Hannah Abell is a junior at Purdue University studying mechanical engineering with a minor in environmental and ecological engineering. Her good friend, Oswin Chackochan, helped come up with her innovation. Oswin is also a junior at Purdue University studying management and marketing, with a minor in Spanish. Hannah heard of Planet Forward’s Storyfest 2016 contest due to Oswin’s involvement with the Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge program, and who was featured at Planet Forward’s 2015 Summit. For their submission, Hannah and Oswin created a video that focused on their own innovation, which they call “VertiKale.”
We asked them a few questions to learn a little bit more about their project.
Q: Describe your innovation.
A: (Our) innovation is bringing farming to the urban environment with soilless farming techniques like hydroponics. The unique aspect of VertiKale is that the food is grown and sold in the same building. This is especially important in food desert communities that lack access to fresh produce. People want to eat healthy, but in these food deserts they don't have that option.
Q: What was your inspiration behind this innovation?
A: The inspiration for the idea behind VertiKale came from the seeing vertical farming as the future of food production. We saw a gap in the current need of fresh produce, especially in food deserts, that vertical farming could fill.
Q: How did you come up with this idea?
A: Oswin was chosen as Global Food Challenge Emerging Leader for food security over the last summer. In this time, she researched food security and vertical farming. We both got really inspired by the types of things she learned during this experience, so we just had to keep going with the idea of vertical farming.
Q: What was the process behind creating your submission? Why did you choose to communicate your innovation through this video format?
A: We both felt that the best way to convey our story was going to be through visuals. I think that people respond more to a dynamic format of idea presenting rather than just text. It was really important for us to try to capture our audience in the beginning, but also be able to inspire the viewer by the end …
Q: Why is this innovation so important to you? Why do you think it is one of the most essential methods to help sustainable cities?
A: ... People having access to fresh food is so important, not just in our country but globally. If cities had the facilities in place to grow their own produce, then that would be a game changer. Not only could transportation of food be greatly decreased, but cities could start to learn how much food they really need and this might positively impact food waste too.
(Editor's note: Answers edited for grammar and spelling.)