Greenhouse Station Farm - Smart Sustainable Farming System
Designing the future of farming to create new opportunities for careers in smart sustainable farming.
Greenhouse Station Farm - Smart Sustainable Farming System
Designing the future of farming to create new opportunities for careers in smart sustainable farming.
The Greenhouse Station Farm is a concept that demonstrates what a career in smart sustainable farming might be like in the near future. This system was designed out of the necessity to feed the world in the most sustainable ways available, and to continue to do so far into the future.
The Greenhouse Station Farm is about sustaining our most essential of needs as human beings, while acting as guardians of our environment and our planet. It’s about treating workers and consumers with the highest level of respect. Raising animals in a smart and humane way because it is the right thing to do, and because they provide us with so much. We believe that growing food and raising animals in a sustainable way is one of the most important things a society can do to secure a future for generations to come. We also think it is one of the most honorable things a person can do as a job or career. We believe this career opportunity needs to be easily accessible and available as soon as possible.
The Greenhouse Station Farm was designed with the future in mind, and it is certainly ambitious and bold. There is no doubt that the Greenhouse Station Farm infrastructure is big, and the cost to build will reflect that, but the truth is that society cannot afford to not invest in sustainable farming. With that said, any great infrastructure is expensive, like building the Interstate Highway System or going to the Moon.
We understand that this solution is not suitable for all global needs. We also think that many different practical approaches in sustainable farming should be embraced on a global level as soon as possible. Outside of the U.S. there are many underserved communities where people have the least amount of food and water security. We would like to help build the necessary infrastructure in developing nations to feed people locally and sustainably. Our goal is to be instrumental in achieving that, but our focus at this moment in time is on the Greenhouse Station Farm, what we think could be a big part of the future of smart sustainable farming, and the beginning of something truly great.
The big picture is that the unsustainable farming practices of today cannot continue for much longer if we as a society want to have a planet that can support the world population for many more generations to come.
Quality Food and Humane Treatment of Animals
Most people care about what they eat and the process of how it was produced and brought to their table. Most people care about animals and believe they should be treated as well as possible. Most people don’t want toxic chemicals involved with their food, and most people don’t want to damage our environment and planet over the production of so called “cheap food.”
Jobs and careers are becoming more competitive, and the future is certainly unpredictable. People need job security, and growing sustainable food should always be made one of the highest priorities for society. Most people feel the need to do something that is honorable, something that is positive and doesn’t exploit people or the environment. People want to feel safe at the workplace, and they want to feel respected. There may not be the “perfect” job, but our goal is to get as close as possible by one day offering a career in modern sustainable farming, or what we also refer to as a “Greenhouse Station Operator.”
Our specific goal is to raise $15,000 to work with an architect that focuses on sustainable design and agriculture in order to create blueprints and a CAD model for more of a final design of the Greenhouse Station Farm, which we will make available free to the public.
We hope to make this career in smart sustainable farming a reality. This campaign is the beginning of many practical steps we are taking to get there. We hope this campaign can bring a level of exposure that allows us to work with like-minded individuals to move forward. Our goal is to have a company that one day employs as many people as possible to grow food sustainably worldwide. A company that is as transparent and as socially responsible as can be. We believe we will create a new level of food quality, one that will raise the bar for what the finest food in the world can be. We hope that our farming system can one day soon inspire people in government to create state and federal incentives to grow food sustainably. We think that is the best way for large farms to make the transition to sustainable farming practices, and could encourage a whole new American Dream for small farmers.
Crowdsource and Open Source
We believe that the free exchange of thought allows for faster and greater development of ideas that can help people. We want to hear your ideas for ways that we can improve our current system. As a business we will share most of what we do in an open source way, however we will have some things that will not be open source, like security features and other aspects.
We think that any major advancement in sustainable food production should be shared. As much as we plan on doing our own thing and leading by example, we will do what we can to help assist big agriculture to make the transition to sustainable farming.
There are many aspects of our design, our focus has been primarily on these categories:
Humane Treatment of Animals
Smart & Efficient
Safety & Security
There are a number of sustainable aspects within the Greenhouse Station Farm system. A big foundation of sustainability will be our use of aquaponics.
Aquaponics encourages Food and Water Security
Aquaponics takes the waste product of fish and makes it available as a fertilizer for plants, which in turn cleans the water for the fish. It is a super water efficient, closed loop system where water is continuously cycled periodically and requires a very modest input of new water. Aquaponics is by nature organic and sustainable. Right now there is a lot going on with aquaponics, but with further innovation and research it will be even more amazing.
