Make a VERTICAL CONTAINER FARM for the hungry and malnourished (Willem Van Cotthem)

My special attention was drawn to an article in ‘The Victoria Times Colonist’, a Victoria and Vancouver Island newspaper.  The article’s title was “Start a veggie grow-op”.

Let me highlight a few paragraphs :

  1. Knowing she couldn’t control the weather and wanting fresh vegetables year round were reasons enough for longtime Calgarian Ursula de Vries to come up with a way to grow food indoors. And thus, Vertical Veggie Farms was born.
  2. The mother of five wanted to give her family fresh food 12 months out of the year while trimming the grocery bill. “One of the major expenses we have in our household is food, so I thought if I could change the way I do things with food, that it would lessen the impact,” she says.
  3. The Vertical Veggie Farm (available for $340) is a hydroponic growing system that comprises a movable stand that measures 158 centimetres high, 51 cm deep and 114 cm wide with 15 plant spaces suspended by wire and five solution reservoirs. It also comes with the proper light bulbs, 15 hydroponic starter cubes, growing fill, organic solution, as well as heritage seeds of beans, lettuce, chard and kale.
  4. “I thought to go vertical for the space and it’s small enough to put near windows to use free light,” de Vries says, adding she also uses recycled material, such as two-litre sparkling water bottles, for the vegetable containers.
  5. “Plus, it’s pretty mobile . there’s no bolting things to the wall” so the system is easy to dismantle.
  6. I think it’s something people can really get into, home food production, whether it’s in an apartment or if they’ve got a garden or anything like that.”

It goes without saying that I could not resist translating some of these paragraphs to the situations in which a billion people and children are living in chronic hunger and malnutrition :

  1. Knowing they can’t control the drought and needing fresh vegetables year round are reasons enough for experts, wanting to find a solution for the hunger problem, to come up with a way to grow food under drought conditions. And thus, Vertical Container Farming has to be developed.
  2. The mothers want to give their family fresh food 12 months out of the year while trimming the grocery bill. One of the major expenses they have in their household is food, so if we could change the way to let them produce cheaper food themselves, that would lessen the impact.
  3. A VERTICAL CONTAINER FARM (made available at the lowest prize) is a simple system using towers of cheap containers (bottles, pots, trays, buckets, etc.) to grow fresh food with a minimum of water in the smallest space. It can be constructed by any family, using otherwise littered, recycled containers, to be filled with some local soil enriched with manure (growing fill).  At the start of the program, each family should be offered some good seeds of vegetables and herbs.
  4. Each family can go vertical for the space and keep the VERTICAL CONTAINER FARM small enough to put it close to the house or in the shadow of a wall.
  5. The system must be easy to dismantle.
  6. People all over the world can really get into home food production, whether it’s in an apartment or if they’ve got a garden or anything like that.
Maybe you think I am only dreaming ?
Well, may I invite you to have a good look at some photos about my own VERTICAL CONTAINER GARDEN made of plastic bottles of sparkling water (Spa, Bru, Koningswater), Coca-Cola, Lipton ice-tea and white mayonnaise pots?
Do you still think it’s impossible to offer to every hungry family in the world, in cities and villages, in suburbs and refugee camps, a VERTICAL CONTAINER GARDEN or FARM ?
Suppose the Western world would send all it’s aid goods in barrels, drums, buckets, pots etc to the developing countries.  Suppose the children at school would have their own VERTICAL CONTAINER GARDEN with all the bottles, cans and pots otherwise littered.  Suppose all the hungry families would get that little bit of help to start up such a personal family garden.
I strongly believe this would really change the world.  It would certainly alleviate hunger and malnutrition.
Anyone to have a better, cheaper, and more practical idea ?
I listen.

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.