By Rina Chandran
This story was originally published on Reuters on April 7, 2020. Data and statistics reflect numbers at that time.
Coronavirus lockdowns are pushing more city dwellers to grow fruit and vegetables in their homes, providing a potentially lasting boost to urban farming, architects and food experts said on Tuesday.
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By James Clasper
A dozen children are sitting in a circle when the bell rings. Instead of rushing to their next class, the children close their eyes.
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In Phoenix, Arizona, a mobile app is working to connect chefs, eaters and urban farmers to make good food accessible to more people. Bites | Eat With Your Tribe is a community-driven marketplace linking foodies to local chefs to plan in-home, farm-to-table dining experiences in the foodie's own kitchen.
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By Andrea Oyuela
The United Nations estimates that nearly 10 billion people will be living in cities by 2050. According to a recent publication by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition, urban eaters consume most of the food produced globally and maintain more resource-intensive diets including increased animal-source and processed foods — rich in salt, sugar and fats. At the same time, many urban populations — particularly in low-income areas and informal communities — endure acute hunger and malnutrition as well as limited access to affordable, healthy food.
1. AeroFarms, Newark (United States)<p><a href="https://foodtank.com/news/2017/01/interview-marc-oshima/" target="_blank">AeroFarms</a> builds and operates vertical indoor farms to enable local production at scale and increase the availability of safe and nutritious food. The company uses aeroponics to grow leafy greens without sun or soil in a fully controlled environment. The technology enables year-round production while, they say, using 95 percent less water than field farming, resulting in yields 400 times higher per square foot annually. Since its foundation in 2004, AeroFarms aims to disrupt conventional food supply chains by building farms along major distribution routes and in urban areas. The company also won multiple awards, including the <a href="https://aerofarms.com/2019/03/29/glbal-sdg-awards/" target="_blank">2018 Global SDG Award</a>, for its environmentally responsible practices and leadership in agriculture.</p>
2. Agricool, Paris (France)<p>Agricool is a start-up that grows strawberries in containers spread throughout urban areas. The company retrofits old, unused containers to accommodate both an LED-lights and aeroponics system making it possible to grow strawberries year-round. The <a href="https://foodtank.com/news/2016/02/french-start-up-grows-fresh-strawberries-in-recycled-shipping-containers/" target="_blank">Cooltainers</a> are powered by clean energy and use 90 percent less water than conventional farming. Agricool also works on building a network of urban farmers through the Cooltivators training program, aiming to open up job opportunities for city residents to work in the agricultural sector. The start-up now works on expanding operations to other cities, an effort made possible by the replicability of the container's design.</p>
3. BIGH Farms, Brussels (Belgium)<p>BIGH (Building Integrated Greenhouses) Farms, a start-up based in Brussels, works on building a network of urban farms in Europe to promote the role urban agriculture can play in the circular economy. BIGH's designs integrate aquaponics with existing buildings to reduce a site's environmental impact. <a href="https://agfundernews.com/bigh-raises-e4-3m-largest-urban-rooftop-farm-europe.html" target="_blank">The first pilot</a> — located above the historic <a href="https://www.abattoir.be/en/company" target="_blank">Abattoir</a> in Brussel's city center — includes a fish farm, a greenhouse and more than 2,000 square meters of outdoor vegetable gardens. They started in 2018 producing microgreens, herbs, tomatoes and striped bass. BIGH Farms also partners with local businesses and growers to make sure the farm's production is complementary to the existing food community.</p>
4. Bites, Phoenix (United States)<p>Bites is a mobile platform working to help connect urban farmers, chefs and eaters in Phoenix through farm-to-table dining experiences. Eaters and chefs sign up and meet through the app to organize an in-home dining event. Chefs gather the ingredients from urban growers registered on the platform in an effort to promote local, small businesses. Bites was launched in 2017 by Roza Derfowsmakan, founder of <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/company/warehouseapps/about/" target="_blank">Warehouse Apps</a>, to improve accessibility to farm-to-table experiences and support urban farmers. By using technology to build culinary communities, Bites aims to change consumer choices from shipped-in, trucked-in produce to locally sourced food — involving people in the solution itself.</p>
