DIY - Urban agriculture

DIY - Urban agriculture
By 2050 up to 80% of the earth’s population will reside in urban centers. Until then human population will increase by about 3 billion, applying conservative estimates. If food is to be consumed and produced in as inefficient way as today we will need further arable land the size of Brazil by 2050. Over 70 % of land area suitable for farming is used for crop production (sources: FAO and NASA). Most of this production is for fodder for animals not for human food, this happens in a time when grazing on natural land is more and more rare even though it produces both biodiversity and a landscape with high nature values. - Plantagon is building the world's first vertical farm in Linköping, Sweden.

Imagine a city that would be self-sustainable, imagine a future where every available space would be used to produce fresh and healthy food, locally; in your garden, on your terrace, along your façade, on your roof, in parks, in empty office buildings, on parking lots, on wastelands. Imagine farms wouldn't be horizontal any more, but vertical in order to use our resources more efficiently. Imagine an architecture that would react on environmental changes. An architecture that would evolve from a static entity to a dynamic and adaptable, emergent and alive environment. Do you also dream of buildings that would act as fluid organisms, as if they were part nature?

Luc Schuiten devoted his life to imagine cities, buildings in perfect harmony with nature. He invented, with his drawing, amazing self-sufficient vegetal cities. Through various futuristic perspectives, evolving in time, he built a coherent, imaginary and poetic world.

A world which would result in more bio-diversity and a better micro-climate, leading us to a bigger sense of community, to exchange knowledge, competences and resources. It would help us to have a more sustainable life and to decrease our environmental impact. Time has come to realise that dream by letting new styles of urban living emerge. If you want to be part of this change, start by creating your miniature utopia at home.

About 1,5 month ago I received some seeds from a friend and started my own small vegetable garden on my rooftop with very little investments - the plastic containers where found on the street by my flatmate, the earth was recuperate from a garden. Today, tomatoes, carrots, basil, mint, radishes, rucola, parsley, cucumbers, lettuce, beans, spinach, celery, zucchini, strawberries are growing so fast that probably within one or two more months I'll be able to cook a big meal during a kitchen party ;-).

Start yourself, you just need to...

  1. Buy or find a few planters or container,
  2. Put them on your roof, balcony or terrace,
  3. Fill the containers with earth from a garden - you can find free earth on second-hand sites. I maybe just want to put your attention on the fact that wet soil is heavy. So you'll want to figure out the sustainable weight load of your roof (consult a structural engineer), as too much load in the wrong places can cause structural damage. In my situation, I did a small calculation and figured out it was ok to put the planters on the side, near the structural walls. In case, you could also reinforce your roof by placing lateral beams from one bearing wall to the other wall, but for this kind of work a building permit could be needed.
  4. Be part of a community compost/garden in order to receive some ready compost. Or you can also make your own compost. They will also be able to give you tips and tricks on how to maintain your plants.
  5. Plant the seeds - ask some friends, community gardens or go to a seed-library in your neighbourhood,
  6. Water the plants regularly and watch it grow!

    An urban garden on atypical locations is something like a pioneer use of space, because it shows what is possible in such places. It can open paths for a certain way of thinking about the city. But if we want to maintain the assumption that urban agriculture can change the physical appearance of cities then we need to provide concepts in which agriculture is also an economic factor. It can’t stay community gardening.

    One of the best examples of this, is Growing Communities in Hackney in London. They have built up an expanding business which involves training, urban market gardens and an evolving model for how London might better feed itself. An other example is the world’s best known rooftop farm, Brooklyn Grange Farm in New York. Their commercial viability comes not just from food production, but from taking a wider entrepreneurial approach. Prinzessinnengärten is showing how urban agriculture is increasing the attractiveness of a deprived neighbourhood. It is a new urban place where locals can come together to experiment and discover more about organic food production, biodiversity and climate protection. With this project Nomadisch Grün intends to increase biological, social and cultural diversity in the neighbourhood and pioneer a new way of living together in the city. Deu Horta Na Telha, São Paulo, Brazil turns large waterproof roof tiles upside down, filling them with soil to turn roofs, balconies and other paved areas into miniature farms.

    If you feel inspired and would like to develop a "Prinzessinnengärten-like" project in Brussels, you should know there is a place, a wasteland of 24hectar, situated on the site of the old train station of Josaphat in Schaerbeek. Dewey, together with the collective of Commons Josaphat, is trying to change this huge terrain into an urban garden and they need your help.