Individuals Building Consumable Urban Areas 70% of the global population is likely to live in urban areas by 2050 Feeding city-dwellers requires complex supply chains that are vulnerable to collapse. But a new generation of farmers hope to tackle this by bringing nature back into our cities “I view urban agriculture as a wonderful Trojan horse,” says Nicolas Brassier, owner of Peas&Love, an urban farm that has expanded to seven sites across France and Belgium in the past two years. Brassier and his business partner Maxime Petit, an agronomist, share the idea of using urban agriculture to bring food production closer to the people who eat it while at the same time helping urbanites to connect with their agricultural heritage. But they also hope it will do something else at the same time – help to make cities nicer places to live by reintroducing nature to these concrete jungles.
To do this, the duo developed a concept where residents pay a monthly subscription for access to an urban farm with a combination of individual allotments, shared growing spaces and a broad range of activities around food production and transformation. The farm is cultivated by employees and subscribers, who contribute and harvest in their free time. Individuals Building Consumable Urban Areas
“Our yields are not so high (30-40kg per sq metre) compared with indoor farms, that tend to have faster cycles as plants receive light 24 hours a day,” says Bassier, who spent a decade as an entrepreneur before making a 180-degree career change to urban farming. “But we rely on the natural environment for lighting and have strong logistic constraints, as our farms are located on hotel or shopping centre roofs.” (A Nasa indoor farming experiment managed up to six harvests of tomatoes a year compared to two in natural conditions.)
The key to Peas&Love’s idea is making use of space that would otherwise be barren. At first glance, cities might not seem to have much available land for farming among the asphalt, pavements and buildings. But the flat roofs of many commercial buildings in cities are space just waiting to be cultivated.
Although the “fields” are somewhat fragmented, the members of one roof garden in the heart of the 15th arrondissement, the densest residential neighbourhood of Paris, seem happy with their allotted 1,200 sq m (13,000 sq ft) of growing space when I joined them there in late October. And so was I when I picked the last of the very flavourful strawberries they had been growing high above the busy streets below.
The Peas&Love story is emblematic of a growing French movement to address the aging population of farmers and the disconnect between young people, produce and producer. Half of the rural farmers in France will reach retirement age within the next decade. At the same time, citizens grow more interested in their diet and the Covid-19 crisis revealed an urgent need for greener urban environments.
But what “new” spaces can cities offer? Some urban farms, like Peas&Love, use unexpected sites in cities to create “third places” where people can reconnect with nature and their alimentation. Office building roofs, railway tracks and even underused parking lots can now host urban farms.
While large areas of flat roofs provide suitable growing spaces in some cities – particularly in the US, and parts of Europe rebuilt after World War Two – for a city like Paris and other historic centres, the majority of roofs are not flat and buildings might be protected by law.
Three young architects from MIT co-founded Roofscapes, a start-up company to “tackle the untapped spaces in Paris”. Their idea takes after Venetian terraces – known as altane – and aims to green the sloping Parisian roofs without damaging them. Many Haussmanian zinc roofs are classified as national patrimony in the French capital – a status that prevents them from being modified. But, as the horizontal space available in cities decreases, verticality gains interest in urban design.
Eytan Levi, one of the three Roofscapes entrepreneurs, explains that their project started as a student challenge and their interest grew as they explored the value of adding green space in a dense city. At the 2021 Seoul Biennale of Design, they displayed a model sharing their vision for alternative walkways above the city, on which gardening plots line paths. Their belief, which they share with other open-air urban farmers, is that urban agriculture should contribute to increasing urban biodiversity, such as by providing a source of food for insects.
Beekeeping in cities is growing in popularity – the 50% rise in beekeepers in Berlin between 2006 and 2012 is one example among many. But hives can only function if there are also more plants for bees to collect nectar from, especially as the urban beekeeping trend seems to create competition with wild native species. Therefore, the keepers need to ensure a balance between their honeybees, other insects and the flora available.
If we need to increase flora to provide food for insect species amid global declines in their numbers – might it be sensible to make those plants edible? That’s one of the founding principles of permaculture. For example, in the British town of Todmorden, the network “Incredible Edible”, started by Pam Warhurst and Mary Clear, grows edibles in public spaces to increase biodiversity and access to food.
Indoor farms use up to 90% less water and could be a precious solution for areas with a lack of agricultural land such as Singapore Individuals Building Consumable Urban Areas
Other than biodiversity, do city farms have any other positive environmental impacts? At the cutting edge of urban farming are cities like Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong. Cultivating in these cities is not new, especially in Japan. The metropolis of Tokyo has been questioning its need to import 80% of its food. Some high-end restaurant chefs interested in sustainability have turned to hydroponic and aeroponic urban farms for locally grown products.
As a result, Japanese urban farmers are encouraged to grow high value products, especially micro herbs and greens, and exotic plants that could not be grown locally otherwise. At the moment, the scarcity of urban farm spaces and a narrow range of technical solutions encourages a niche type of agriculture.
While indoor urban farms like those in Tokyo allow growers to reduce air miles and food waste, unlike Incredible Edible and the other movements to introduce flora to cities, they have little impact on urban biodiversity. Open-air urban farmers also acknowledge the efficiency of their indoor counterparts but claim their own methods are more sustainable, as indoor farms rely on electricity to power lighting and provide heat – which an outdoor farm can obtain from the Sun.