5. BitGrange, Multiple Locations (North America)<p>BitGrange is an urban farming tool and learning platform working to help educate children on food and agriculture. The BitGrange device, a hydroponics and Internet of Things-based system, produces edible plants with little water and energy. BitGrange's software evaluates environmental variables in real-time and notifies growers through a smartphone app to take necessary actions, such as adding more water or plant food. Founded in 2015 according to their philosophy, Plant-Connect-Sync-Play, BitGrange aims to inspire youth to engage in farming by gamifying agriculture. The nano-farm's design is available for download at BitGrange's website for potential growers to 3D print the device in their own location.</p>
6. Bowery Farming, New York Metro Area (United States)<p>Bowery Farming, an indoor farming start-up, uses software and robotics to grow produce inside warehouses located in and around cities. By controlling every aspect of the growing process, the start-up is able to produce leafy greens and herbs using a minimal amount of water and energy per square foot. The technology also makes it possible to grow customized products for chefs and restaurants, such as softer kale and more peppery arugula. Since its establishment in 2017, Bowery Farming is now expanding operations beyond its warehouse in New Jersey to build vertical farms in other cities and, ultimately, bring efficient food production closer to consumers.</p>
7. Farmizen, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Surat (India)<p>Farmizen is a mobile-based platform renting farmland to city residents to grow locally grown, organic produce. The app allocates its users a 600 square foot mini-farm in a community nearby. Users can visit the farm anytime to grow and harvest chemical-free produce. Farmworkers look after the plots when the users return to the city, making a fixed and stable income — up to three times more than that of conventional farming. The app is live in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Surat with 1,500 subscribers and 40 acres of land under cultivation. Farmizen was founded in 2017 by entrepreneur <a href="https://foodtank.com/news/2019/10/14-women-changing-food-around-the-world/" target="_blank">Gitanjali Rajamani</a>, driven by the need to create stable livelihoods for farmers and reconnect city-dwellers to agriculture and nature.</p>
8. Fresh Direct, Abuja (Nigeria)<p>Fresh Direct is an impact-driven start-up using vertical farming and hydroponics to promote locally grown produce and the involvement of youth in agriculture. When young entrepreneur <a href="https://theculturetrip.com/africa/nigeria/articles/city-farming-in-abuja-is-growing-entrepreneurial-spirit/" target="_blank">Angel Adelaja</a> started engaging in eco-friendly farming, she faced multiple challenges with conventional farming practices, including access to land, water, and technology. As a response, Adelaja founded Fresh Direct in 2014 to make urban agriculture more accessible to everyone, especially youth. Fresh Direct installs stackable container farms in the city, growing organic produce closer to the market. In the future, Adelaja aims to eradicate the notion among young professionals that agriculture is a line of work for the older generations.</p>
9. Gotham Greens, Multiple Locations (United States)<p>Gotham Greens builds and operates data-driven, climate-controlled greenhouses in cities across the U.S. The greenhouses, powered by wind and solar energy, use hydroponics to grow salad greens and herbs year-round using fewer resources than conventional farming. In addition to its goal of sustainable food production, Gotham Greens also partners with local organizations, schools, community gardens and businesses to support urban renewal and community development projects. Gotham Greens is also the company behind the country's <a href="https://media.wholefoodsmarket.com/news/whole-foods-marketr-and-gotham-greens-to-build-nations-first-commercial-sca" target="_blank">first commercial rooftop greenhouse</a>, a partnership with <a href="https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/" target="_blank">Whole Foods Market</a> to operate the greenhouse located above their flagship store in Brooklyn, New York.</p>
