It might seem that a concept of URBAN FARMING is a relatively new trend. However, the first urban farms existed already in Ancient Egypt! Back then, farmers used water storage and drainage of rainwater systems to irrigate. Nowadays we return to our roots, and ULTRA-URBAN FARMING, with its increasing popularity in 2022, means the growing importance of urban farming in an even more modern version. It is focused on plant cultivation in urban conditions, and the scale, volume and structure respond to the needs of a given institution, shopping mall or local community.
The urban farms take the form of green areas located on local squares, terraces, or on the rooftops of stores and shopping malls, and also in the centers of large cities, in a form of vertical farms, which can be created almost everywhere. These areas are a part of the landscape, exerting positive environmental, social, cultural, aesthetic and economic effects.
90 tons of soil… on a rooftop
What does an auction house selling old cars have to do with farming? In the Østerbro district of Copenhagen, on the top of a five-story auction house, you can find the first rooftop farm in Denmark, ØsterGRO, with an area of 600 m2.
This organic garden, founded in 2014, consists of 90 tons of soil! The project involves growing vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. It has a greenhouse, a henhouse, three beehives, and Gro Spiseri restaurant. It is organized as a community-supported agriculture association of 40 members.
Despite ØsterGRO being hidden high above the ground, it is often visited not only by volunteers or members but also by guests who want to feel the unique atmosphere of the farm and eat a healthy, organic dinner. It is a green area created for the whole city to take a breath.
This project is one of many examples of how big cities’ rooftops change into lush and impressive urban farms.
Vertical cultivation without… soil
Is it possible to grow plants even closer to the sky than on a roof? Apparently, it is, even without using soil! In the southern 15th arrondissement in Paris, on top of an impressive exhibition hall, there is the world’s largest vertical urban farm – Nature Urbaine.
Vertical turrets of lettuce, strawberries, basil and peppermint burst out from cream-colored plastic columns. Plant roots dangle in the air, with no soil, therefore there is no need to use any harmful pesticides. Tomatoes, eggplants and beets, in turn, grow on narrow horizontal trays, filled with coconut fiber instead of soil.
Every 12 minutes water enriched with organic ingredients, minerals and bacteria is pumped around a closed circuit in order to gently water the roots. As a result, this method uses 90% less water than classic farming. The whole process has been automated and can be monitored and controlled remotely.
Another undoubtful advantage of this vertical farm is the fact that fruits or vegetables are sold locally, so they almost never travel. Also, this way of farming takes up much less space than the regular one.
Growing 33 meters… underground
Is an idea of creating vegetable gardens in urban conditions with heavy traffic one hundred percent healthy and safe? This question certainly bothered founders of Growing Underground, who grow vegetables 33 meters under busy streets of Clapham in London. The farm is located in tunnels, which were used during World War Two as an air raid shelter by London citizens.
This project uses the latest hydroponic (soilless) systems and LED lights. This kind of farming is possible all year round; in an environment free from pesticides, all nutrients are kept in a closed circuit; moreover, 70% less water is absorbed than with traditional farming.
Weather and seasonal changes do not affect vegetables growing underground. Furthermore, a great location significantly reduces time and distance that crops must cover to reach the final customer. It is estimated that the vegetables might appear on a plate after just 4 hours since being harvested and packed.
Ecology, social interactions and… a plan for the future
The concept of URBAN FARMING is gaining more and more supporters year by year all over Europe, also in Poland. This solution gives the opportunity to create a garden in any space – on a terrace, on a wall, on a roof or underground. Functions and structures of such farming meet the needs of local communities. Thanks to urban farming, cities get esthetic, eco-friendly, colorful enclaves of greenery or revitalized areas, while residents interact and feel socially responsible, and have a real impact on the development of their little homeland. The crops are sold locally, so they don’t need to travel hundreds of miles before they appear on a plate. Moreover, it is estimated that in 2050 urban farming will help meet the nutritional demand of 9 billion people without harming the planet.
Images used in a collage:
1. An evening at Stedsans on ØsterGro. Photograph: Henning Thomsen / Flickr
2. Urban farming on a Parisian rooftop. Photograph: Stéphane de Sakutin / Getty Images
3. Underground farm trays. Photograph: Matt Brown / Flickr