Urban gardening and vertical farming are meant to revolutionize the future of agriculture. To what extent can the concepts be implemented at home and in the city?
Around 55% of the world's population live in cities. This number is expected to increase to around 2050% by 68. In order to meet the demand for food, products have to be mass-produced and transported to the metropolitan areas over long distances. Urban gardening and vertical farming are two future-oriented concepts that could enable a return to natural agriculture.
Urban Gardening: small, local, individual
Urban gardening is a concept which has emerged as a response to climate change and urban population growth. Sustainable production and conscious consumption are at the center of this idea. Therefore, food is commonly cultivated and harvested on mostly small, public areas in the immediate vicinity of the settlement, thus enabling the cooperation of the whole neighborhood. This eliminates transport routes and compostable waste is recycled locally. It can basically be implemented anywhere - everything needed is some care.
DIY Urban gardening: Tips for the home
1. Use the balcony:
Enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables from your very own balcony! Salads, herbs, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers or cucumbers grow well in pots and boxes. Your green thumb will come with time. For quick help: ask farmers at your local market to get some tips and tricks.
2. Plant a raised bed:
If your own outdoor area is big enough, a raised bed will quickly become your personal vegetable garden. Everything can be grown. From artichoke to chard to zucchini. A cold frame attachment also protects the young plantlets and allows an early harvest.
3. Indoor gardening:
Herbs are comfortable growing on the windowsill and tomatoes also grow in a big pot, when there is enough sunlight. In addition, column fruit trees remain small and regularly deliver tasty apples, cherries or berries.
High-tech lovers can even get their own indoor greenhouse. Operating like a big refrigerator, indoor greenhouses let herbs and vegetables thrive without sunlight and earth. Providers are, for example, the start-up company neoFarms. The technology is based on LED light and hydroponics. This means that the plants grow in containers filled with water and nutrients, without soil.
Infarm herbal shelf in the supermarket
4. Community Gardening:
Alternatively, you can join the local community gardening. These are gardens that are commonly operated on publicly accessible land collectively. There are many different variants for it. Private or public land, neighborhood initiatives or schools.
Almost all major cities already have local community gardens. They even serve as alternative tourist attractions. Inspiration can be found in New York at Liz Christy Community Garden, Camden's Phoenix Garden in London or the activist Can Masdeu in Barcelona. In Germany, the Himmelbeet in Berlin is worth a visit.
Himmelbeet Community Garden in Berlin
Vertical farming: sustainable mass production on many levels
Vertical farming is a future-orientated idea that makes it possible to produce food directly in conurbations in an environmentally friendly and large-scale production. It can briefly be explained as indoor farming in vertical greenhouses. It is implemented in multilevel buildings (called "Farmscraper") on superimposed levels.
These buildings are usually equipped with a circular economy and hydroponics. This enables resource-saving and year-round production.
In this way, vegetables can be cultivated anywhere in the world, space-saving and regardless of the climate. This should not only meet the growing demand for food, but also relieve traditional agriculture. Vertical transport also eliminates long transport routes and, thanks to the circular economy, emissions are reduced.
Successful pilot projects of vertical farming
In the Dutch test facility "BrightBox", fresh lettuce and vegetables have been growing under LED light for some time now. Brightbox is a research project of the University of s'Hertogenbosch and several companies from the business world. Above all, the influence of lighting concepts on taste and quality is examined in the framework of the project. Currently, the high power consumption is the biggest challenge for such indoor concepts.
Singapore's "sky greens" are equipped with 9-meter-high racks on which Chinese cabbage, lettuce and spinach can thrive thanks to solar power. The surrounding community is supplied with the harvest.
Sky Greens Singapore, Vertical Farming Farmscraper
Another example is the small town Jackson Hole in the US state of Wyoming. It is located at 1.900 meters altitude, which is why traditional farming is difficult. However, remedy has been brought by the vertical farming project "Vertical Harvest". On almost 1.700 sqm, spread over three floors, vegetables and herbs are grown with sunlight.