Most Gulf countries import up to 90 percent of their food, which neither bodes well for food security no climate change – since the food that is brought in from Europe and elsewhere has a lot of what are called “food miles.” True to their name, Forward Thinking Architecture proposes a solar-powered hydroponic food belt as a solution.
Acknowledging that they are not designing anything new – because there are already several projects throughout the Arabian peninsula that utilize the sun and hydroponics to deliver food in the desert. One project that comes to mind is the Sahara Forest Project which has received a great deal of international press.
The OAXIS system aims to fuse existing technology in a modular, linear arrangement. The growing medium will consist of prefabricated and recycled steel structures equipped with super efficient irrigation technology that uses roughly 80 percent less water than most farms require. Rooftop solar panels provide energy not only for the architecture itself, but also to power artificial LED lighting that will help promote greater crop growth.
In order to transport these crops directly to cities throughout the peninsula, the design team proposes an underground transportation network that would also be powered by solar energy. In this way, the system is completely self-sufficient, and hardly contributes at all to harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
“…our objective is not to compete with nature and its amazing processes or with an existing oasis such as Al-Hasa, the design team says in their brief. “What we propose is a safe and controlled hydroponic facility based on a modular linear pattern, a city new ‘green axis.’
“It will produce solar energy to become self-sufficient and capable of running an underground transportation system that deliver the crops directly to the cities, shortening long distance food transportation (imports) and therefore reducing CO2 emissions.”
We particularly love the use of recycled steel, which has a very high embodied energy footprint, as well as the ubiquitous use of renewable energy. And the crops will grow year-round and could include strawberries, tomatoes, rocket, potatoes, thyme, lettuce, bell peppers, basil and more.
It’s an impressive design, and it could work!