Plantagon!

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UPDATE: See comments for a response from Plantagon Community Director Thomas Selig.

Drumroll, please. I present to you the latest development in urban agriculture: a futuristic vertical greenhouse that—making use of integrated solutions for energy, excess heat, waste, CO2 and water—will be the latest methodology for providing fresh food to city dwellers. Its name is Plantagon.


There was a groundbreaking (shown above) for the world’s first Plantagon in February at Linköping, Sweden (outside of Stockholm). Completion is expected in early 2013, at which point it will look like the rendering at top. As far as I can tell from the company’s somewhat inscrutable website, the interior of the greenhouses uses a helix-based structure, where newly potted vegetables are transported to the top of the helix and then gradually make their way down through the spiral to the bottom, by which time they are ready for harvest, and the process starts again. Consult the website for more details, and good luck to you.

Regardless of how it works, it is a really cool looking structure, and here’s the strange part. If this company really gets off the ground (investment opportunities are available), the 2nd or 3rd Plantagon may be rising in Buffalo. This could be because a principle partner in the Plantagon “companization” is the Onondaga Nation, part of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) confederacy, and located in central New York, near Syracuse. The hybrid word is used because Plantagon’s organizational structure consists of a non-profit/for-profit amalgam. (Most of the “history” part of the Plantagon website consistes of letters between Plantagon and Onondaga leaders.) A spokesperson for Plantagon, Pierre Wallinder also happens to live in Buffalo.

Another possible Plantagon.

So far, Plantagon has not yet met with overwhelming enthusiasm among the few Buffalonians who have paid attention to a couple news items about it. Many involved in Buffalo’s existing food-growing scene point to the vast rural acreage that surrounds us as well as to the 7-8 urban farms within the city limits. “A vertical greenhouse is unnecessary in a city where large swaths of land are readily available,” notes one commenter. A local businessman objects to the cost: “Given a $15 million dollar investment, I can think of a number of industries that could create more than 30 jobs and generate sustainable growth. We can do better for the money, but at least this idea is an improvement over the indoor water park proposed a few years ago.”

I’m not a big indoor water park fan either, and spending a fortune on a big indoor greenhouse would also be low on my priority list for Buffalo. We do have a lot of local food-growers who have just recently begun to penetrate the market here. On the other hand, I get the basic concept behind this—a sustainable urban food source for a world population that is increasingly based in cities.

And it is pretty.

Plantagon renderings courtesy of Plantagon.com, via their press section.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on June 25, 2012 at 12:49 pm, in the category Gardening on the Planet, Ministry of Controversy, Uncategorized.

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18 Comments

  1. 2nd July 2016 at 11:35 pm —

    Sorry, $15M? Just seems like a great waste of taxpayer money to me. How about putting the $15M towards acquiring and improving new community garden land? A much better use in most communities I know.

  2. 31st July 2016 at 3:00 pm —

    Great to see some constructive discussion. However, I feel I have to rectify some of the comments;
    1. It’s not about tax money. Our projects are funded both by shareholders and micro investors/crowdfunders. No tax money is used.
    2. The real reason to build a vertical greenhouse is to make better use of land, where such is not available, mainly in the emerging mega cities of the world. There is no reason to build vertically in rural areas.

  3. 22nd September 2016 at 3:13 am —

    Anne, thanks for some really interesting questions, which actually might help to clarify why we believe urban vertical farming to become essential in a not-too-distant future.

  4. 1st October 2016 at 2:14 am —

    Thomas, so much food for thought! Which gives me more questions. On the website, it says the plants will be grown in pots in a “nutrient solution”; is this an aqueous solution, or soil? Where do the nutrients come from?

  5. 6th October 2016 at 4:26 pm —

    Thanks Anne, for the follow up. Great to discuss those questions!

  6. 7th November 2016 at 4:51 am —

    I was just joking with someone this morning about Swedish produce in the markets. Everything has to be shipped here. They’ve got some of the most hideous produce selection of anywhere and what they get looks as if it was sent by wooden sailing ship which prior to docking and unloading seemed as if it had been months at sea. The produce sometimes seems to have been more weeks sitting in a warehouse.

