Singapore has roughly 5.4 million people crammed into 716 square kilometers (276 square miles), making it the most densely populated country in the world. This country—whose area is less than a quarter of that of Rhode Island—does not have enough room for agriculture and thus imports over 90% of its food from other countries all over the world. Not only does this add considerable cost to food prices for Singaporeans, but the reliance on others might become problematic in the future if availability is low.
While Singapore might not have much land to spare to grow food, it is surrounded by plenty of water. Barcelona-based architect Javier Ponce of JAPA Architects (now under the name of Forward Thinking Architecture) has designed what he calls Floating Responsive Agriculture (FRA). Essentially, they’re large L-shaped structures that float, providing some much-needed space to grow food.
They were imagined to help Singapore—as well other densely populated countries unable to produce enough food for their citizens—gain some independence over their food supply while taking up as little room as possible. The FRA is not designed to be a standalone unit or two; a network of the towers would surround Singapore, allowing all residents to have quick access to locally-grown produce.
Proposed FRA network around Singapore. Image credit: Forward Thinking Architecture
The FRA is designed to be incredibly efficient. The structure is oriented in such a way that maximizes sunlight exposure while simultaneously minimizing shadows. The efficiency of sunlight collection is matched by the waste-reduction system. It is envisioned to have an advanced networking system to facilitate between the FRAs and the local markets, ensuring that supply does not dramatically exceed demand. About a third of all food produced around the world goes to waste, so real-time communication about the consumers’ needs will help the FRA cut down on that waste.
Ponce also designed a land-based vertical agricultural system called Dynamic Vertical Networks (Dyv-Net) in 2013 that was proposed for use in China. Though China does have available land, only a small portion of it can be cultivated. Dyv-Net features circular platforms that rotate to follow the sunlight. This would allow food to be produced near heavily populated areas, cutting down on transport time and costs.
In addition to added food security and reduced costs, the ability for these countries to produce food locally also minimizes the environmental impact associated with importing food. Fewer ships bringing food in from overseas means using less fuel, and it will also cut down on the amount of refrigeration needed to keep the food fresh.
Though the designs are conceptual for now, Ponce hopes to develop small-scale prototypes in the near future.