Today’s Solutions: October 24, 2021

We’ve written about vertical farms and affordable housing extensively at The Optimist Daily, but never have we seen these two concepts combined. Until now, that is. This is the exact combination we’re going to witness in Westbrook, Maine, where a multistory greenhouse is being constructed within an affordable housing development.

The company behind the new building, Vertical Harvest, sees farm-plus-housing as a way to solve many of the urban problems that have become abundantly clear during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think what we’ve truly understood in the past year and a half—although we’ve been rooted in it all along—is that we have in this country converging economic, climate, and health crises that are rooted in people’s access to healthy food, resilient, nourishing jobs, and fair housing,” said Nona Yehia, CEO of Vertical Harvest. “And we saw this as an urban redevelopment tool that has the potential to address all three.”

Westbrook isn’t the only place where we will see the combination of affordable housing and vertical farming at work. In Chicago and Philadelphia, plans are already in place to build similar developments.

As for the buildings themselves, the ground level will offer community access, while the greenhouse fills the second, third, and fourth floors, covering 70,000 square feet and growing around a million pounds of produce a year. Vertical Harvest says the amount of housing per site will vary, but in Maine, there will be 15 units. The vertical farm will also create 50 new jobs. Residents will be able to buy fresh produce on-site, and the plan is to open up the farms for locals as well.

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