SUMMARY: Polydome is a greenhouse design paradigm that uses a symbiotic ecosystem of plants, animals, and fungi to maximize food output and eliminate environmental impact. A realistic and investible answer to the world’s need for sustainable food production, Polydome generates high yields, links biophysical and social flows, and creates meaningful jobs.
PROBLEM SPACE: Polydome addresses:
-The need to feed the world’s growing population in a truly sustainable manner
-The need to fundamentally re-think the metabolism of cities, moving them towards local, bio-based, and cyclical resource management
-The need to re-develop the unevenly distributed and fragile global economy
SOLUTION: The fundamental drive behind the creation of Polydome was to realize a realistic, truly sustainable approach to agricultural production. A secondary motivation was to develop a commercial food production system ideally suited to urban areas.
With an idea based on a novel combination of existing technologies, we approached Innovation Network and SIGN, two non-profit organizations funded by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, to receive knowledge support and funding for the initial concept development in the fall of 2009. We began a one-year research trajectory to develop the first Polydome model. The project involved three months of interviews with horticultural experts and commercial growers and continued into a data gathering and modeling phase using Except’s in-house systems-thinking methodology.
We developed the first conceptual Polydome model as a sample design for a 1-hectare greenhouse with over 50 crops, mushrooms, fish, chickens, beneficial insects, and support crops. The primary goal was to evaluate the financial feasibility of the approach, look at the implications of this system for environmental impact reduction, and investigate what it could mean for social interaction, local economies, and quality of life.
The resulting polyculture model showed remarkable potential in productivity, earnings, and the capacity to reroute investment flows towards growers and communities.
Polydome is a design process that must be applied to locally available resources and conditions. Polydome systems can be scaled to any size: from urban rooftops to ground-based, multi-hectare production facilities. Because of the embedded performance criteria, each design results in a highly productive polyculture system adapted to local market conditions and producing negligible environmental impacts.
Currently, we are in the process of working out two specific case studies for constructing the first Polydome: one on a rooftop in Rotterdam, and one on a reclaimed brownfield site in New Haven, Connecticut.
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