Alpha Farm

Project date
  • Architecture
  • Green Infrastructure
  • Research
  • Retrofit
North West England
Manchester International Festival
Associated team members
Associated documents

In 2011 we were commisioned by Manchester International Festival (MIF) to explore the challenges of converting a vacent office block in Wythenshawe into a functioning vertical farm. Working in partnership with Creative Concern, Biomatrix Water, Lancaster University and the University of Cambridge we concluded that by taking a comprehensive approach to the integration of nutrient, water and energy flows within the building a vertical farm has the potential to be developed as a resource ‘sensible’ model. By this we mean that the farm has the potential to grow food using less energy than conventional farming based on the input of large numbers of pesticides and fertilisers and the transport of food over large distances.

Further investigation and testing is still required to test these ideas further and we are currently working in partnership with Manchester College to develop a Biosphere as part of the Real Food Wythenshawe project that received funding from the Big Lottery Communities Living Sustaibably fund in 2012.

For more info on this project click here.

Key points from the report:


A vertical farm will not be sustainable if it uses more energy than conventional agriculture. The balance between what is put in and what comes out has to make sense environmentally.

Our of our aims was to explore how we far we can minimise the energy required for the growing systems to work.  In seeking to do this we have been exploring the following issues:



-- How much natural light can we capture in the building?

-- How much light do we need to grow healthy and nutritious plants?

-- How can we minimise the energy demands of artificial lighting?

-- What temperature range do we need to maintain within the building?

-- What changes do we need to make to the building to achieve this?


Nutrients and water

-- What symbiotic relationships can we develop within the farm?

-- How can we recycle naturally obtained nutrients within the farm?

-- How much nutrient will we need and where will we source this from?

-- What will the water demand be and can we meet this by capturing water within the building footprint?


Growing Systems

-- What should we be growing and when?

-- Which growing systems should we be using?

-- Which growing systems should we locate where?


Project blog

13.08.2012, 10:42
Indoor Growing System

As part of our ongoing work with Manchester International Festival we have been asked to develop an indoor growing module that captures the learning from Alpha Farm. The module forms part of a Big Lottery Application to the Communities Living Sustainably. We find out in September if our application has been successful.

Here is a diagram that summerising the potential nutrient flows within the system.


23.08.2011, 16:03
Vertical Farm Launch @ MIF 2011

Alpha Farm was officially launched yesterday at the Vertical Farm event at Manchester International Festival. The event chaired by Steve Conner welcomed  Dickson Despommier to the UK to discuss his seminal ideas around vertical farming. 


Alongside Dickson, people at the event also had the opportunity to hear from our very own Charlie who discusses the potential of the vertical farm here in Wythenshawe in the launch film. 




23.08.2011, 15:36
A vertical farm for Manchester?

We are very excited to beinvolved in developing a vertical farm here in Manchester. Below is an early concept image that shows our initial thoughts on the idea. For more information please visit the alpha farm site