10. GrowUp Urban Farms, London (United Kingdom)<p>GrowUp Urban Farms works on developing commercial scale, Controlled Environment Production (CEP) solutions to grow fresh food in communities across London. The CEP farms use aquaponics to farm fish and grow leafy greens in a soil-less system, turning previously unused brownfield sites into productive areas. The GrowUp Box — a community farm developed together with sister organization <a href="https://www.growup.community/" target="_blank">GrowUp Community Farms</a> — produces over 400kg of salads and 150kg of fish each year. Over the long run, the company aims to replicate the aquaponics system to build urban farms in other cities, opening employment opportunities for youth, and using agriculture as a means to make communities more self-sustaining.</p>
11. InFarm, Multiple Locations (Europe)<p>InFarm, a Berlin-based start-up, develops modular indoor farming systems to bring agriculture into cities. Designed to combat the long distances food travels, the InFarms produce leafy greens and herbs using 95 percent less water than traditional farms and no pesticides. The technology, the company <a href="https://infarm.com/impact/" target="_blank">claims</a>, can reduce food transportation up to 90 percent. In 2013, the company pioneered the modular system in restaurants, schools, hospitals and shopping centers. Operations have now expanded to distribute portable farms in neighborhoods and supermarkets across Germany, Denmark, France and Switzerland. The expansion, AgFunder <a href="https://agfundernews.com/infarm-joins-vertical-farming-pantheon-with-titanic-100m-series-b.html" target="_blank">reports</a>, can be attributed to InFarm's decentralized, data-driven model.</p>
12. Liv Up, São Paulo (Brazil)<p>Liv Up works to deliver healthy meals and snack kits prepared with locally grown food to residents of the Greater São Paulo region. The start-up sources organic ingredients from family farmers in peri-urban areas, in an effort to shorten value chains and better connect small producers to the urban market. A team of chefs and nutritionists prepares the meals, which are later deep frozen to maintain the food's integrity and extend its shelf life. Liv Up was founded in 2016 by a <a href="https://forbes.com.br/fotos/2016/05/13-dicas-para-tirar-seu-negocio-do-papel-antes-dos-30/#foto2" target="_blank">trio of young entrepreneurs</a> driven by the lack of access to healthy foods in São Paulo. The start-up now operates in seven municipalities of the metropolitan area, rotating its menu every two weeks.</p>
13. Pasona Urban Ranch, Tokyo (Japan)<p>Pasona Urban Ranch, an initiative of the Pasona Group, is a mix of office space and animal farm located in the heart of Tokyo's busy Ōtemachi district. The initiative aims to raise interest in agriculture and dairy farming among city residents by bringing them in close contact with farm animals. The ranch houses eight animal species, including cattle, goats and an alpaca, which are cared for by specialized staff. Visitors and employees of the building can attend seminars on dietary education and dairy farming. Previously, the Pasona Group gained worldwide acknowledgment for <a href="https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/pasona-02" target="_blank">Pasona O2</a> — an underground office farm built by <a href="http://konodesigns.com/pasona-o2/" target="_blank">Kono Designs</a> in 2010 growing 100 regional crops in downtown Tokyo.</p>
14. RotterZwam, Rotterdam (The Netherlands)<p>RotterZwam, an urban mushroom farm, raises awareness on the potential of the circular economy for addressing environmental issues. The farm's closed-loop system works with used coffee grounds — collected from local businesses — to turn residual flows into food. The <a href="https://en.rotterdampartners.nl/two-years-after-the-fire-rotterzwam-opens-a-new-mushroom-farm/" target="_blank">mushroom nursery</a>, built out of old containers, uses solar paneling to power the farm's operations and the e-vehicles used for product delivery. The farm's team offers tours to educate citizens on circular systems and trains entrepreneurs wishing to start a mushroom farm. RotterZwam's second location in the Schiehaven area opened in mid-2019 thanks to a crowdfunding campaign to bring back the farm after a devastating fire in 2017.</p>
15. Sustenir Agriculture (Singapore)<p>Sustenir Agriculture is a vertical farm working to promote high quality, locally grown, and safe food with the lowest possible footprint. The farm — located in the heart of Singapore — uses the latest technology in hydroponics and smart indoor farming to produce leafy greens, tomatoes, strawberries and fresh herbs. Starting as a basement project in 2012, Sustenir now produces 1 ton of kale and 3.2 tons of lettuce per month in an area of 54 square meters.</p>
