Although Sweden’s has ample food relative to other countries, the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Executive Director Johan Kuylenstierna argues that the country still needs a strategy for food security. As a solution, the Swedish architecture firm, Plantagon, has proposed a design plan for a building called “World Food Building,” half of which will house a number of offices spanning 17 floors, while the rest will become an urban greenhouse.

The world’s population is slated to increase to nine billion by 2050. Even before that, with enough food produce to serve everyone, more than 800 million people have poor access to food – mainly in Africa and South Asia.

The World Food Building is composed of 17 floors of offices and the rest is an urban greenhouse.

Work spaces in the World Food Building. CC: Plantagon

The World Food Building is being built in Linköping, a city in southern Sweden, which is home to 153,000 inhabitants. It’s the fifth largest city in Sweden and part of the expansive East Sweden Business Region. The World Food Building will stand 60 meters (196.8 feet) high and will grow food produce using hydroponic farming, a popular method that uses mineral nutrient solutions to feed the plants in water, without soil.

“Our goal is to produce the most food on the smallest footprint using the least amount of water and other resources and yet still maintain premium quality,” Plantagon states. “We minimize the use of transportation, land, energy, and water – using waste products in the process but leaving no waste behind.”

Designed to be entirely circular, the World Food Building will get its heat and fuel from a nearby waste incineration and bio-gas plant. The urban greenhouse will receive and use excess heat from the nearby power plant. The waste produced by the urban greenhouse will in turn be sent to the biogas plant for composting. The architecture firm uses symbiotic solutions to develop large industrial food-production systems. “These systems turn excess heat, biomass and even carbon dioxide emissions into assets for local food production,” Plantagon explains.

A vertical urban farm project in China was initiated in May of last year by Yang Qichang, Director of The Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development in Agriculture at The Chinese Academy Of Agricultural Services (CAAS), as a solution to his country’s food crisis. Mr. Yang believes that by using vertical urban farms, farmers can do away with the need for pesticides and use less chemical fertilizers, producing safer food.

Backed by a $8 million government grant, Yang runs a “plant factory” on the roof of the CAAS. The “plant factory” comprises rows of crops that stand 10 feet (3 meters) in height, growing tomatoes, lettuce, celery, and bok choy, among others. The researcher is yet to identify which parts of the visible-light spectrum are optimal for photosynthesis and plant growth while using as little energy as possible.