within and around cities, otherwise known as urban agriculture, is becoming increasingly popular so much that is it is now becoming an integral part of the urban system. It is a form of agriculture that is integrated into the urban economic and ecological system as it provides fresh food, employment opportunities, another use for urban waste, while it also helps “green” a city by creating green space and strengthening its resilience to climate change.
Urban agriculture also covers a wide range of activities, from the cultivation of different types of crops such as grains, vegetables, mushrooms and fruits, and rearing animals such as poultry and fish, to the cultivation of non-food products such as aromatic and medicinal herbs or ornamental plants. Very frequently, the plots of land particularly in peri-urban settings combine the management of crops with that of trees which produce fruit or are used are fuelwood¹,².
The benefits of urban agriculture are multiple but what seems to make urban agriculture so attractive to so many different people is its versatility, the innovative use of space, the personal satisfaction of seeing beautiful green spots in an otherwise grey urban environment, the community spirit often involved for these projects to take-off, as well as the gratification of having created something from scratch. Once you read some of the examples of urban agriculture listed below, you might just be tempted to follow suit!
#1 Parisian mushrooms (Paris, France)
If you thought urban agriculture was a new trend, you are in for a surprise. In France, a mushroom variety called the “champignon de Paris”, a variety used to be grown in the catacombs of Paris from 1670 until the early 1960s, when producers moved away from its cultivation due to cheaper imported alternatives. Almost half a century later, Angel Moioli is reviving what used to be the business of his grandfather at his organic mushroom farm, located in the area of Montesson, just a short Métro ride from the city’s financial centre³.
#2 Sharing backyards (throughout Canada, U.S., New Zealand)
In urban environments, people are lucky if they own even just a bit of land to use as a garden. More often than not, even if citizens want to cultivate something they don’t have access to the land needed to do so. The initiative of Sharing Backyards offers a solution as it pairs up people who lack a yard but want to grow their own food with those that have one but are not using it. The platform’s technology which matches people up is available for free and so the initiative has now rolled out throughout Canada, the United States, and New Zealand. What is more, Sharing Backyards offers support and information-sharing to help people start and maintain a community garden ⁴.
#3 Sky greens (Singapore)
Singapore grows around 7% of its own vegetables, a rather low percentage even for a small country. The idea behind Sky Greens was therefore to find an efficient way of growing local food. In fact, when it was first launched Sky Greens was the world’s first low-carbon hydraulic water-driven urban vertical farm that required both less energy consumption and land compared to traditional agriculture. Based within a greenhouse, Sky Greens has a three storey-high vertical system for cultivating food which means that it can produce five to ten times more food per unit area compared to conventional farms. What is more, cause of the low carbon technology of its operation, lettuces and cabbages can be grown throughout the year using less energy and water⁴.
#4 Urban roots (Glasgow, UK)
Community projects are also a way to get urban agriculture going in different cities. In the case of Glasgow, a highly industrialised city in the past, Urban roots is made up of three community gardens where a wide range of produce such as salads, peas, beans, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, kale, broccoli and cabbage. This is particularly important for the city are previously industrialised areas are now vacant. Having community gardens means that this land can be given a new purpose. Over 40 volunteers help to grow the produce and each is allowed to take a bag of vegetables for free; the rest is sold locally. The project has been a great success, so much so, that they have now acquired an apiary and will be soon making their own honey⁵.
#5 GrowUp urban farms (London, UK)
Most people wouldn’t think you can combine aquaculture with agriculture particularly in an urban environment. But this myth has been completely dispelled by the work of London-based aquaponics enterprise GrowUp Urban Farms, which produces fish, salads and herbs in unused city spaces⁶. Housed in an industrial warehouse in east London, this innovative urban agriculture business combined the principles of hydroponics and aquaculture into a closed loop system⁷. Water is pumped into the fish tanks along with fish food and then this nutrient rich waste-water from the fish tanks is fed directly to the roots of the plants helping them grow. The plants then purify the water which can then be sent back to the fish tank so that the loop can start again. This is a low energy and water use system that is both good environmentally but promises to produce high yields. Annual production is estimated at 20 tonnes of greens and herbs (enough for 200,000 salad bags) and 4 tonnes of tilapia⁶.