urban farming

Growing appetite for urban agriculture

A centuries-old practice, urban agriculture is taking on new forms, more diversified than in the past. It is now booming and developing in many forms in many cities around the world because 54 % of the world's population now lives in cities, and an additional 2.5 billion urban dwellers are expected by 2050, according to the UN. It raises not only the question of feeding urban dwellers, who are now in the majority, but also of urban planning and how to take these practices into account in the landscape. It is an entry point for rediscovering other forms of production and opening up a new market for peri-urban farmers. Food is vital, timeless, universal. It is also a cultural, societal and ancestral history between the countryside, the city and mankind.
Ahe urban agriculture movement is not new, since allotments are more than 150 years old. For Eric Duchemin, director of the Urban Agriculture Laboratory and associate professor at the Institute of Environmental Sciences at the Université du Québec à Montréal, It is important to remember that cities developed when human societies became sedentary and began to farm. After the Second World War came the time of massive urbanization of the territories by encroaching on the best agricultural land..

A movement born out of the protest of the 1970s

From the 1970s onwards, urban agriculture was linked to citizen movements that developed in response to the economic crisis caused by the first oil shock. In New York, Toronto and Montreal, citizens appropriated wastelands to feed their families. More recently, urban agriculture has grown in response to a mistrust of the food system, the need to better control the quality of the fruit and vegetables consumed and the desire to find old varieties. It is also a desire to reappropriate the soil and the territory because, for several decades, the city has lost its sense of development by building housing without necessarily designing living spaces. 
Over time, the relationship between cities and agriculture has evolved: cities have turned away from their nourishing hinterland, seeking products ever further afield, thanks in particular to the development of refrigerated rail and then road transport. Agriculture has gradually turned away from the city by specialising and responding to market logics. At the same time, climatic, energy, financial and environmental issues are increasingly important and sometimes contradictory.
How to feed these urban populations cut off from their nourishing land? How can we keep or regain control, both quantitatively and qualitatively, of our food supply?
Among the many approaches, those based on proximity or short circuits are multiplying. Systems for bringing producers and consumers together, such as sales on the farm or at markets, have, of course, always existed. But they are now arousing a real resurgence of interest and new initiatives are being developed. These approaches were initially very successful in cities that are particularly disconnected from their agriculture or concerned about their food supply. The first Amaps thus appeared in Japan as early as the 1970s, under the name Teikei, literally "putting the face of the peasant on food". Community experiments also developed in Germany, Switzerland and Austria before reaching New York in the 1980s and then crossing the Atlantic back to France in the 2000s.

The Supply Paradox

Let's take the example of Île-de-France's supply of food products: it relies mainly on other French regions, Europe and the world, despite its exceptional agronomic potential and first-rate food crops such as wheat, barley, rapeseed, sugar beet and vegetable and fruit crops. How can this paradox be explained? First of all, the disproportion between the size of the consumption basin and the number of farmers must be underlined. On average, there is one farm for every 128 people in France, one for every 2,360 in Île-de-France and one for every 74,000 in Paris and the inner suburbs.
The second reason is related to the lack of links between production, processing, distribution and transport actors within the Ile-de-France food system. Logics are above all economic and little based on proximity.
As far as the marketing of products is concerned, supermarkets dominate: in France, 72 % of food purchases are made in supermarkets, 15 % in specialist food stores - bakeries, butchers, etc. - and only 6 % in markets or directly from producers. In Île-de-France, this distribution is true even if you go to a little more small shops. Rungis also plays a key role in supplying Paris Region: two thirds of its products supply the region, with the rest going to the provinces and abroad.
Thus, although Paris Region is located at the centre of a rich agricultural basin, unlike many metropolises (New York, Tokyo, London, etc.), the 5,000 farms in the Paris Region cannot and will not be able to meet the food needs of 12 million consumers. While supply remains limited, demand is increasingly strong. In 2014, four out of ten French people said they often or very often buy local products and six out of ten French people plan to increase consumption in the next six months.

As a reminder, Paris has set a target of creating 100 hectares of additional vegetation in the city by 2020. To make this bet a success, Mayor Anne Hidalgo has invited "Paris-cultivators" (gardeners, landscapers, farmers, architects,...) to develop ideas. Launched by Deputy Mayor Pénélope Komitès, the call for projects "Paris-culteurs" "will cover 40 Parisian sites, currently being identified, which will be made available to innovators to develop urban agriculture and vegetalisation projects".

