK
According to their website, The Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) is a ministry that educates, inspires, and mobilizes Christians in their effort to care for God’s creation (Earth), to be faithful stewards of God’s provision, to get involved in regions of the United States and the world impacted by pollution, and to advocate for actions and policies that honor God and protect the environment.
EEN is made up of both individual members who believe in and support our vital ministry and major evangelical organizations who work with EEN to help equip, educate, disciple, network, and mobilize the church for the care of God’s creation.
It was founded in 1993 around the concept of Creation Care. Creation-care means caring for all of God’s creation by stopping and preventing activities that are harmful (e.g. air and water pollution, species extinction), and participating in activities that further Christ’s reconciliation of all of creation to God. The goal of doing creation-care is to fill the soul with the joy by doing “God’s work.”
From the EEN’s point of view, one can’t worship God while simultaneously desecrating the Earth–His creation, which was brought into being to glorify him. Worshiping the Creator and caring for creation is all part of loving God. They are mutually reinforcing activities.
And that’s why getting to know about the Evangelical Environmental Network matters–because worshiping the Creator and caring for the planet are not mutually exclusive.
JUST WHAT IS VERTICAL FARMING?
Earlier this month, The Climate Daily highlighted the virtues of rooftop farming. Today, we’re talking about the virtues of vertical farming.
Vertical Farming is a form of urban agriculture. It’s farming that’s specifically designed to facilitate agricultural production inside vertical structures like buildings. Large-scale versions tend to consist of a series of surfaces, stacked on top of one another, that are usually, though not always, integrated into existing buildings, like office blocks.
Why this matters is this: humans will need to find innovative ways to grow food. We know in the near future, a lot arable land will need to be used, and compete if you will, for tree growing. Meanwhile, human populations will continue to grow. Advantages of vertical farming are numerous. It:
- Drastically reduces agricultural land use.
- Saves up to 95% water.
- Makes cultivation possible, independent of weather conditions & the season.
- Delivers each harvest with continuous quality.
- Brings maximum freshness into cities.
- Saves on transport to the consumer.
- Limits CO2 and puts less strain on the climate.
- Brings agriculture back into urban everyday life.
According to the Vertical Farm Institute, Vertical farms preserve our ecosystem in a variety of ways. Wastewater can be reused as irrigation water, while plant matter leftover from harvesting can be used for heat in the form of biogas.
Currently, there are thirteen different types of vertical farming under investigation. We’ll talk more about them, after the break.
VERTICAL FARMING–THIRTEEN DIFFERENT OPTIONS
Vertical farms are also seen as a great way to deal with an urban phenomenon called “food deserts“. This refers to heavily populated areas that lack access to fresh foods like fruits and vegetables. Because vertical farms can generally be built on a small footprint (or inside existing structures), they can improve easy access to fresh food that can be sourced locally, rather than shipped in and stored prior to consumption.
Thirteen different types of vertical farming include:
- Hydroponics–where the roots of the plants are submerged in a nutrient-rich solution
- Aeroponics– growing of plants in an air or mist environment, with no soil. Seeds or seedlings are “planted” in pieces of foam stuffed into tiny pots, which are exposed to light on one end and nutrient mist on the other.
- Aquaponics– In this system, fish grow in indoor ponds and produce nutrient-rich waste that acts as a food source for the plants grown in vertical farms. The plants, in return, purify and filter the wastewater, which is recycled directly back into the fish ponds.
- Modular Farms in Containers
- Lokal or In Situ
- Cubic Farming Systems
- Sky Greens
A Swedish food tech company called Plantagon has come up with a creative solution that allows office spaces, and other high-rise buildings, to help grow food to help feed its occupants. Their system is, in part, based on the concept of vertical greenhouses developed by Åke Olsson Olsson developed a rack transport system that gradually moves the planting boxes from the floor to the ceiling of a vertical greenhouse, thus requiring no artificial light. This system can be installed in new builds, or retrofitted to existing buildings. At present, the company is currently attempting to showcase its vertical farming system into a purpose-built building in Linköping, Sweden. It is hoped that it will be able to produce enough food to feed almost 5000 people, and includes high-level automation that will be employed for the maintenance and harvest of plants in order to keep the costs very low.
PEE YOUR WAY TO A HEALTHY GARDEN–URINE AS FERTILIZER?!
Well…you’re going to grow something, so you’re going to need to fertilize it. But in the era of climate change, what can you use? How about your own pee? Almost everybody will tell you that urine is sterile, and therefore safe for drinking. Turns out pee also makes a pretty potent fertilizer.
It’s true. And why do we know that? Given the impacts and resource constraints of conventional fertilizers, renewable and reliable alternatives are needed.
About half of the world’s food supply depends on synthetic fertilizers produced from nonrenewable resources–phosphate and nitrogen. Phosphate rock is used to produce phosphorus fertilizers, and its supply is finite. Demand has increased partly because of increased meat consumption and biofuel production, and supplies are dominated by a few countries. Production of nitrogen fertilizer depends on natural gas, is responsible for about 1.2% of the world’s energy use and is associated with greenhouse gas emissions.
Meanwhile, significant resources are invested to remove these vital nutrients — human byproducts in domestic wastewater — in order to protect the aquatic environment. Although urine comprises less than 1% of wastewater volume, it contains approximately 50% of the phosphorus and 80% of the nitrogen contained in domestic wastewater. As utilities increasingly focus on sustainability, they’re finding large-scale urine diversion has the potential to improve regional wastewater management, recover essential resources, and reduce energy consumed in processes such as aeration.
Compared to synthetic fertilizers, urine-derived fertilizers recover important nutrients, can be as effective in stimulating plant growth and contain lower levels of heavy metals.