  7. 7th November 2016 at 3:29 pm —

    I guess, Scandinavian design is up to the taste. When I initially moved to Sweden, I really couldn’t get used to those infamous million housing projects at all. Frankly, I still don’t like them (who does?), but there was actually a whole architectural philosophy behind them: taking focus from the architecture and thus highlighting interpersonal relationship. I find the goal interesting and appalling, however, I don’t think that the architecture really succeeded 😉

  8. 21st November 2016 at 12:57 pm —

    Something like this was tried in Holland in 1981 and failed miserably. The answer to sustainability is EVERYONE will need solar, wind, geo thermal and gardens in their yard to supply what the “new grid” cannot. Let the large wind/solar farms provide for the energy needs of infratstructure and basic necessity. Let big food farms provide for the base food needs.

  9. 21st November 2016 at 8:32 pm —

    Greg,
    here at Plantagon we wholeheartedly agree with your opinion about sustainability; small scale production, be it energy or food, is in many cases the best solution, WHERE POSSIBLE.
    However, in many areas, namely mega cities, this simply is not possible.

  10. 22nd November 2016 at 3:39 am —

    I do prefer the idea of decentralizing power via small/residential wind and solar, and many small local farms (I am lucky to live in a rural area) with greenhouses for a longer local season.

  11. 23rd November 2016 at 11:24 pm —

    That’s awful. I’d rather the huge amount of money be spent on more sustainable ways of growing food on a personal level. A lot of people could be set up to grow some of their own food with the $15,000,000. Let’s not make growing vegetables more complicated and expensive than need be. This is irresponsible overkill.

  12. 24th November 2016 at 3:38 am —

    A short growing season argues in favor of indoor growing facilities. All I remember about the supermarket on the west side of Syracuse that had people swarming to buy winter tomatoes grown off the heating system was that they tasted Real.

  13. 24th November 2016 at 8:01 am —

    I’ve toured a huge assembly-line greenhouse operation. The one I saw grew patented mini rose bushses. It was a little creepy. In a back room, Latina women potted up the stems that had been sheared off, for piecework wages. In the main greenhouses, vast trays of mini roses were watered, fertilized, and trimmed, and rotated from one greenhouse to another, automatically.

  14. 24th November 2016 at 10:48 am —

    This is being funded by private investors, not the taxpayers. If they can make it work, more power to them. Skepticism would seem to be the order of the day, however. I can see something like this concept being more workable in a very dense, larger urban area (especially with a very short growing season), not so much in a rustbelt town with many vacant lots.

  15. 24th November 2016 at 11:36 am —

    Plantagon looks horrible to me; it has architect-with-ego written all over the structure itself. Why bother going outside and actually trying to grow plants in real soil when you can create your own world and try and suck the rest of us into it. No thanks.

  16. 24th November 2016 at 12:21 pm —

    Architecturally, it’s no worse than some of the Civic Center-type buildings and convention halls I’ve seen. At least Plantagon has a *reason* for all that glass.
    Anne, I too would MUCH rather go outside and pull my own weeds – but currently I’m where Selig’s prospective customer is: My climate is impossible for more than a few weeks out of the year (for opposite reasons to Sweden!); I’ve lived in apartments and in a mobile parked on someone else’s land . . . erm, lawn . . . with no permission to plant anything.
    Yes, this would go better in central NYC than in Buffalo, but as an alternative to Monsanto and Miracle-Gro, it deserves a chance.

  17. 25th November 2016 at 9:35 am —

    I garden, I have a messy semi-sustainable garden, and love my veggies and ornamentals. But what Thomas and his associates are doing is interesting and may be vastly important. Lots of open rural space around Buffalo? Perhaps, and perhaps in fifty years (or less) it will be seeing alternate droughts and floods from global warming. How much has Texas produced in the last two years from farmers and ranchers?

  18. 25th November 2016 at 10:49 am —

    Thanks Kermit! Richard Brautigan quotations–or even mentions–are all too rare in the garden blogging world. I’ve always liked him. That poem seems more traditional than the stuff I remember.

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Plantagon!