2nd September 2016

With world population set to reach eight billion people in 2020, meeting our growing food demands will require innovative out of the box thinking….

The answer may lie closer to home than you might imagine. Our buildings may provide the farmable space we require to feed us all. Imagine a world where we can harvest our produce from the walls that shelter us….

This is not some vision of what the future city may look like but something that is possible now!

The continued rise in mouths to feed exerts enormous pressures on the Earth’s resources. If left unchecked unsustainable agricultural methods can result in deforestation, water contamination and exploitation, desertification, extreme energy usage, pollution and habitat loss. Fortunately, heightened awareness regarding the effects of food production have resulted in growing solutions and as our cities are at the heart centre of our population there are plenty of good reasons why producing our food close to home is taking off across the globe.

For many people urban farming offers the opportunity to have seasonal fresh produce at a fraction of the cost, by growing only what we need, close to home, we cut down not only waste but the food miles associated with produce. As urban farms become established the increased greenery attracts more wildlife, reduces rainfall runoff, and counteracts the urban heat island effects.

We have merely scratched the surface with urban farming in terms of the adaptability and scope they possess within dense city living. Combining food production with sustainable urban drainage solutions (SUDS) for example, not only reduces the risk of flooding but harvests otherwise wasted rainwater turning it into an edible end product.

Edible living walls offer an altogether new approach to farming – taking advantage of spaces which may otherwise go unused. This principal alone has resulted in a blooming boom for rooftops and walls in some of our world’s densest cities, where space comes at a premium.

Urban farm GrowUp uses a combination of aquaponic and vertical growing techniques promoting community involvement and environmental consciousness. They take unused commercial space and grow fresh produce using wastewater from the fish farm to feed the plants. This method removes the need for petrochemical fertilisers whilst simultaneously reducing water use. Their demonstration farm in Hackney has been a growing success since opening in 2013, producing over 4 tonnes of fish and 20 tonnes of salad, herbs and micro-greens. The team have now gone on to open a second urban green farm, Unit 84, aiming to produce 20,000kg of sustainable greens and 4000kg of fish each year!

Admittedly urban developers and planners still have some stretch to go before we can produce enough to stock our fridges within a short walk from home. But combinations of new technology, community involvement and financial incentives are paving the way for a greener healthy future, not only for our urban cores but for our bodies too.