Bubbles add oxygen to a pond with tilapia at the vertical garden on display at 77 Monty Naicker Street. Picture: Duncan Guy
Bubbles add oxygen to a pond with tilapia at the vertical garden on display at 77 Monty Naicker Street. Picture: Duncan Guy

Vertical farming in the spotlight

By Duncan Guy Time of article published Sep 14, 2019

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Durban - Air conditioning may cool a building, but it doesn’t stop the ice melting in the world’s polar regions; it just contributes to it.

Vertical gardening is one way to cool a building and reduce the need for air conditioners, said passionate gardener Wendy Taylor, who designed a vertical garden for the eThekwini Municipality.

It’s in a building opposite the International Convention Centre where vertical gardening and other urban agriculture practitioners will brainstorm at the coming Urban Agri World 2019 conference.

In spite of China having the heaviest carbon footprint of all countries, Taylor was impressed with its vertical gardens on a recent visit there.

“There are many of them in all the main cities in China. Some are for to grow food, others are for beautiful plants. They adorn the streets,” she said.

Taylor said poor urban areas of Brazil lead the way when it came to vertical gardening for food. “There is not much land, people are poor and there is community farming.”

The garden Taylor designed and landscaping technologist Amy Gwillam implemented, receives drip irrigation from the top of the wall and the water drains into a pond, which is stocked with tilapia, and pumped back up. “It was intended for vegetables, but condition weren’t right; there wasn’t enough sun.”

Eventually indoor plants that could take the shade and handle lots of water were found to be best suited.

Taylor said that while vertical gardens were becoming more trendy all over the world, she did not expect them to take-off in South Africa unless legislation required them.

“A disadvantage is that they require high maintenance. One must ensure irrigation systems never block up.”

The conference, from September 17 to 19, will discuss the key issues pertaining to progressive farming developments for the indoor and vertical farming industry. There will be an emphasis on food production.

“Today, 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 68% by 2050,” read a conference document.

“United Nations projections show that urbanisation. combined with the overall growth of the world’s population. could add another 2.5 billion people to urban areas by 2050, with close to 90% of this increase taking place in Asia and Africa.

“To feed another 2 billion people in 2050, food production will need to increase by 50% globally. The challenge of growing enough healthy food for growing cities is enormous.

“At the same time, the stresses of climate change, and the declining availability of arable land and fresh water are challenging conventional agriculture as never before.”

The vertical garden and rooftop garden are at 77 Monty Naicker (Pine) Street. They are open to the public from 7.30am to 3.30pm on Mondays to Fridays. Groups of more than 10 should call 0313228280 in advance.

The Independent on Saturday

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