From home garden to community garden

Thinking about urban agriculture means first of all imagining the vegetable garden in the back yard of one's home. In Montreal, 42 % of the population practice urban agriculture, representing 800,000 people. The proportion is similar in cities such as Toronto, Vancouver or Portland. This figure is probably minimized because it was calculated on the basis of satellite photos in which part of the cultivated areas are hidden by trees. For the United States as a whole, this proportion is estimated at 32 % with an average vegetable garden area of about 9 to 10 m2.
The The second form of urban agriculture development is collective, what in North America are known as the Community Garden. These are often municipal programs like Montreal, where there are 95 gardens spread throughout the boroughs with a total of 8,500 plots: nearly 12,000 people can garden. It is estimated that this represents $1.5 million, or about $200/250 per person, for an initial investment of $25 for seedlings. 
Another type of practice is the installation of crops on balconies and terraces. In Montreal, 35 % of the 800,000 people who have a vegetable garden, garden on this type of surface. There are also more and more interventions on public spaces, in parks, with the installation of containers and the organization of animations.
Ephemeral interventions can also be organized on mineralized squares, in wastelands with vegetable and fruit trees. These examples can be seen in Montreal, Brussels, London or even in Paris or Nantes with the Incredible Edible.

Vegetables but also fruit

In North American cities, there are many abandoned fruit trees. Organisms are being created, Not far from the fruit in Toronto, Forbidden Fruits in Montreal, or the Portland Fruit tree project. In Toronto, more than 50,000 kg of fruit were harvested in 2015! This implies a reflection on the maintenance of the trees as well as on the conservation or transformation of the fruit. of the products of these crops.
In North America, another phenomenon tends to develop rapidly: urban beekeeping. In Montréal, the number of hives has increased from about 10 in 2010-2011 to more than 365 in 2015. This evolution leads us to think differently about the development of the city.

Conserving varieties and achieving productive scale, challenges

The main difficulty with urban crops is the conservation of varieties through seeds, due to the proximity of the crops to each other. Another obstacle is reaching the scale of a productive farm. In Vancouver, one of the oldest urban So Food farms has been in existence for about 15 years. Mostly, These projects propose a specific range of high added value, leaf vegetables (lettuce, mesclun...) or plants of tropical origin (pepper, eggplant) on former urban heat islands. The example of Paris under strawberries is similar, as this is a fruit that does not tolerate transport well. These are niche markets that are of particular interest to restaurateurs. 

A strong diversification of forms and uses

Since the 1970s, urban agriculture has become highly diversified: educational, community, collective, shared or individual gardens, street gardens, ground-based farms, rooftop farms, beekeeping, mushroom farms, insect farms, urban henhouses... Today, plants are planted all over the city, in locations that would never have been imagined ten years ago, such as at the foot of trees, on rooftops.
All of these initiatives lead us to consider how this will influence the development of cities and the design of buildings. Indeed, developing urban agriculture requires water and light. We are even witnessing the creation of agri-neighbourhoods with real estate projects developing around urban farms, designed as spaces open to the public, such as theBernex Agri-Park in the Canton of Geneva.
Urban beekeeping, on the other hand, encourages us to think beyond other pollinating insects in the city, with the creation of honey fields. The very design of housing evolves with the integration of these spaces dedicated to vegetalisation and production inside the buildings themselves, on roofs and terraces. The question is whether this trend will influence the diet of populations, as it implies changing the relationships with the different market players present or not in the food system.
Urban agriculture is a challenge to feed sufficiently and more qualitatively those who cannot afford it. Currently, most UA projects are small, non-interconnected projects, an approach that cannot be ignored. if the objective is to feed a neighbourhood with an open and supportive local food system. This requires a link with the peri-urban agricultural sector (producers and seed companies) and with associations that manage cooperatives, solidarity markets or even kitchens that allow longer-term preservation of products. This is also necessary to avoid losses due to overproduction.

