Vertical Farming at Burning Man

I mentioned this in a tweet, but there is a cool new vertical farming project named Isabel that’s traveling to Burning Man.

isabel 2

A group of Silicone Valley-type dudes are putting together a project to showcase the potential resiliency of vertical farming. Burning Man (those who don’t know should just look at this or any photo gallery; it’s incredible) is a great test. Desert temperature extremes and complete grid independence mean that if you can grow food here, you can grow it anywhere.

I asked one of the founders, Ryan Hooks, why they were so set on Burning Man:

“Burning Man is the stunt, to show that if you can grow in the desert, you can grow anywhere. By being mobile, it shows itself in such an amazing way to a very future forward crowd, that this is the ultimate solution we’ve all been waiting for. We hope to inspire all, [and show them] that the Internet of Food is here. We are doing this for everyone in the field of progressive agriculture, and the byproduct is helping to massively accelerate regenerative solutions. Let’s dream big, and eat well, Isabel.”

That is definitely a vision I can get behind.

Though many other projects (like the Growvan) are trying to develop portable hydroponic farms, this one is unique in that it is repurposing existing materials. In this case, it’s a VW van and an Airstream trailer. I honestly don’t know if this is going to be the most efficient way to grow food, but it is certainly an interesting project. From a sustainability perspective, using this as a test case to take old trailers out of junkyards and convert them to food production might have a lot of potential though I worry that there could be design inefficiencies inherent in the base. Hopefully, when Isabel is finished, those will be worked through.

Ryan and his team are certainly prepared for those challenges:

“I’ve worked as a director for the past 8 years [at], and run the “airBNB for skills” at The more I learned about the data of the Earth, the more I was itching to find the most effective solution to help regenerate ecology, and feed 9 billion. Vertical Farming showed itself as the answer. Eric Hager, one of the partners in Isabel, has been running Farm-X for the past couple years, and is one of the most knowledgeable people in the field. Ruben Santa, our other partner, has been heading product at eBay, and brings great design/strategy chops to the table. We have a research facility in the East Bay, and it is pure magic to see veggies growing at outstanding rates (more than 2x), with 95% less water. ”

Though it looks like they are a ways from their funding goal, take a look at their Indiegogo page here and let me know what you think of Isabel!

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