James Wong, ethnobotanist and presenter of BBC’s ‘Follow the Food’ sequence, examines how city farming may supply sustainable methods for metropolis populations to entry high-value, nutritious but perishable meals like fruits, greens and protein.
Sooner or later, there will likely be extra of us than ever, however we received’t all be residing within the countryside subsequent to the place our meals is grown – most of us will likely be in cities. By 2050, it’s estimated that greater than 60 per cent of the world’s inhabitants will stay in a metropolis, and they’re going to all want meals. However breakages in meals provide chains in the course of the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the distances our meals typically travels and the potential for agility in that system.
Is it doable to maneuver meals manufacturing nearer to the realm of its consumption?
I grew up within the high-rises of Singapore, and infrequently went on college journeys to rooftop gardens rising salad leaves. Even then, I assumed it was loopy to assume you may feed a metropolis on lettuce. However as we uncover within the new sequence of ‘Follow the Food’ on BBC World Information, instances are altering.
We not too long ago visited the world’s largest city rooftop farm, Nature Urbaine, situated on the seventh ground of a constructing in Paris. At 150,000 sq. ft – the dimensions of two soccer pitches – it dwarfs all of these rooftop gardens I noticed as a child.
At Nature Urbaine, they think about rising meals comparable to tomatoes, strawberries, eggplant and butternut squash. When it’s in full manufacturing, the farmers will likely be harvesting as much as 1,000 kilograms of 35 totally different styles of vegatables and fruits every single day. However, with solely a lot rooftop out there, city farmers might want to look elsewhere too.
Inside certainly one of Paris’s 600 hectares of disused automobile parks beneath town’s streets, Jean-Noel Gertz co-founded La Caverne, a novel city farm that grows mushrooms underground. Delivered to native retailers and eating places, the farm has the power to develop as much as 100 kilograms of mushrooms per day, throughout 38,000 sq. ft.
With some styles of mushroom containing nearly a 3rd of their dry weight as protein, they may very well be a improbable addition to complement the leafy greens related to city farms.
Going underground opens up a complete new dimension to city farming, however it’s not the one path we are able to take to feed our rising inhabitants – we are able to additionally go underwater.
Within the sea
Ten of the world’s largest megacities are located on the coast, however solely two per cent of our international energy are sourced from the seas. Nearly all of this comes from fish, however our fish shares are closely depleted. One doable answer is to show to sustainably-farmed shellfish like mussels, however for this to turn into a sensible food-source grown proper subsequent to coastal cities, it could require a giant change.
As a supply of protein and minerals, mussels tick each field. However they’re so mineral-rich as a result of they’re filter feeders, sucking in every part within the seawater round them – together with heavy metals and different pollution. Might the waters round coastal megacities ever be clear sufficient to assist this?
New Yorkers assume so. Residence to 18.8 million individuals, New York was as soon as often known as the oyster capital of the world, however a inhabitants increase and air pollution all however worn out these filter feeders in little beneath 100 years. Right this moment, New York harbour is cleansing up its waters, with a mission to see almost one billion oysters again on its harbour ground by 2035 proving how farming the waters round megacities could also be doable sooner or later.
With land area at a premium, may vertical farming be the important thing to city farming? 80 Acres Farms in Ohio is a giant participant within the quickly rising enterprise of vertical farming, aiming to be one of many largest, absolutely automated farms in america, with the capability to ship reasonably priced produce on demand.
At 55 ft excessive, the farm has 10 rows, 10 ranges and is 10 positions deep. In simply 70,000 sq. ft, this vertical farm will robotically plant, harvest and package deal over USD $2 million of nutritious, sustainable and reasonably priced produce yearly – one thing that wasn’t possible 10 years in the past with out the newest expertise.
It’s straightforward to dismiss city farming as a gimmick, a science fiction of the longer term. However what I’ve discovered by my journey for ‘Follow the Food’ is that to develop sensible options, you do should entertain concepts which, on the floor, sound strange. With city agriculture, I feel it truly is a case of “watch this space”…
To search out out extra about ‘Follow the Food’ or watch the total sequence, go to the BBC web site, and comply with @BBCFuture on Fb and Twitter for the newest updates.