Challenges, opportunities and constraints of UA

They concern first of all space: urban agriculture can today be carried out almost everywhere in the city, including on rooftops or parking areas. This calls for reflection on the part of town planners and architects and the obligation to modify certain regulations. In terms of human resources, training in horticulture and agronomy must be developed to avoid the current "trial and error" approach. In Quebec, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture is responsible for urban agriculture with the Ministry of Municipalities. Urban agriculture is also supported by the farmers' union.
Training, while still limited, is growing. For example, one of the universities that provides training in agronomy offers training in urban agriculture. In terms of technologies and innovations, there is also a lot to be done to manage water supply, lighting for indoor crops, management of organic matter (especially phosphorus), growing media, etc. While the vision of urban agriculture could previously have been that of allotments with rather elderly people, it now interests many young "hip" people like Stacey Givens, a great chef in Portland. These neo-farmers are developing communication platforms with different actors in the city, and platforms for exchanging experiences and products.
On the question of the relationship between peri-urban farmers and these neo-farmers, Eric Duchemin specifies : "There is a strong awareness in Canada of the importance of building relationships and solidarity with peri-urban farmers, especially organic farmers. Urban agriculture is currently anecdotal, but it can be a gateway to rediscover other forms of production and open a new market for peri-urban farmers.
With highly productive urban rooftop farms, which have required a high investment and most often produce leafy vegetables, partnerships are developing with peri-urban farmers to complete their ranges with root vegetables in particular. The urban farm becomes a distributor for peri-urban farmers with a guarantee of sales of their produce.

What are the prospects for the sector?

The development of urban agriculture is an opportunity to boost the horticultural and landscape sector because it has first-rate know-how that it can transfer in this field. Both in terms of varietal creation and the development of complex and innovative technical itineraries, but also during the design, creation and maintenance stages of these new urban spaces. Ways exist to create new markets for producers and landscape professionals, but also to bring more resilience to the city.
It represents a strong challenge for the future with the growing urban population. It is an opportunity to create cities that are more alive, more green and with a better quality of life, in the image of the city. plant of the future proposed by the Belgian architect Luc Schuiten. Urban agriculture is also the source of many innovations to be developed, an interesting line of work for professionals in the sector. who benefit from expertise in this area, such as Astredhor, the Technical Institute of Horticulture.
Luc Schuiten's City of Plants
This Institute carried out a study as part of its urban agriculture mission, focusing on Northern countries, with some sixty projects listed in America (New York, Chicago, West Coast), as many in Europe (especially France) and nearly 200 in Asia. Numerous characteristics were analysed: location, socio-economic context, actors, types of production (plant or animal, distribution system, services offered, communication axes, etc.). They lead to the definition of a multitude of locations and forms of projects:
- in the peri-urban areas of urban farms
- on the outskirts of the indoor farms
- in the heart of islands in shared gardens, or on balconies
- downtown, tree-foot or sidewalk gardens, as well as rooftop, basement, indoor gardens, edible walls
- in the industrial zone of roof greenhouses
- on the waterways of the floating greenhouses
- in the parks of allotment gardens, urban farms, urban orchards
- in the residential areas of private gardens.
This variety of forms and projects generates a great diversity of functions: food, but also economic, educational, social linkage, but also leisure, health, biodiversity, environment, regional planning. "My presentation focuses more specifically on a few types of projects: for-profit projects in closed environments; rooftop and ground-based initiatives; non-profit projects, collective gardens and citizen movements; and projects for individuals and businesses (balconies, terraces and interiors)", says Guillaume Morel Chevillet, Astredhor's urban agriculture project manager.. Communities have often thought of their development in terms of energy, transport or housing, but very little in terms of food production, as many cities were built on highly fertile agricultural land.