Leaf & Fin Aquaponics (www.LeafandFin.com)
Aquaponics can be used with both freshwater and saltwater fish. Saltwater aquaponics however would require saltwater plants, such as kelp.
Both saltwater and freshwater algae can be harvested with aquaponics, this can potentially serve as a source of biofuel that can be used for further enhancing global energy security.
“Will Allen nets a Tilapia at the urban farm Growing Power (located within the city of Milwaukee) that he co-founded and currently serves as CEO.” Image by Ryan Griffis is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Low impact animals
We will focus mainly on raising low impact livestock. They are more sustainable and more practical to raise. These will include but not be limited to: goats, pigs, sheep, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, ducks and ostrich. Basically we will not raise cattle, besides the large amounts of water and food they consume and the large population that already exists, they also release large amounts of methane. This comes out primarily through their mouth and as a greenhouse gas goes directly into the atmosphere and stays for about 12 years, contributing to global climate change. However, we still support raising cattle if done in a sustainable way.
Clean, Renewable, Energy
All Greenhouse Station Farms will have solar panels lining the walkway roof. Battery storage will be diversified, as of now with the current battery market, they will likely come from both the Powerwall rechargeable lithium-ion batteries from Tesla Motors and the saltwater battery solutions from Aquion Energy.
Water Purification and Storage
We will have rainwater collection and water storage, in addition to having groundwater wells. There will be multiple water purification systems that purify all water used at the farm. This will be the highest quality water we can provide, and will be used as drinking water for Greenhouse Station Operators as well as for all livestock, fish and plants.
Other Sustainable Practices
Composting will be largely done with vermiculture for worm castings which will be used as an organic fertilizer. The worms can also be fed to the fish and used within the aquaponics media beds.
Harvesting duckweed grown outdoors with small fish such as minnows can provide supplemental fish and livestock feed.
Beekeeping will be done primarily for the pollination of some of the indoor and outdoor trees as well as some other plants, and to encourage a healthy honey bee population.
Other beneficial insects will be raised for supplemental fish and livestock feed such as crickets and black soldier fly larvae.
We will also make our own biochar as a soil amendment in addition to our compost.
When vegetables are grown outdoors we will use both crop rotation and grow many types of legumes for their nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
Let there be light!
All livestock will receive as much natural sunlight as they prefer and as weather permits.
Do what comes natural
Livestock will be able to forage similarly to how they would in nature, but will also receive healthy supplemental feeds to provide complete and balanced nutrition.
No overpopulating, whether it is fish or livestock. This is not just for comfort and happiness, it is also to prevent disease.
Not a Factory Farm
There will be no antibiotics used on any livestock or fish and no chemicals used in any way that are linked to cancer or any other major health problems for people or animals.
More thought and effort put into the slaughtering of animals
Many of the animals we raise will ultimately be slaughtered for meat. We think that raising animals for meat is not ethically wrong if it is done in a respectful way. We also think it is necessary to feed the world properly at this time. With that being said, killing any animal is unpleasant to say the least. Whether it is livestock or fish, we will do everything we can to make death as close to painless as possible. An example of a practice we are exploring is that an animal never sees or even hears the slaughter of another animal. Animals are very aware, and should not be further traumatized waiting to die.
We also think that the animals should not be crated up and transported elsewhere for slaughtering, we think it could be done onsite in a mobile environment that is still familiar to them.
Automation and emergency backup systems
Many of the functions for raising plants and fish will be automated, such as controlled lighting, humidity, pumping water, etc. If equipment fails we will have fail-safe systems that have extra equipment ready to complete the necessary functions. Our extensive battery storage will make it unlikely of a power outage occurring.
We decided it would be better to have many smaller greenhouses than one large greenhouse. If there were a pest or disease problem it would be more easily controlled with smaller separated greenhouses. This also allows for controlled environments that can be used for growing different plants and raising different kinds of fish that have specific needs and requirements. Plants grown on the second and third floor of the building structure will be done in a polyculture way, meaning a variety of plants, instead of growing only one kind of crop which is called monoculture.
Not Just Livestock Outside
In our 3D model we demonstrate an outside area with chickens for eggs, but this is just one example of what could be done. This area could be used for growing various vegetable crops in a polyculture way. The plants we grow outside will be based on climate and access to water.
We would likely be growing these outdoor vegetables in a form of raised beds with open ground space below the bed. This allows us to control more of what the plants need, protects from animals and pests, makes tending to the plants more comfortable, and allows the ground to remain in more of a natural state.
Our main buildings will be used primarily for aquaponics. They will be at least three stories high. The first storey will be where the fish are located in multiple large tanks as well as smaller tanks for fry and for fingerlings. This location is mostly due to the weight of the water, but also because the fish don’t need direct sunlight.
