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Growing Food in Impossible Places – Revolutionising Urban Infrastructure?


Soil degradation, agricultural runoff, water consumption, drought and carbon emissions associated with traditional agriculture alongside food insecurity has driven a surge in urban farming, as the global population increases, and more people are living in cities. Urban farming has the potential to address the economic consequences of fluctuations in the food supply chain and reduce the carbon emissions associated with food import. The pandemic has seen panic buying and disrupted food supply chains that left food shelves scarce – will this push an increase in productive green infrastructure?

Sustainability meets urban planning in a way that could change how we live everyday…

Fuhan Mall Roofscape

This rooftop urban farm is in Singapore, which has a 100% urbanisation rate and where a number of urban farms have been popping up in residential and commercial areas. The garden is 5,000 square feet, tended by farmers and the crops are utilised by the restaurant alongside it. While this farm alone does not solve food insecurity issues, Singapore is continually innovating to feed the city, even researching the development of lab grown meat. With 1,500 community gardens already, is this a future look into the cityscape of Singapore?

Puey Park for People and Sustainability at Thammasat University

This rooftop rice farm uses modern technologies to retain runoff rainwater and can hold 3,095,570 gallons of water. It produces 135,000 rice meals a year and grows other vegetables used in the university cafeteria, with edible leftovers distributed to the local community and waste composted for fertilizer. The infrastructure is an innovative solution for food security and resilience against climate change.

MVRDV’s Landscaped Food Market in Taiwan

This food market and Taiwan has the potential to re-define fruit and vegetable markets, changing the way that we interact with the food we buy in cities. The simple open structure allows for natural ventilation and public access.

La Caverne Mushroom Farm in Paris

Many of Paris’s underground parking spaces were disused, the spaces abandoned, and it was turned into an urban farm. The farm’s produce is GMO and pesticide free and is certified organic. They also deliver by bike to reduce pollution.

Here is an urban farm closer to home…

Growing Under Ground, Clapham, London

The former WW2 air raid shelters under Clapham are home to a pesticide free, carbon neutral and 100% renewable energy, 65,000 square feet hydroponic farm. Not only are they adding a new dimension to city farming but are also addressing the high energy and carbon costs that are usually associated with urban farming. The farm can produce up to 2,000 packs of herbs a day.

It is now becoming clearer that innovative farming needs to take place and agricultural infrastructure could completely transform our daily lives in the city. While some urban spaces could reap more environmental benefits from using the space for renewables, such as solar panels, the biodiversity benefits and social services for urban communities and recreational benefits make this an attractive urban solution in rapidly growing cities. While there are still complexities associated with energy usage, to meet nutritional needs under a new climate will require continuous innovation and city farming is a good start.



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