Tree planting drones, skyscraper farms and vertical forests – the changing landscape of the world’s green spaces

One of the things that always strikes me as odd about modern luxury is that it so often focuses on all of the things humans enjoyed in blissfully ignorant abundance as little as a couple hundred years ago – time, wildlife and green spaces.

Tree Planting Drones

As more and more people congregate into the world’s megacities, we appear to be increasingly confined to prisms of concrete high-rises. Increasingly swollen populous depriving us with ever diminishing foliated areas and the dreaded threat of new builds paving over the green belt.

Well, apparently, we want our green back, at least, that’s the impression I’ve arrived at since my social media seems to be increasingly clogged with outrageously ambitious green initiatives from guerrilla gardening projects to expansive biodomes and skyscraper forests to urban vertical farms.

So just what kind of exciting green transformations can we be expecting to see in our cities over the next few years?

Drone Tree Plantation

At present, it is estimated that 26 billion trees are being burned down every year around the world. In an attempt to combat this, BioCarbon Engineering, are promising to use drone technology to plant one billion trees ‘at a time’.

“We are going to counter industrial-scale deforestation using industrial-scale reforestation.” BioCarbon Engineering’s mission statement.
“We are going to counter industrial-scale deforestation using industrial-scale reforestation.” BioCarbon Engineering’s mission statement.

BioCarbon Engineering is headed up by former Nasa-engineer, Lauren Fletcher, who told The Independent: “The only way we’re going to take on these age-old problems is with techniques that weren’t available to us before.”

According to BioCarbon Engineering’s website, conventional methods of planting seeds by hand are too expensive and time-consuming whilst scattering seeds by plane are too ineffective.

Instead, BioCarbon Engineering utilises emerging technologies to deliver precision planting and mapping for the creation of healthy forest development, and drones to fire out pods containing seeds that are pre-germinated and covered in a nutritious hydrogel.

The Underwater Green House

Nemo’s Garden is the brainchild of Sergio Gamberini, he conjured the concept of the underwater garden whilst scuba diving off the coast of Noli in Italy.

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Together with a team from the Ocean Reef Group, Gamberini inserts planted seeds into small, transparent and oxygenated biospheres before anchoring them to the seabed. These biospheres use the ocean’s consistent temperature and high concentrations of carbon dioxide to harvest the ideal conditions for a network of miniature underwater greenhouses.

Nemo’s Garden took two years of experimentation and an unfortunate incident where a rough tide destroyed everything to get to where it is today but will soon be producing strawberries, beans and lettuce available to the public for purchase.

The Underground Farm

Last month, Growing Underground, the company behind the world’s first underground farm (and a bit of a cheeky nod to The Jam’s hit song thrown in for fun), proudly announced that their debut batch of produce would soon be available to consumers to buy.

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The £1-million subterranean horticultural experiment was put together by Michelin chef Michel Roux Jr. and entrepreneurs Richard Ballard and Steven Dring.

Located more than 100 feet beneath Clapham in a disused World War II bomb shelter, the farm uses state-of-the-art hydroponic systems that allow the growth of plants without the requirement of soil all year round in a pesticide-free environment.

The company also claims to use 70% less water than traditional open-field farming compliments of a closed-loop irrigation system where nutrient rich water is recycled on site.

World’s Largest Vertical Farm

Although still a relatively new concept, the vertical farm is already looking a bit old hat in comparison to what we’ve touched upon so far, but Newark-based AeroFarms are injecting $39 million into building what will be the world’s largest vertical farm on the site of a former steel plant.

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Using aeroponics technology, the company hopes to have up to 30 harvests per year producing up to two million pounds of greens and herbs.

“We are trying to fundamentally transform the way we approach agriculture,” Marc Oshima, a co-founder of AeroFarms, told The Independent. Mr Oshima explained that for plants such as spinach and kale, growth rates could be reduced from up to 40 days in a field to 16 days in the vertical farms growing sheds as well as harvesting up to 70 times the quantity produced using traditional methods.

The project will also include offices, laboratories and a café creating high-quality, accessible local jobs.

The London Garden Bridge

A somewhat more controversial affair this one, but last month the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, pledged that a proposed garden bridge over the Thames would be subsidised by public money if private funds proved insufficient.

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Whilst this has caused outrage in some quarters due to the estimated £3 million annual running costs at a time when the Conservative government is making substantial cuts to public services, the guarantee from Mr Johnson signals his intent for the project to be given the ‘green’ light (sorry, couldn’t refuse).

Conceived by the actress Joanna Lumley, the bridge is planned to be 1,204 feet long and almost 100 feet wide featuring trees, shrubs, and wildflowers.

Despite the criticism, the garden bridge has been hailed as a “jewel in a great city”, by architect Lord Rogers and is set to be unveiled by 2018 if planning permission is approved.

Hamburg’s Car-Free Green Network

Building on the success of winning 2011’s European Green Capital Award, the German city of Hamburg, has devised an environmental pioneering plan to create a ‘Green Network’ centred around bicycles and pedestrians that link car-free roads to parks and playgrounds.

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Covering around 17,000 hectares, around 40% of the city’s area, the Green Network is also envisioned to connect animal habitats and absorb CO2 emissions for the purpose of defending against inevitable challenges presented by climate change.

Jens Kerstan, leader of the Green Party in Hamburg’s state parliament told The Guardian: “It will offer people opportunities to hike, swim, do water sports, enjoy picnics and restaurants, experience calm and watch nature and wildlife right in the city”.

Exciting times then for innovative green spaces but have a quick browse through the gallery below for a reminder of some of the most impressive urban green space landscapes that have set the benchmark to date.



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