Mega trend Urban Farming

Urban Farming seeks to bring food production right into the city. It eliminates the need for long transport distances and refrigeration, thereby helping to preserve the environment, and promising fresh produce for the megacities of tomorrow.

In order to provide growing urban populations with fresh vegetables, meat and fish at all times, a smarter system of food production is essential. At present, foods are transported long distances from their production locations to the consumers. Refrigeration and air transportation produce significant quantities of CO2. A new idea seeks to bring food production into the city, directly to the consumer. It is referred to as “urban farming”.

A high-rise for growing vegetables

As part of efforts to implement it, the engineers at the German national aeronautics and space research centre DLR are developing the “Vertical Farm 2.0” – a high-rise hothouse in which vegetables can be produced without using any soil. “In our production plant, we would grow the plants under precisely controlled optimum conditions,” explains Conrad Zeidler from the DLR Institute of Space Systems. Each level in the hothouse block could grow almost 630,000 kilograms of lettuce or more than 95,000 kilograms of tomatoes in a year. Despite this, the block’s footprint would be just 74 x 35 metres. On each approximately six-metre-high level and depending on the type of vegetables being grown, the crops could be cultivated on racks at different heights. The crops would be fed with a precisely dosed nutrient solution and nurtured by LED light. “It is important for us that our high-rise hothouse should be modular in design, meaning it can be adapted to the needs of the specific location,” says project manager Conrad Zeidler. If demand for lettuce is highest in Tokyo, and tomatoes are most popular in Moscow, the “Vertical Farm” concept should be easily adaptable to consumers’ wishes. But the principle always remains the same: that parameters such as humidity, light and nutrient supply should be optimally set. “That will make the crops grow more quickly, and therefore be more productive. We will even be able to influence the taste by adjusting the parameters.” The nutrients are fed to the crop in liquid form, so no soil is required. “So we have created a clean, self-contained cycle, meaning also that no pesticides or chemical insecticides are needed.”

Coriander from an underground railway tunnel

Steven Dring and Richard Ballard are already beyond the development stage. They have been building a farm in the heart of London for almost two years now. The unique feature: their “Growing Underground” farm is 33 metres below ground level, in a decommissioned air-raid shelter inside an underground railway tunnel. The farm is growing 12 different varieties of vegetables and herbs, including garlic, coriander and rocket, and consumes about 70 per cent less water than a comparable conventional farming operation. The Dutch, of course, are experts in managing the sea, so it makes sense that their urban farming projects are based on floating pontoons. They include the “Floating Farm” in Rotterdam: a 1,200-square-metre pontoon providing space for 40 cows. The 1,000 litres of milk they yield each day will be used directly on-site to make fresh dairy products such as yoghurt. The cows’ dung will be used to grow red clover, grass and lucerne – all of which will be fed back to the cows. The farm is scheduled to go into production in autumn 2016.

Fresh fish from the heart of the city

Urban farming is booming in Berlin too: ECF Farmsystems has implemented a combination of vegetable cultivation and fish farming. Germany’s capital is home to the world’s largest urban aquaponic farm. In the production of high-quality fish for the table, the water is enriched by valuable nutrients. The water is routed to the hothouse, where it supplies the crops with natural fertiliser. The plant, which was opened in 2015, is housed in an old maltings in the Schöneberg district of Berlin. It covers an area of 1,800 square metres, of which the hothouse takes up about 1,000 and the aquaculture about 400. The aim is to produce around 25 tonnes of perch and 30 tonnes of vegetables and herbs per year in an eco-friendly way. Thanks to the plant’s city centre location, the products can be sold to the consumer fresh, with no need for long transport distances and refrigeration.

Farming as a Service

Israeli start-up founder Erez Galonska has developed his own business model based on urban farming: “Farming as a Service”. His company Infarm develops vertical farms for various customers. A wide variety of different vegetable and salad crops are grown on vertically stacked racks under LED light and using hydroculture. The vertical farms are monitored and controlled by an app. Microsensors and data processing ensure that the crops grow in optimum conditions at all times. With Infarm, Galonska is looking to cultivate fresh, high-quality food at affordable prices, avoid waste and help preserve the environment. “By 2050, the global population will have increased from seven to nine million, of whom 86 per cent will be living in cities. To feed those people, we will need much more land than we actually have,” Erez Galonska asserts. The Infarm module is already being used by the Metro Group. The technology is scheduled to be marketed worldwide by early 2017.

(picture credits: Istockphoto: Floortje; Lindybug)

Related Posts

  • Mit Urban Farming soll die Nahrungsmittelproduktion direkt in die Stadt gebracht werden. Lange Transportwege und Kühlketten entfallen – das schont nicht nur…

  • In the Kalasatama area of Helsinki, a smart, flexible municipal power grid is ensuring that renewable energy is better integrated and emissions…

  • Consumer Electronics, Hausgeräte, Healthcare-Produkte oder mobile Elektronik – sie alle verfügen über zunehmend intelligente Funktionen und smarte Vernetzung. Besonders stark wächst der…