16. Urban Bees, London (United Kingdom)<p>Urban Bees is a social enterprise working with communities and businesses in London to help bees thrive in the city. Through education and training, the initiative raises awareness on how to create bee-friendly communities and on how to become responsible beekeepers. The first training apiary was established together with the Co-op Plan Bee in Battersea, South London. The enterprise also advises urban gardening initiatives, including <a href="https://vimeo.com/lushtvonline/review/335849893/d0f2a00af1?fbclid=IwAR1v3vWdUgaY_rEj4oyOuKWFa_xyfZMkyLrZja-1-Z1FbVsr35N4W2jSbtI" target="_blank">Lush's rooftop garden</a>, to ensure that green areas install the right forage and create healthy bee habitats. Co-founder Alison Benjamin <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-38227113" target="_blank">said</a> that city residents often suffer from nature-deficit disorder and urban beekeeping is one path to reconnect with nature in the city.</p><a target="_blank" href="https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?text=From+high-tech+vertical+farms+in+Singapore+to+mobile+apps+connecting+urban+growers+and+eaters+in+India%2C+these+16+initiatives+are+changing+how+cities+source+and+eat+their+food+%23UrbanAgriculture+%23AgTech&url=https%3A%2F%2Ffoodtank.com%2Fnews%2F2019%2F12%2F16-initiatives-changing-urban-agriculture-through-tech-and-innovation%2F&via=foodtank"><span></span></a>
- Who Owns Your Grocery Store? - EcoWatch ›
- Cuba's Urban Farming Shows Way to Avoid Hunger - EcoWatch ›
By Paul Brown
When countries run short of food, they need to find solutions fast, and one answer can be urban farming.
U.S. Sanctions<p>The Soviet collapse brought the breakdown of this trade, and food rationing for city dwellers. And Cuba lost its main food supply while it was still coping with strict U.S. sanctions. Reverting to conventional farming would have taken time and was in any case difficult because the Soviet fertilizers, fuel and pesticides had also dried up.</p><p>So the highly-educated urban citizens, faced with rationing which reduced the average Cuban's daily calorie intake from 2,600 in 1986 to 1,000-1,500 in 1993, organized themselves to grow their own food in improvised urban allotments.</p><p>At first, struggling with little know-how and without fertilizers, their yields were low, but by producing compost and other organic growing mediums, plus introducing drip-fed irrigation, they began to see improvements.</p><p>Short of chemicals, the gardeners resorted to <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324615797_Effects_of_marigold_on_the_behavior_survival_and_nutrient_reserves_of_Aphidius_Platensis" target="_blank">biological controls like marigolds</a> (where opinions today are mixed) to deter harmful insects.</p><p>By 1995 Havana alone had 25,000 allotments tended by families and urban cooperatives. The government, realizing the potential benefits, encouraged the movement.</p>
Partial Solution<p>Cuba's experience of urban agriculture <a href="https://sustainablefoodtrust.org/articles/viva-la-produccion-urban-farming-in-cuba/" target="_blank">inspired many environmentalists</a> to believe that this is at least part of the solution to <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/rainfall-changes-food-production/" target="_blank">the food shortages threatened by climate change</a>. By 2008 food gardens, despite their small scale, made up 8 percent of the land in Havana, and 3.4 percent of all urban land in Cuba, producing 90 percent of all the fruit and vegetables consumed.</p><p>As a result the calorie intake of the average Cuban quickly rose to match that of Europeans, relying on a diet composed mainly of rice, beans, potatoes and other vegetables — a low-fat diet making obesity rare.</p><p>Because of the climate, though, wheat does not grow well in Cuba, and the island still has to import large quantities of grain for bread. Meat is in short supply and also has to be mainly imported.</p><p>Despite this, Cuba's experience since the Cold War ended in the 1990s shows that large quantities of fresh food can be grown in cities and that urban agriculture is sustainable over decades.</p><p>For other countries vulnerable to sudden loss of food supplies, Cuba's experience suggests that urban farming can be one way of staving off potential famine when imports are restricted, expensive or simply unobtainable.</p>
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Carrie Golden believes the only reason she's diabetes free is because she has access to fresh, locally grown food.
A few years after the Boston resident was diagnosed with prediabetes, she was referred to Boston Medical Center's Preventative Food Pantry as someone who is food insecure. The food pantry is a free food resource for low-income patients.
