Revival of the Ruther Tower
Sommersemester 2018 / Vertical Farm Institute
Due to growing world population, land scarcity and climate change as a threat for the future food supply, a new concept “Vertical Farming” has become a promising vision for the future of agricultural production.
Unbeknownst to many, back in the early 1970ies, Othmar Ruthner laid the foundation to the first vertical farms in Austria. He invented the so-called Ruthner Tower.
The Ruthner Tower itself is a 15-meter high greenhouse, with whom Othmar Ruthner changed the conventional understanding of agricultural production by stacking plantings and thus saving space, water and other resources. However, the Ruthner Tower failed and consequently became a ruin, which is still standing at the Kurpark of Oberlaa.
Under the working title “Revival of the Ruthner Tower” Vertical Farm Institute (vfi), an international research network, was looking for a business model for the specific leftovers of the Ruthner Tower in the Kurpark at Oberlaa. The aims of the project were:
Identify stakeholder needs with respect to Ruthner Tower
Develop ideas for business models
Recommend a sustainable business model for the revitalization of the tower
The project was divided into three phases.
Firstly, the students conducted research on the market and the environment of the project by collecting secondary data. The working process was marked by enhancing knowledge about the history of the tower as well as the current situation. Moreover, an excursion to the Ruthner Tower at Oberlaa was undertaken to examine the status quo.
The second phase was an idea generation process, in which nine interviews with stakeholders from different fields were conducted to get a better understanding of the operations as well as possible solutions for a revitalization. Moreover, to filter and select the most promising idea, the students were coached on creativity and business model development by different partners, including Creativity Gym and Accenture.
The third phase comprised the elaboration of a business model and its proper validation. At this point, students conducted four interviews with experts in the specific field of interest, i.e. research, to get a sound understanding of how the chosen business model might look like in more detail. Subsequently, a business model was elaborated using the Business Model Canvas.
From the interviews emerged that uses for the Ruthner Tower are manifold. Key for a step-wise revitalization of the tower is to use it as a
research facility. Through research projects sufficient financial funds from Austrian and European sources can be used to research vertical farming and to start renovating the tower. This approach will elicit the support of the owners and stakeholders of the Ruthner Tower as well as Kurpark Oberlaa.
The vertical farm institute will be at the center at the activities and is paid for its upkeep and operation of the facility through usage fees.
Vertical Farm Institute
Markus Deimel, M.Sc.
Niloofar Abolfahti, Ph.D.