A rendering of a vertical farm using the Aponix Barrel
Marco Tidona is the inventor behind the Aponix Aeroponic Barrel. He became a vertical farming enthusiast in 2014 after visiting some urban farms in NYC. Even though he has an international business administration degree, he has been working as software developer since 1999, building individual open-source based IT tools for his customers.
Aponix is a proud member of the Association for Vertical Farming (AVF) and based in Heidelberg/Germany, where it also runs an Aeroponic Barrel testing facility.
I had the chance to catch up with Marco recently for a Q&A on his work and future plans.
AB: Give our readers some background on the Aponix Aeroponic Barrel. What is it and why did you invent it?
MT: It is a system that can provide many grow spaces in a vertically flexible and very dense way for any existing liquid based circulation system, hydroponics or aquaponics. It uses lego like parts that can be assembled into ring segments which...
In the annual Budget for fiscal year 2015-2016, Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley revised the 2022 target for renewable energy upwards to 175 GW. 100 GW of this is allocated to solar, 60 GW to wind, 10 GW to small hydroelectric and 5 GW to biomass.
That sounds like a tall order and despite considerable interest from both the Indian and international investment community, there is skepticism from some quarters on whether such an aggressive target can be met.
While the focus of this analysis is primarily on solar since it makes up a lion’s share of the target, the broad principles touched upon can be applied to other renewable technologies as well.
Solar tariffs in India have decreased considerably in the last five years and are on target to reach grid parity (approximately ₹4.5 per kWh or $0.067) by 2018 according to some estimates. Currently, most medium sized plant operators find it challenging to generate healthy rates of return (IRR) at tariffs below ₹5 per kWh ($0.075).
"Disruption" is a much maligned and overused word these days. Building an app that sends self-deleting text messages is not disruption in my opinion. Neither is finding yet another way of redistributing mobile ad revenues. On the other hand, growing food indoors, stacked vertically with LED lighting as a substitute for sunlight; using 95% less water; without soil, fertilizers or pesticides; in a completely controlled environment where you can collect data on all the micro-environmental elements in play and then using big data to tweak those elements to obtain varying nutrient and flavour profiles... now that's disruption.
Which brings us to CEA or Controlled Environment Agriculture. It is a combination of engineering and horticultural techniques used to optimize crop yield, quality and efficiency, typically done in an enclosed space such as a greenhouse or building . More recently, CEA has been used interchangably and somewhat loosely with terms like vertical farming, urban farming...
With over 9 million hogs according to the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture, North Carolina is the second largest pork producer in the US, accounting for almost $3 Billion in annual sales . The majority of the hogs are concentrated in farms in the southeastern part of the state, in the counties of Duplin, Sampson, Bladen, and Robeson. A logical question that arises from an environmental standpoint is: what happens to all the waste from 9 million pigs?
The waste, 15.5 Million tons annually , makes its way to football-field sized open-pit lagoons. In the 1990s, after a series of storms made the lagoons flood into neighboring towns and drinking water supplies, the state imposed a moratorium on new hog sites. However the lagoons for existing sites remain until today posing the same hazards, including considerable methane emissions - a greenhouse gas that is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the short term.
However, if the biogas (a combination of methane and carbon dioxide)...
In 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a "Smart Cities Mission" with a goal to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and a decent quality of life to its citizens: something that includes a clean and sustainable environment and an application of "Smart Solutions". The focus would be on sustainable and inclusive development in geographically compact areas and to create a replicable model that would act as a lighthouse for other aspiring cities.
Not many details were released at that time on what exactly "Smart Solutions" meant. In the ensuing months, the Indian Ministry of Urban Development launced a dedicated website for the Smart Cities Mission, which included a Mission Statement that shed some more light on the Mission's vision and strategy. Core infrastructure goals were described as adequate water supply, sanitation, affordable housing, robust IT connectivity among others; laudable goals considering that most of India's major urban centers current lack...