Aquaponic urban farm puts seniors to work

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Homefarm is a concept that mixes accommodation for seniors with an urban farm run, in part, by its retiree residents (Image: Spark)

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Among the oft-cited benefits of urban farming are improved food security and production sustainability. According to Spark Architects, its Homefarm part retirement home, part retiree-run urban farm concept would achieve not only these, but improved health and community spirit among Singapore seniors.

Many of the urban farm concepts featured in Gizmag are large outlandish blue-sky ideas. Some, however, are more realistically employable, like the Globe (hedron) rooftop fish farm. And others, like the Windowfarms indoor gardening system, actually become a reality. Though ambitious, Spark's Homefarm concept arguably falls into the employable category.

Spark says that its actual aim is to "generate discussion about the many potentials that can emerge from the mixing of two typically separate realms." Specifically, in this case, it's referencing the combination of accommodation and facilities for seniors with an urban farm. It notes the context that Singapore has a significantly aging population, growing city populations and imports over 90 percent of its food. The Homefarm concept, it says, addresses all of these issues.

Homefarm would mix accommodation with vertical aquaponic farming (fertilizing plants from the waste produced by fish also being farmed) and ground-level and rooftop soil planting of vegetables. Rainwater would be collected for use in the aquaponic system and plant waste collected for use in biomass energy generation. Not only would the accommodation be designed specifically to meet the needs of seniors, but it is proposed that the seniors would be instrumental in running the farm under the instruction of a professional team.

In this way, the project could increase the amount of food produced domestically in Singapore, increase inner-city food production, provide work and income for post-retirement individuals, provide an opportunity for improving health among seniors and develop a sense of community within a retirement complex. Spark also suggests that such developments could serve as places for community education.

Spark Director Stephen Pimbley says he is keen for the Homefarm concept to be built in the future, calling it a "realizable solution to real and pressing problems."

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