Concept: Farm to Pharm
Firm: HGA
Team representatives: Amy Douma, vice president, design principal; Alanna Carter, vice president, practice group leader Minneapolis, principal; and Timothy Shortreed, intern architect

The challenge: Each year, tens of billions of dollars in healthcare costs in the U.S. are tied to cardiometabolic diseases such as heart attack, stroke, and diabetes, with unhealthy diets frequently to blame. This problem disproportionately affects low-income families, with sources of unhealthy diets attributed to the cost of healthy food, lack of knowledge of food preparation, and food deserts.

The concept: The HGA team explores the idea of shifting the healthcare system from an illness-driven, fee-for-service model to instead invest in prevention, health, and wellness. The Farm to Pharm concept asks what might happen if the system was retooled to support the distribution of healthy food as a preventive and population health measure, particularly as biotechnology blurs the boundaries between pharmaceuticals and plant material and genetic research enables the tailoring of drugs to patients’ specific needs.

The result is a convergence of solutions that leverage technological advancements to replace medications with food and transform food production and distribution to support financial equity across communities.

The details: The Farm to Pharm concept is based on two primary innovations: grow hubs and grow sheets. Grow hubs are centers located within communities that are used to showcase and distribute locally grown medicinal food. They’re constructed using modular components and located in vacant spaces within existing buildings to help reinvigorate neighborhoods while also creating jobs. They would house interior and exterior growing space, a lab to oversee quality and efficacy, retail and education spaces, a fitness center, and possibly even a restaurant or incubator space for deeper innovation. In whole, the grow hubs serve as a reimagined outpatient clinic and pharmacy to offer gene-based and medicinal food tailored to local community needs.

Grow sheets, on the other hand, are structures that hold engineered seeds for medications tailored for individuals or families that can be erected on homes or apartment buildings. They would be programmed with technology that sends alerts on when to eat and what to eat, serving as a personal healthcare advocate that also communicates with healthcare providers when upcoming needs are anticipated. The panels are made of a biodegradable medium that can be composted or recycled for future installations and include a network of hydroponic tubing that could also be reused.