But, defendants of indoor farms argue their farms use up to 90% less water. Indoor vertical farms can be a precious solution for areas with a lack of agricultural land such as Singapore, which is a leader in this industry. It is also a valuable tool in places with climate conditions unfavourable to outdoor cultivation, like Nordic countries for instance.
Both indoor and traditional farms are also turning to automation to harvest their crops in an efficient way. But there is still much that needs perfecting. Robots find it harder to pluck fresh produce without damaging it, for example. In the video below, James Wong looks at suction-powered strawberry pickers that can pick fruit without leaving a mark.
With the innovation accessible to cultivate in urban areas, a rising hunger for neighborhood produce and ambitious ranchers finding spaces in surprising spots, you could contemplate whether the future homestead will be altogether metropolitan. Yet, does add up to metropolitan cultivating truly seem OK?
“I truly question what we are doing,” says Yohan Hubert, organizer behind metropolitan homestead Sous les Fraises and trailblazer of metropolitan ranches in France. With his fruitful venture (30 destinations across significant French urban communities, for the most part opened in the beyond six years), this comment sounds amazing. Individuals Building Consumable Urban Areas
Notwithstanding, the business visionary brings up that metropolitan homesteads face numerous boundaries. Roofscapes, for instance, had intricacies in getting lawful authorisations to introduce a pilot patio. Metropolitan homesteads are additionally not appropriate to delivering a few yields like grains, which require enormous surface regions to develop at scale. It might never be feasible to develop wheat for flour in a city, yet oats and grains make up by far most of the calories the world consumes.
“Your homestead might be removed from a rooftop practically short-term, and individuals anticipate that you should pay high leases when your action as of now creates little gain in country regions,” adds Hubert. “To have workers, not to mention pay them nicely, you are on a mission.” This multitude of requirements outline the difficulties of this movement, well known on a superficial level, however challenging to get by from. Newbies need to be cutthroat, and keep market influences, yet their possibilities being productive are thin as of now.
Levi, Hubert and Brassier all settle on the need of a decent monetary model and that many obstacles stay for the metropolitan rancher. It isn’t more straightforward to fill in a metropolitan climate, and an unmistakable vision of the objectives is required, they say.
Questions actually stay for these ranchers: should metropolitan makers adjust their costs to one another? Should there be guidelines on the utilization of metropolitan space for exercises that benefit metropolitan biodiversity?
As metropolitan farming is simply beginning to gain some lawful appreciation, the course of progress could require a couple of years. “I believe that metropolitan horticulture truly requires transversality, and individuals with the capacity to coordinate many perspectives in their work” says Hubert.
While seeing metropolitan homesteads may be new to metropolitan residents in created countries, occupants of urban communities in non-industrial nations may be more acquainted with seeing yields imparting space to cement to supplement the business of families nearby.
In Chile, for instance, it isn’t uncommon to notice occupants of an area casually assuming control over a land parcel, even in recreational areas. These establishments are delicate since, dissimilar to the models in Paris, they are seldom lawful, and the ad libbed ranchers can lose their plot for the time being. Most ranchers like this consolidate lawn agribusiness with one more occupation due to legitimate need. Individuals Building Consumable Urban Areas
In nations of the Worldwide North, metropolitan food creation is generally not a question of need. Yet, it could assist with resolving a developing issue in customary farming: the troubles in reestablishing its labor force.
Sarah Lecaulle, an agrarian designer in her mid twenties, visited Peas&Love in Paris with me. Horticulture is both her main subject area and her legacy, as her family develops crops in the west of France. In horticultural schools, just around 10% of the understudies come from a cultivating foundation, so Lecaulle’s insight of the provincial world has become uncommon and important.
“I experienced childhood in green spaces, so I’m dazed that urbanites feel reconnected to nature through developing one square meter of soil on ends of the week,” Lecaulle says. “Notwithstanding, on the off chance that metropolitan ranches assist with peopling experience the intricacy of farming and foster decisive reasoning on this point, then, at that point, this movement is generally welcome.”
The metropolitan ranchers I addressed say they are chipping away at overcoming this issue by drawing in new groups and making associations with conventional ranchers. Together they explore different avenues regarding new farming practices. Substitution administrations and different procedures offer ranchers the likelihood to have without work ends of the week and occasions from their homestead. Hubert adds that agribusiness should be more viable with current living assumptions: it could acquire in appeal consequently.
Given the limitations of metropolitan cultivating, it is probably not going to at any point supplant country horticulture as the primary wellspring of food, particularly in nations with ideal developing circumstances. Be that as it may, it might offer new neighborhood developing choices and more limited supply chains in specific regions, while additionally advancing metropolitan biodiversity and making new connections among metropolitan and provincial conditions. Hubert and Brassier’s work has caused them to consider profoundly the experience of life in the city and in the open country, leaving them quick to track down answers for work on personal satisfaction in each.
“Our point is to reconnect individuals and the city to the land,” Brassier says regarding their work to make developing spaces in the focuses of Brussels and Paris. Regardless of whether just 50% of their locales are beneficial right up to the present day, he stays confident about his central goal in light of the change he has found in his supporters many weeks.
“I enlist individuals in February and on the off chance that they endure the hardest piece of the year, I realize they will stay with us for the more pleasant months,” he adds cheerfully. Furthermore, in the event that they do, they could likewise get the opportunity to partake in a new strawberry culled from a kitchen garden high over the buzzing about of the city.