By Lindsay Campbell
In 2015, Madeleine Maltby began knocking on neighborhood doors in Canada's capital city, Ottawa, with a simple proposal. In exchange for a backyard, the residents would let her grow a garden full of crops with a percentage they could enjoy.
By Mónica R. Goya
Agricool is a Parisian urban agriculture tech start-up that recently raised $28 million to scale its business: growing strawberries in reclaimed shipping containers in central Paris using vertical farming methods. Since the plants are cultivated using aeroponics — that is, by spraying a mist of water and nutrients on the plants' exposed roots (as opposed to the plants growing in soil) — their process uses 90 percent less water than conventional agriculture. Pesticides aren't needed because they grow in a controlled environment, and their carbon footprint is almost nonexistent because the transportation radius is less than 20 kilometers. Additionally, they claim to be 120 times more productive than traditional, soil-based agriculture, and their LED lights are powered by renewable energy.
In terms of humidity, air quality and light, Agricool has created the perfect environment by growing strawberries in customized, reclaimed shipping containers. Every year, seven tons of strawberries are produced in each container. According to Agricool, these containers can yield 120 times as much as a field.
Mónica R. Goya<p>Founded in 2015 by Gonzague Gru and Guillaume Fourdinier — two friends who grew up on farms in the French countryside — Agricool's principles are based on sustainability without compromising profitability. Furthermore, their business model can be imitated anywhere. Proof of their scalability is that they operate a strawberry container in Dubai. With their latest round of investments, they are planning to add about 100 containers to their current fleet by 2021.</p>
The final design of each shipping container looks modern, with its external shell covered by a wooden panel. One of the reasons why the company uses reclaimed containers is because they are weatherproof.
Mónica R. Goya
Vertical farming makes the most of available space. Also, the company designs and produces its own LED lights, which are tailored specifically to its needs.
Mónica R. Goya
When the right time comes, colonies of bumblebees are brought into the shipping containers for pollination.
Mónica R. Goya<p>Their strawberries can be purchased at Monoprix supermarkets, as well as La Grande Epicerie de Paris, one of the city's most exclusive food halls.</p>
Lab tests are conducted to assess the sugar levels and nutrients of the fruit. According to Agricool's own lab tests and external tests, their strawberries contain 30 percent more vitamins and 20 percent more sugar than conventional ones.
Mónica R. Goya
Remy Faury is an engineer who works on the research and development team at Agricool. The company's R&D team makes up 70 percent of the company.
Mónica R. Goya
Maria Foncillas is a "cooltivatrice" or an urban farmer, at Agricool.
Mónica R. Goya
At Agricool, several varieties of strawberries are grown throughout the year. These ones, in particular, belong to the Magnum variety. The growing cycle of the fruit is two months from seed to harvest.
Mónica R. Goya
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By Miguel Altieri
During the partial federal shutdown in December 2018 and January 2019, news reports showed furloughed government workers standing in line for donated meals. These images were reminders that for an estimated one out of eight Americans, food insecurity is a near-term risk.
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By Lisa Waterman Gray
On a cool September morning, Dre Taylor dodged raindrops while talking with several people tending beans, peppers, tomatillos, collards and more outside of a 4,500-square-foot building. This is Nile Valley Aquaponics, a vibrant fixture in Kansas City, Missouri's urban core. The name came from Egypt where people cultivated plants and fish thousands of years ago. Goats and picnic tables share outdoor space and offices occupy a nearby house.
By Steve Edgerton
The turfgrass found in lawns, parks, and schoolyards represents the single largest irrigated crop in the U.S. Across the country, turf guzzles up 34 billion liters (nine billion gallons) of water per day, demanding 31 million kilograms (70 million pounds) of pesticides and 757 million liters (200 gallons) of gasoline annually.
By Brian Barth
Urban soils are particularly prone to contamination. Fifty years ago, your yard could have belonged to a farmer, who, perhaps not knowing any better, disposed of old bottles of anti-freeze or contaminated diesel in a hole out behind the tractor garage. Or perhaps the remains of a fallen down outbuilding, long ago coated in lead-based paint, was buried on your property buy a lazy contractor when your subdivision was built.
What have you done for me lately?