When it comes to Agricultural Production and Food Security, it is easy for most people in Manila to casually dismiss it, until it comes time to purchase that food which is produced. There are actually a number of different projects in the works that will greatly help to increase not only the variety of the foods available to the average Filipino, but to reduce the costs to the point where virtually everyone will have equal access to most of the goods that are produced. For this particular article, the focus will be on vertical farming methods that can easily be implemented on a massive scale, even in the very heart of Metro Manila. The introduction of more fish and gulay into the markets may not seem overly appealing but when those same goods can be grown at home, or even by and between friends and neighbors, why not?
Vertical farming facilities come in many different varieties and granted, not all of them are equally suited to the more urban lifestyle. Some require vast amounts of equipment and lighting that would consume so much electricity, that if it was powered by the electrical grid, it would drive prices up rather than reducing them. Others require vast amounts of water in order to operate. Given the limitations of space in the city and the relative restriction based on resources, these are not the best selections. Fortunately, there are a host of other options available ranging everywhere from the most basic of systems to more complex and complete systems that allow for the introduction of virtual ecosystems and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to be grown.
Among the simpler urban solutions are open towers with “Foot Farms” or “Foot Boxes”. These boxes are roughly one foot wide and wind around and move upwards rather than being affixed to a window. Each plant is given roughly one square foot of ground space in which it can grow. These types of planters or plant boxes are ideally suited for chili peppers, various spices, bell peppers and other smaller plants. In their simplest forms, these “farms” can be grown equally as well on a balcony as they can on a rooftop or in a back yard. Production is somewhat limited for people who are stuck on more traditional window boxes, the more creative people get with the space that is available to them, the more room they will have to grow even more foods.
The simpler versions of these urban agricultural fixtures do not offer much more than a supplemental source of foods rather than being the main provider, but there are also much more complex versions that can be built in the same amount of space that offer many more opportunities to provide for the family to eat well. Some are built utilizing a Pyramid Shape and some built along spiral shapes built up to whatever the local restrictions may be for the height. Other people get even more innovative and include other options that are incorporated into the design for an increased means of production.
Other designs which are comparatively simple and still viable for urban environments include a fish tank at the bottom. These are not the traditional fish tanks that sit on so many shelves, desks and tables in the homes, but generally a base for the vertical foot farms anywhere from one to five meters on each side. In these tanks, tilapia or similar fish are grown. The “wastewater” or dirty water from the fish tank is fed through the foot farm either with a pump or by hand, perhaps even through a drip system depending on the size of the fish tank and the vertical farming boxes. The waste in the dirty water helps to provide nutrition for the plants and the soil and plants filter out all of the impurities from the water allowing for fresh, clean water to drip back into the fish tank providing both clean water and aeration.
These types of systems are more or less symbiotic in nature, meaning each portion of the vertical farm works to support the other. The larger the system is, the more capable it is of handling a more integrated system and increased production capacity and diversity of crops. Among the largest of these are systems that house semi-hermetically sealed environments for the regulation of the surrounding atmosphere. This has more to do with the potential for an increase in growth rates in addition to benefits for the crops being produced and those harvesting these crops.