Cultivating sustainable food in urban areas: focus on 3 European concepts


The world population is expected to increase by 30% by 2050 and the majority of the population will live in cities. As the population grows, arable land for food production becomes scarce and urban sprawl pushes food production away from the city. More, global warming threatens global food security. So how are you will these extra mouths be fed? Around the world, many companies are looking for solutions. We have selected three concepts for growing food in urban areas, in France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Chris McCullough and Melanie Epp contributed to this article.

1/ Future Gaia, France

Created in 2019, Futura Gaia is developing a vertical farming solution on living soil that could help grow sustainable food in urban areas. Their goal is to produce food locally without chemicals, leaving a limited environmental footprint and “unparalleled sobriety” to preserve drinking water resources. They also intend to avoid waste and guarantee affordable and stable prices all year round.

They use a rotating geoponic system. The barely germinated plants grow inside large rotating cylinders that contain a thin layer of soil. The cylinders then rotate at the rate set by a computer which also controls the level of water and nutrients.

The living soil where the plant grows benefits from a micro-dosage of nutrients and a minimum of water. Rotating geoponics therefore creates a climatic environment with ideal conditions for the growth of the plant.

Vertical trusses in rotary geoponics can be installed in existing buildings, for example on brownfield sites. The advantage of this system is that it allows the cultivation of plants in soil, vertically, and no longer in a flat model, as for traditional agriculture.

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2/ Infarm, Germany

Founded in 2013 and labeled as the next generation farm, German startup Infarm grows everywhere – in supermarkets, restaurants, bars and warehouses – reducing carbon footprint by reducing millions of kilometers between farm and end consumer .

Farms are connected to the internet and information is exchanged via the cloud. It is 2m² with several levels and can produce 1200 herbs per month (per farm) without any pesticides.

The farm allows precise tracking of light, climate, water pH, and more. and can be adapted according to the type of product.

His hydroponic system uses 90% less water than conventional farming and only needs to replace water twice a month for hygienic reasons.

They currently operate farms in various parts of the world, including Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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3/ Dakar, The Netherlands

Located on the roof of the Schieblock building in the heart of Rotterdam (Netherlands), Dak Akker is one of the largest rooftop farms in Europe. The 1,000 square meter farm produces vegetables, edible flowers and herbs, and supplies local restaurants.

DakAkker uses Smartroof, a weather-controlled sensor and roof that has the capacity to hold 60,000 liters of water. In times of excessive rainfall, sensors alert the roof to potential flooding and drainage controls are put in place.

Rather than using soil, DakAkker uses a substrate composed of a mixture of lava rock, clay and plant matter. The grow boxes are made of lightweight polystyrene.

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