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Singapore: Novel use of 3D geoinformation to identify urban farming sites

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We were able to understand the farming conditions for each locality in a specific building without visiting it, and to decide which crops are suitable to be grown.

By National University of Singapore
Tech Explore
Apr 16, 2021


Led by Dr. Filip Biljecki, presidential young professor at NUS Design and Environment, the study investigates the possibility of using three-dimensional (3D) city models and urban digital twins to assess the suitability of farming locations in high-rise buildings in terms of sunlight availability.

Titled “3D city models for urban farming site identification in buildings,” their research paper was published in the journal Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, based on a proof of concept focused on a residential building situated at Jurong West in Singapore. Field surveys were carried out to validate the simulation figures.

“We investigate whether vertical spaces of buildings comprising outdoor corridors, façades and windows receive sufficient photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) for growing food crops and do so at a high resolution, obtaining insights for hundreds of locations in a particular building,” shared the paper’s first author Mr Ankit Palliwal, who graduated from the NUS Geography with a Master of Science in Applied GIS.

PAR is defined as the portion of solar spectrum in the 400 to 700 nm wavelength range, which is utilized by plants for photosynthesis. Its amount is a key factor to understand whether a location has the potential for farming and what kind of crops can be grown at a specific site because different crops require different PAR conditions for its optimal growth.

“We conducted field measurements to verify the veracity of the simulations and concluded that 3D city models are a viable instrument for calculating the potential of spaces in buildings for urban farming, potentially replacing field surveys and doing so more efficiently. We were able to understand the farming conditions for each locality in a specific building without visiting it, and to decide which crops are suitable to be grown. For this particular building, we have identified locations that would be suitable for growing lettuce and sweet pepper. This research is the first instance in which 3D geoinformation has been used for this purpose, thus, we invented a new application of such data, which is becoming increasingly important in the context of smart cities,” shared Dr. Biljecki, the principal investigator of the study.

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