The second storey will likely use the raft method of aquaponics to grow a variety of leafy greens. There will be no styrofoam used, but a floating raft made from food grade plastic. There will be LED lights to supplement the light needed for the maximum growth and health of the plants.
The third storey will have flood and drain media grow beds with clay pebbles. The grow beds will have a variety of vegetables that require more light as this will be the part of the greenhouse that gets direct sunlight.
Modular & Scalable
The Greenhouse Station Farm is both modular and scalable. The whole farm can be replicated to expand in any direction where land is available. The building structure is done in a way that would allow a Station Operator to walk or take other forms of mobility to access any part of the farm in an efficient way.
Diversity is Natural
There are many different reasons for this design, but one major aspect is the diversity of plants and animals being raised. By definition this is polyculture, which is what occurs in nature. Monoculture is when one crop is raised, this never happens in nature, which should be a red flag for why it shouldn’t be done in excess. In an emergency where food security has been compromised we would rather live close to a farm that has many different things grown and produced than a farm that has nothing but onions or any other one food item.
Growing trees in a greenhouse has been done before, but it’s not very common. The main reason for this is that trees are generally tall and it’s not very practical to build a very tall greenhouse. Our approach is to grow trees partially underground, planted 10 feet or so below the surface. This allows for trees to be grown in the controlled environment of a greenhouse while still maintaining a reasonable height. Being in a greenhouse could allow for non native trees to be grown in almost any environment. It can also extend the growing season and help protect against unwanted pests.
Having food grown close to where people live.
We think that every major city needs to have urban farming as well as nearby farms to provide regular sustainable food production, and also for in times of emergency.
Leaf & Fin Aquaponics (www.LeafandFin.com)
Safety is our number one Priority
Current jobs in agriculture remain some of the most hazardous out of all economic sectors. Our approach to farming is inherently safer with no use of traditional heavy machinery, which is a common cause of death and injury within the agricultural sector of developed countries. Our farmers will not use harmful chemicals and they will not have prolonged sun exposure. The physical labor involved will be minimal and within reason, with no bending over in repetition.
With the recent Flint, Michigan water scandal, the issue of water security has become more of a concern to people living in the U.S. Water security needs to be treated as the vital and crucial infrastructure it is. And although we have a lot to do collectively as a nation to improve our water security, we as a company and as stewards of many future farms will always use water that has been purified for every aspect of our farm that requires water use.
Onsite Food Safety Testing
Our goal is to regularly test our own plant and animal production, going far beyond current government food safety standards. This information will be recorded regularly and made accessible to the public.
Live video feed of what is happening on the farm
One of the reasons we will have live video feeds and HD recording within our farms is to show people that things are being done properly. The other main reason is to be aware of anyone who might tamper with our food and water security whether intentional or not.
If there was a problem with food production, it could be traced better than conventional methods because we will have the ability to watch the whole lifespan of the vegetable or animal with video records.
A Food Fortress
Besides protecting our food and water supply from people with bad intent, we will also do what we can to protect our infrastructure from strong weather conditions, natural disasters and other unexpected events. This will include hardened structures that can handle a variety of extreme conditions. This will one day likely include completely underground infrastructure with an emphasis on aquaponics. This underground area would be connected by walkways similar to the above ground structure.
Although not necessarily a standard in our current farm design, the four sections of the outdoor interior space could be potentially covered. In an emergency an automated protective layer of ETFE can surround the exposed areas if an issue like strong weather or a contaminant is detected.
We have a growing population, but our land available to grow food on is finite, and if anything is dwindling due to misuse, pollution, global climate change, and other human caused issues. We need to be efficient and produce as much as we can in a limited space, but it needs to stay sustainable.
We believe that the future of growing food is doing more in the same amount of space. Which means primarily going vertical, whether that is done in large skyscrapers, stacking modular buildings like our approach, innovative urban farming within pre-existing city environments, or going underground.
A major part of the future of agriculture we believe is subterranean infrastructure, whether partially underground as demonstrated with our tree greenhouse, or completely underground. There are many reasons why the most secure facilities in the world are mostly underground.
Robotics, Automation, Self-Driving
A robotics revolution is upon us, many people embrace it while others are reluctant. Besides the usual conversation of a robotic takeover and references to the Terminator movies, maybe the more practical concern that people have is, “Well, won’t they just take our jobs, and then we become unemployed while major corporations are the ones that primarily benefit.”