For-profit, enclosed urban agriculture projects

This concept of enclosed urban farms or indoor farmingwas initiated by Dickson Despommier, a professor at Columbia University in the United States. Located in an enclosed area (building, wasteland, tunnel, container), these projects use very modern production technologies, with artificial lighting, cultivation on floors to optimise space and above-ground production. These new production tools are for the vegetal sector a great opportunity to demonstrate its technical expertise and to open up to the city. 
Hydroponics in a former Chicago warehouse : The first example presented concerns a vertical farm in the United States in New Buffalo, near Chicago. This pilot farm project was created in 2011 in a former warehouse that has been abandoned for a dozen years. The crop is hydroponic with mineral fertilization, pesticide and herbicide free for daily production of salads and leafy vegetables. Renting a warehouse is much cheaper than renting agricultural land, transport costs are reduced, as well as the risk of bacterial contamination. In addition, the nutritional quality is preserved. 
Strawberries in the heart of Paris The second example is in Paris with the company Agricool developed by two young farmers' sons. Having noticed the poor quality of the fruit and vegetables, they started producing strawberries in a container near the Bercy park. There, 3,600 strawberry plants are grown on plant walls containing a recycled plastic substrate, with no  pesticide, under low consumption LED artificial light in the useful spectrum for strawberry, and with a closed circuit water supply system, for a saving of almost 90 % compared to traditional cultivation. Everything can be remotely controlled with the idea that a single person can manage three to five containers alone.
These high-tech urban farms offer a very close proximity to consumers, the supply of ultra-fresh products, high yields, but can also pose energy issues for lighting and cooling, mineral inputs, taste quality and phytosanitary quality. This type of project is highly developed in Japan, with more than 200 initiatives, some of them at the very heart of companies, including rice cultivation (a project of the company Pasona), in the United States, but also in the London Underground, in Lyon, ...
These structures have access to young plants and seeds, but not necessarily to varieties adapted to closed environments. Indeed, the distance between floors does not allow the cultivation of plants that are too high, so new varieties with smaller development are required. In addition, these production systems do not require an earthy substrate, which is a source of pathogens or likely to clog, so there is a need for young plants from hydroponics or aeroponics. In terms of agri-supplies, it is difficult for these farms to to find dedicated and innovative agricultural supplies on the market. Very often, these companies design and implement their own systems (rack, tiered ferti-irrigation, cultivation bins, harvesting, cooling, heat recovery and evapotranspired water systems, etc.). In the input sector, therefore, there are avenues to be developed.
In terms of know-how, the technical routes are partly mastered by these companies. There is a need to improve the issue of artificial lighting (in particular the use of LEDs and light spectra adapted to different crops), "high-tech" soil-less cultivation techniques (aeroponics type or using organic fertilizers in particular) and to develop the robotics and home automation part, which is largely dominated by the Japanese. As regards distribution and marketing, the strength of the projects lies in their proximity to consumers and the development of often innovative marketing strategies with efficient sales and logistics systems, even if some of them are not yet integrated into larger circuits.

The future of urban agriculture could also take the form of skyscrapers

The architectural firm Roger Stirk Harbour and Partners, based in London, has imagined a futuristic agricultural tower that could feed city dwellers: the Skyfarm project. The multi-level bamboo structure is designed for areas that do not have nutrient-rich soil for agriculture or abundant water resources. The building would use a recirculating flow of water to supply hydroponic and aeroponic farms, as well as a fish farm. Fish waste would act as fertilizer for the plants, and bright panels would provide outdoor light to the indoor farm lots. 
In addition to the aquaponic system, the building would also have a market space on the ground floor and a public education centre where people could learn more about vertical agriculture. The upper part of the structure would be equipped with water tanks and wind turbines to generate electricity. This concept is still in the planning stage but could easily be adapted to a variety of environments, from schoolyards to large communities.

