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To address food poverty, the university's research team introduced energy-efficient vertical farms

Nov 15, 2017

Vertical farming is considered a way to provide fresh food to urban dwellers while reducing the carbon footprint needed to grow and transport. However, a student team at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) sees it as a way to improve basic nutrition in poor areas. These students are using simple devices and LED lights to develop an inexpensive way to almost anyone who can grow fresh food for their families and communities.

Poverty is diverse, but the most intractable is food poverty. In other words, some people may suffer from poor food because they do not have enough money to buy enough nutritious food, and even in very rich countries there may be areas called "Nutrition islands". Prepackaged food in these areas is very rare and expensive, resulting in malnutrition and generally poor health conditions.

To address this problem, a group of students from the MSF Institute for Engineering and Public Policy (EPP)/chemical engineering (CHEME) undergraduates at Carnegie Mellon University, Jack Ronayne, has turned to vertical farming as a way to allow people to grow food in their homes. 

Kelvin Gregory, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at EWB, said: "We are sure of the idea of a city community nutrition Island: These places are limited by the availability of fresh food for reasons such as distance, freshness or cost." We ask ourselves: can you simply grow fresh fruits and vegetables at home? Obviously, the footprint needs to be very small, so you have to go through vertical farming, you need to use artificial lighting, which is the problem we decided to solve. “ 

While some vertical farming systems look like scenes in a sci-fi movie, the CMU system looks simpler. The system does not have a variety of custom-designed cabinets, but a set of metal shelves that can be purchased from stores in size. This is covered by a black plastic waterproof cloth. 

In fact, it looks like an indoor greenhouse. The LED lights used in the system can be set to flash at different speeds in order to determine how much light is needed to culture the plant with the least energy. 

"What we want to study is energy efficiency," says Gregory. LEDs are already more energy-efficient than old-fashioned halogen bulbs, but they also have additional benefits that can be opened and closed quickly, so by flashing these lights at different speeds, we have been able to measure how much light is needed to plant the largest plant with the least amount of energy. “ 

The current vertical farm uses 40 tomato plants. In addition, family versions are relatively easy to expand, planting more plants for vertical farms in the community. The team hopes the study will one day give everyone access to fresh, healthy food, regardless of their location or socioeconomic status.