Agritecture workshop brings vertical garden proposals to Richfield

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After the victory, team No. 3 congregated at the front of the room. Here, Dean Dovolis, left, and Lucas Gastaldi, center, are congratulated for their win. MURPHY NEWS SERVICE PHOTO BY KENDALL MOON.

Factoid: Urban agriculture enthusiasts gathered at the University of Minnesota to develop proposals for a local vertical garden.

Minneapolis hosted its first ever vertical farming workshop at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs Friday. The conference was formed from a collaboration between the University as well as Minnesota Sustainable Development Group, Association for Vertical Farming, and Blue Planet Consulting.

“The vision is that this industry is too small, so we need to kind of encourage professionals in all these cities to get together and collaborate,” Henry Gordon-Smith, director of business development for Blue Planet Consulting, founder of and advisory board member of the Association for Vertical Farming.

While the plot of land used for the workshop in Richfield, Minnesota, is in real need of change, Gordon-Smith said, implementation is not the goal of the workshop.

He said, though, the workshop provided the beginning of a relationship with real professionals who could get see a plan to fruition.

The event was kicked off with a welcome gathering as well as a mixer. The workshops themselves lasted two days, a change from their past workshops which only allowed teams one day.

In short, the teams had to build a plan for a food hub and vertical farm.

But the proposals had to include a business model, marketing plan, elevation view, plan view, yield estimate and projection, sustainability consideration and systems diagram.

Each group had a total of 25 minutes to present their proposals and answer any questions from the judges. Factors the judges paid attention to included feasibility, economics, creativity, aesthetics and sustainability, Gordon-Smith said.

The members on each team had not before and were made up of local, national and international professionals and students. Each person on a team took on a different role: marketer, grower, sustainability manager, entrepreneur, engineer, architect and student.

Agritecture (Competition participants prepare for their final presentation Friday)

Team No. 3 as it met to devise what turned out to be the winning strategy. MURPHY NEWS SERVICE PHOTO BY MARIA WINGERT.

“The idea is that we’ve included interdisciplinary professionals,” Gordon-Smith said.

Teams No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 presented their final garden proposals Friday afternoon.

After an out-of-the-room deliberation, the judges decided team No. 3’s proposal was the winner. What set it apart from the others, the judges said, was its aptitude for sustainability.

Team No. 3’s plan also involved utilizing an underground portion of the Richfield plot, moving downward as well as upward, something the other two teams did not include.

Dean Dovolis, a professional architect and a member of the winning team, said he was pleased with the win.

“I had a very bright team, very knowledgeable. I got lucky with the draw of my team members. It was very complete,” he said.

The location of the workshops is up to the local organizers, Gordon-Smith said. They simply have to raise enough money and have a university partner.

This was the fourth workshop of its kind; past workshops were held in New York, Las Vegas and Atlanta.

Another member of the winning team was Lucas Gastaldi, a graduate student from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. He is originally from Argentina, and his intention is to take what he’s learned about urban farming back to Argentina and develop the first vertical farm in there.

“I’m very passionate about vertical farming and urban farming and what it means. So I came here to learn, and I met wonderful people,” Gastaldi said.

Reporters Kendall Moon and Maria Wingert are studying journalism at the University of Minnesota.


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