Clemson to conduct vertical farming study in Lowcountry

By Stefanie Bainum

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The downtown area is known for its skyline of church steeples, but it may soon be known for building vertical farms.

Vertical farming is an indoor farming technique where produce and animal life is grown in high-rise buildings in urban areas. Clemson University's Institute of Applied Ecology recently received funding from the Environment Protection Agency to develop a design-feasibility study to build a vertical farm in downtown Charleston.

City of Charleston Director of Planning, Tim Keane, said he is eager to begin the study.

"Vertical farming is one of the popular techniques that's being explored in cities and towns around the country to find creative ways to grow food locally," Keane said.

"It used to be we'd think we'd get our food, fruit, vegetables, and other foods from further and further away and it would get shipped here. Now it's how can I grow this stuff in my town."

Clemson University released a statement that said it has formed a team to conduct the analysis, which focuses on agriculture, horticulture, green building and the architectural potential of available sites considered for a vertical farm location.

"We're looking at sites right now and there are a lot of different possibilities," Keane said. "Some of them are public and some private. We like to cast a wide net when it comes to potential buildings for vertical farming in Charleston."

According to Keane, the biggest challenge of the project will be if vertical farming actually works.

"Most of the challenges have to do with the science and the architecture of it," Keane said. "Responsibilities of the city are the easy part of it."

The concept of vertical farming is still in the planning stages, but Clemson's study is considered to be further along than any other in the South, according to Keane.

The first meeting for the vertical farming study in Charleston will be on June 2. The study is projected to be complete by early 2012.