While this is certainly a possibility and will likely be the case to some degree in the transition to a new type of economy, it doesn’t need to be a dystopian robotic society. It is expected that there will be some corporate abuse in the beginning and government will then be required to create regulations to address the problem. While we cannot be responsible for the actions and decisions of others, what we can do is integrate robotics and self-driving vehicles that benefit the workers. We would like to demonstrate how human workers and robotics can function together in a way that helps people instead of exploiting them.
Food delivered the same day it is harvested
All the vehicles we use in our entire infrastructure will be either electric or non polluting. All the food that we will deliver directly to individuals, families, grocery stores and restaurants will be harvested the same day. We plan to primarily serve the local community and state that our farms are in, there may be some interstate deliveries, but it will be minimal. Our goal is to have self-driving transportation used for all of our same day food delivery.
We may not produce enough purified water at the Greenhouse Station Farms to be delivered to the local community, but we will stock water reserves so in times of emergency we can have a backup water supply to assist in providing aid for local communities.
Local CSA Pick-up Locations
We would like to eventually have local areas to pick-up produce, fish, meats, dairy and eggs, similar to a CSA pickup site. These will be small storefront locations that will carry not just our products but food from other local organic farms as well. These will be located based on demand, with an emphasis on areas known as “food deserts.” No food will go to waste, with leftover food being donated to local food banks, sold through an app like “Too Good To Go,” or if spoiled will be composted.
In addition to the food available we would also like to include the service of providing purified drinking water, with an advanced water purification system on location. We will also have a water delivery service for convenience but also to help aid the elderly and disabled to have easy access to clean drinking water.
These sustainable food and water centers will use elements of a farmers market, but make it more economical, accessible and sustainable.
We believe that if a person is mentally and physically able to grow food, than there should always be a job available. Even if a person is physically unable to do the functions of working on location, they could still operate remotely from the comfort of their own home.
Equal Opportunity Employer
This career could employ many demographics that have challenges finding reliable employment, such as individuals who have been incarcerated, refugees, veterans, entrepreneurs, the disabled, pregnant and new mothers as well as those that are planning for a child.
We think that women who are pregnant or planning for children should be able to work in a safe work environment. We will insure that all Station Operators are aware of disease associated with livestock and pregnancy. During pregnancy a Station Operator would be required to work in Greenhouse Station Farms without livestock.
All too often people are discriminated against once in the workplace, but also prior, keeping them from even being hired. We want to create a job/career opportunity that truly defines what it means to be an equal opportunity employer.
As mentioned prior we want to help employ veterans, but also those in the military reserve and others that have worked for the Department of Defense. Besides the unique skills that this demographic brings to the table, we think this would help to bridge the gap between the military and civilian world, and further strengthen the U.S. culture of serving our communities.
Modern farming is relaxing
Aquaponics and gardening in general can be a very therapeutic experience: with the sound of running water, the swimming fish, seeing the growth of the plants. It is certainly a low stress environment, and we think it could be helpful for veterans or anyone else who is struggling with PTSD and depression.
Let’s go beyond feeding the world
If food is grown sustainably then we can never grow too much food. Once everyone in the world is being continuously fed, we can start building food reserves. Sustainable food production could be the largest industry and employer of people worldwide. This means that society could employ millions of people worldwide to grow food.
What the career could be like
There is the job/career before humanoid robotics is introduced and then after. Before robotics the Station Operator will do every task that needs to be completed within the entire Greenhouse Station Farm, or at least trained to be able to do everything. It will be encouraged that people who work indoors in aquaponics also work outside with the livestock. We don’t think that everyone should be required to slaughter an animal, although we think everyone should be trained and aware of how the process is done.
We would also like to offer travel programs that allow Station Operators to travel and work at different Greenhouse Station Farms around the world. This allows for affordable travel while learning about new cultures, new foods, and brings a greater understanding, appreciation and respect for people.
After humanoid robots and other automation is introduced there will be several changes in the role of the Station Operator. We believe that people should be able to work less hours to enjoy all the other aspects of life: family, friends, travel, and other things that bring them happiness. We think in the future it might be common that people have a 20 hour work week and can still save money and afford to do fun leisure activities. The Station Operators career will turn gradually into more of a supervising position. We think the Station Operators should still do regular tasks to some degree to remain trained so as to prevent them from forgetting or losing skills.
Even before robotics is integrated we think there could still be a significant amount of remote operations performed, where a Station Operator is able to view the status of a Greenhouse Station Farm from just about anywhere in the world, but more than likely from another farm or the comfort of their home. After robotics are introduced, one person could potentially be responsible for managing multiple Greenhouse Station Farms.