Rooftop Urban For-Profit Agriculture Projects

In an urban environment, roofs are the object of many desires and become a support for integrating nature into the city, contributing to beautification, improving biodiversity or strengthening social ties. Urban agriculture projects focus on the production of plants (sometimes small animals) on roofs that are dedicated or redeveloped for the occasion, using above-ground cultivation techniques (with substrate, in hydroponics or aquaponics). Their particularity is to generate value and jobs, but also to raise technical difficulties.
A vegetable garden on the roof of the Chicago Convention Center... The first example is in Chicago and presents a project installed on the roof of Mc Cormick University. The range of plants cultivated was worked with the Saver company in order to choose products that can be distributed in their café and the restaurants of the Palais des Congrès. Initially, the architects had designed the roof of the building with Crassulaceae (mainly Sedums) with a substrate thickness of 10-15 cm. For three years,
organic material from restaurant organic waste was introduced into the existing substrate. Vegetables can now be grown, with the addition of ornamental plants to maintain the aesthetic character of the design. The aim is to make people want to respect nature, to appreciate a green environment in an urban setting, or even to cultivate a garden with their neighbours.
Hybrid roofs in ParisThe second example, located in Paris, is the result of a meeting between ERDF, the Paris City Council and the Veni Verdi association. The overall project of this association aims to grow gardens wherever possible and to develop a social, participatory and low-cost agriculture. Flowers are integrated into the cultivation plots to encourage pollinators and to carry out educational activities with children. On this roof, more than a dozen vegetable varieties have been planted in flexible tubs filled according to the "lasagne" technique: several layers of various superimposed materials (compost, fragmented wood, flax straw, clay balls, etc.). Some ERDF employees come to take part in gardening activities and all the products from this roof are sold directly to the employees.
Roofs are most often hybrid, generating both social ties and the return of vegetation to the urban environment. The City of Paris is fully committed to a policy of recolonizing roofs through agriculture and landscape, particularly with its call for projects "Paris-cultivators" launched in January 2016. This call invites gardeners, landscape designers, farmers, entrepreneurs, and players in the social and solidarity economy to develop innovative urban agriculture and vegetalization projects. Astredhor is also part of a project management assistance team for the Paris green spaces services. This team is composed of a design office, a junior company from AgroParisTech and a communication agency.
On the roofs, there are also many greenhouse projects, in the United States (Brooklyn), Canada, Paris (Toit Tout Vert), Switzerland (UrbanFarmers), the Netherlands. Walls are also attracting interest, for example, the edible wall created by the Americans for the Milan World Expo. For professionals in the sector, it is an opportunity to demonstrate their know-how in mastering technical itineraries specific to the conditions of cultivation under shelter and above ground (climate management, prophylactic measures, etc.). However, the installation of greenhouses on roofs requires specific expertise: building regulations and not production regulations (resistance to seismic tremors, smoke and public evacuation in the event of fire, accessibility, etc.), technical constraints (bearing capacity, logistics, resistance to uprooting, etc.) and dialogue with construction professionals (complex phasing, interface between batches, especially waterproofing and structural work, safety, etc.). It should be noted that the production tool then implies a higher investment and that it is not easy to find the economic balance.
Peas&Love vegetable farm
The Urban Vegetable Farm of Peas&Love : This is a new generation of urban farms: vegetable farms. The idea comes from the Belgian company Peas&Love: to create a new generation of urban farms that are installed on non-valued urban spaces, such as urban roofs. They are open all year round to local subscribers who can thus enjoy the harvest and nature-related experiences in the city.
Each farm is made up of a set of individual vegetable plots rented to local residents - the Urban Farmers-. Thanks to an annual subscription, they have access to the harvest of their named plots as well as to the sharing of common spaces and experiences through workshops and animations to find themselves in the nature in the heart of the city. The plots are maintained by a Community Farmer, They are made up of local, seasonal fruits and vegetables grown in organic production methods. Peas&Love offers varieties of vegetables and salads that are not found in stores, reintegrating forgotten varieties, to affirm the importance of biodiversity in food.
To bring these urban vegetable gardens to life, the company relies on new technologies. On the one hand, it implements low-tech vertical agricultural techniques. On the other hand, it offers users a personalized application, allowing them to follow the progress of crops and harvests on their personal plots. Subscribers thus have access to an exceptional green space in the heart of the city, and at the same time to a healthier and more varied diet.
By optimising the value of the building, Peas&Love also appeals to owners, lessors and local authorities who benefit from its attractiveness and successful integration into the city. The concept is part of a circular economy approach and creates new social ties as a bonus.
"The Peas&Love concept was born from the meeting of my two passions for nature and healthy cooking, explains founder Jean-Patrick Scheepers. "We have now demonstrated the relevance of the business model and we are thinking big for Peas&Love with a forecast of 4,000m2 of farms in the first half of 2018 spread between Brussels and Paris, before expanding throughout France and in Berlin for 2019. »
The company, founded by Jean-Patrick Scheepers, opened its first site in Brussels in 2016 on the roof of the Cameleon store with 200 vegetable plots. On 7 February 2018, work began to increase the surface area of the farm, which will open 260 plots to the public this spring. At the same time, Peas&Love announces a new opening in Lasne, a district in the south of Brussels, on 1 May. This time the farm will be located on agricultural land, creating a new use for this type of surface, and will offer 300 plots to the public.
A first opening in Paris is also planned for 1 May 2018 on the roof of the Yooma Hotel in the 15th arrondissement .
Today, urban agriculture is a means of bringing more resilience, more resistance to crises, to the city by integrating food production into urban planning. It is a multifunctional tool for developing and landscaping a dense city and limiting urban sprawl. It also brings urban and rural people closer together, and allows for a better understanding of the world of production by city dwellers and vice versa, as well as greater mutual respect. It also leads to new thinking on the scale of the development of feeder districts, with new types of parks that combine both agriculture and landscape, but also on an intermunicipal scale such as the Triangle Vert de l'Essonne. This also requires new skills for landscape designers, landscape companies and producers. Changes in terms of regulations, land tenure logic and new forms of governance are already being implemented.
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"Paris can be eaten! ": 20 essential places for urban agriculture par Côme Bastin - Published on November 5, 2014

" Paris ville comestible ", by Gaëtan Laot, published by Christine Bonneton: 100 sites dedicated to urban agriculture in Île-de-France. Shared gardens, urban vineyards or rooftop gardens 

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