5 Uncommon Places For Urban Farms

The following examples show there is always room for an urban farm...

Urban farming is an unstoppable trend that sees new companies trying to, among other things, take advantage of the otherwise unused (or little-used) spaces for cultivating food.

The development of these vertical farms comes at the perfect time, with the population still growing and projected to reach 10 billion in around 30 years. And, obviously, the need to maintain a sustainable source of fresh produce has become a mounting concern.

In this article, we show you 5 unlikely places that have been turned or partly turned into an urban farm:

Air-raid shelter

A company called Growing Underground has turned London’s disused World War II air-raid shelter into a salad farm.

Located 33m below street level in Clapham, this urban farm produces salad in a controlled environment — which is said to provide ideal conditions for microgreens, baby leaves and herbs. Specifically, it makes broccoli, salad rocket (arugula), coriander, fennel, pea shoots, sunflower shoots, two types of radish (pink-stemmed and purple), wasabi mustard and red mustard.

Furthermore, its central London location is convenient to distribute the vegetables to hotels, restaurants and shops — reducing the food miles for businesses and consumers. The farm also boasts using 70% less water than conventional agricultural methods.

Underground garage

Going south across the English Channel (la Manche), there is La Caverne (the cave). It is a product of a French startup called Cycloponics that turned an underground garage in Paris into a vertical farm to grow mushrooms, lettuce, and herbs — to provide fresh food for locals.

La Caverne

Said parking spaces were built by the government during the 1960’s to 1970’s but they became abandoned as the driving population declined. Cycloponics thus decided to grow vegetables via an urban agriculture project in a garage under the city.

Located underneath La Chapelle, a neighborhood north of central Paris, the farm uses an agricultural technique called hydroponic farming, in which greens are grown under LEDs in nutrient-rich water without sunlight or soil.

La Caverne has clusters of button, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms growing on bricks of composted manure. It also harvests chicory (a coffee substitute), which doesn’t require any sunlight to grow, and microgreens — which sit in beds of nutrient-rich water rather than soil.

Parking lots

From France, we go to Ra’anana, Israel — the home of Vertical Field, which creates sustainable farms for so-called “urban food deserts,” which are often lacking in available space for crop cultivation.

The company’s vertical farms subvert this limitation by creating vertical platforms to farm produce on walls. These greenhouse crop-fields are portable and are around the size of shipping containers ranging from 20 to 40 feet, which can fit right in a parking lot — allowing supermarkets and groceries to grow and sell their own home-grown produce right outside the door.

Four Israeli supermarkets were among the first to adopt this technology and have started selling pesticide-free greens and herbs harvested from their indoor farms right on the premises — including kale, lettuce, basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, peppermint and spinach.

Unused buildings

In our fourth example, we’re taking a look at the technology that helps turn unused buildings into smart vertical farms.

Said technology was made by Finland-based ag-tech company iFarm, which platform — called Growtune — enables for smart, remote management of vertical farms. The solution literally brings life to the empty spaces through commercially scaled vertical farming, providing urban dwellers with access to fresh produce grown within walking distance of their front door.

Growtune’s technology involves using artificial intelligence and, when needed – drones, to help urban farmers manage every aspect of their work, from choosing which crops to grow to planning harvest schedules across multiple sites. The platform remotely manages a number of variables crucial to the success of the crop — from indoor microclimate to lighting and nutrient schedules and early detection of disease. As such, it helps farmers increase their financial and physical yields by saving time and energy that used to be spent on machinery maintenance, staff management and pest control.

As of this writing, iFarm is helping customers create farms ranging from 3,000 to 5,000 square meters, with sites in Finland, Switzerland, the U.K., the Netherlands, Andorra, Russia, and Kazakhstan.

Prison

In early 2018, an exciting regenerative project started in the heart of Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Under the steer of architectural firm OMA, former prison complex Bijlmer Bajes will be transformed into a lush, green, eco-friendly neighborhood called Bajes Kwartier with 1,350 residential units – 30% of which will be social rent dwellings and a substantial part in the mid-rent segment. Luxury condominiums will also be offered.

Whilst the [prison] complex located in the center of Amsterdam was underused, the pressure on the housing market in the surrounding areas has become very large.

As part of the plan, four prison towers will be demolished, one will be rebuilt and transformed into a “green tower” with a vertical park and an urban farm to grow produce for locals.

The bottom line is – urban farms can be implemented in many places, and now’s the right time to join this revolution. Cause that’s what it is – a revolution of how we make the food we eat. And that’s not a small feat, don’t you think?


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