We have been friends for over 25 years. Over four years ago we decided that the greatest contribution we could make to society is to improve food and water security and help fight the challenges of poverty. We knew that whether we found the success we were working towards or not, it was something honorable that we could feel good about doing. Below are some projects we have been developing over the last several years.
Our first creation, and what brought us to where we are today, was a greenhouse concept we called the “Greenhouse Station.” This was a greenhouse that integrated aquaponics, vertical farming, and underground infrastructure in an innovative way. Although we still think it has great significance, it’s simply not practical right now for commercial use. However, we do think it has applications for the Department of Defense.
Around the time we were finishing the Greenhouse Station concept, we started a nonprofit organization called Greenhouse International. Our goal was to create innovative greenhouse technology to be made open source. We later decided to change direction and start a for profit business, the company that we are operating today, and the one that will bring the Greenhouse Station Farm from concept to reality. The incentive of being profitable drives the economy of today, and is clearly what is needed to move forward with big ideas.
After the Greenhouse Station we started thinking about how aquaponics could be done in developing countries that didn’t have electricity. We liked the idea of using natural water bodies and doing something similar to the raft method. But we didn’t like how styrofoam was often used, and we also wanted to grow something more substantial than leafy greens. During that time we were inspired by many related things such as wicking beds, the chinampas of the Aztecs, and an artificial floating island made from plastic bottles referred to as “Spiral Island.” These ideas helped us to make the first prototype of a new product for growing food. We made it mostly out of plastic bottles and a plastic strainer. We tested it in our bathtub, when it floated in a stable way with added weight inside, we knew we were on to something.
We later created multiple prototypes out of mostly PVC pipe, with the goal of having a final product made out of a food grade plastic. Due to challenges of growing plants and raising fish outside in our apartment complex, we decided to create a smaller version that we could test indoors with our aquariums, this turned into what we now call the “Floating Planter.” An aquarium and indoor aquaculture product, that is fun and has significance. Although it was not what we had originally set out to do, it demonstrates the general idea of floating planter aquaponics, and what can be done on a larger scale.
Cattle Greenhouse Station
After learning about the methane that cattle emit mostly through their mouths and into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas, we decided that was a problem we needed to work on. That led to our creation of what we call “The Cattle Greenhouse Station.” It’s basically a concept for multiple shelter solutions that capture the methane from cattle and turn it into electricity in ideally a zero carbon way or at least with minimal CO2 generated. Even if the entire world used clean renewable energy, the estimated 1.5 billion cattle in the world are still a major problem to global climate change if left untreated.
A couple of years ago we were talking about what it would take collectively to put an end to poverty. That led to what we now call the "Dymaxion Pod," something that we think could help to fight the many challenges of poverty. The Dymaxion Pod is directly related to our vision for growing food sustainably in areas that need food security the most. Not only do many people need shelter if not more adequate shelter, they also need to be able to travel safely to go to work and for other life necessities. The Dymaxion Pod would allow people to commute for any kind of work, but we specifically want to provide the job opportunity to farm sustainably. The Dymaxion Pod would also allow the farmer to bring food and purified water back to family and friends in need.
A New Way to Grow Trees
Earlier this year we explored a local sustainable food education center that had space to experiment in sustainable agriculture. The experience inspired some new thoughts on an older project involving a partially underground tree greenhouse. As a result we created multiple innovative designs for growing trees, some with a greenhouse and others without. All of the designs integrate one general idea, trees that are planted below the surface. We think that simply being lower in the ground allows the tree roots to be closer to groundwater, which could conserve water. We think this concept should be researched in a timely manner with the current drought in California and elsewhere.
Our projects and experiences have brought us to what we think is one of the most significant things we have been involved with, The Greenhouse Station Farm concept and the dream of an honorable career in smart sustainable farming. A clear vision to help make agriculture sustainable in order to secure the future of our global society. Thank you for your support and continued inspiration.
Dan & Pat
Risks and challenges
The risk is minimal in that we will be working with someone who has had a confirmed career and accomplishments in sustainable design in architecture and agriculture. We will also consult with a number of experts in their respected fields: arboriculture, aquaponics, animal science, etc. We will also listen carefully and communicate with people who have ideas and suggestions for us.
Maybe the greatest challenge is simply finding the right architect. We are hoping that besides us searching for them, that this campaign provides enough exposure that they will find us.
It is possible that the work we need done will cost more than what we have raised. Any architect we work with will know what our budget is beforehand, and hopefully is doing it because they love the project, and not so much the pay. We can be flexible with the timeframe for completion within reason if it means we can do it within our budget. It may take significantly longer than we expect to finish the blueprints and CAD model, in which case it will take longer to make them available to the public for free.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)