While eating locally grown products is nowadays mostly just a trend among higher middle class consumers, it might just become tomorrow’s norm. Indeed, recent developments have brought to light the potential of growing plants and raising animals within and around cities, thereby reducing food transportation costs and associated environmental impacts. On top of that, urban farming would also help narrowing the gap between social classes in terms of access to healthy food, which might contribute to lowering rates of obesity and diabetes among long-income populations.
But where will cities find room to grow large crops of corn? Vertical farming, a new agricultural approach in cities, solves urban real estate scarcity concerns by growing food in vertically stacked areas indoors and outdoors. All the while taking up limited space, this method allows farmers to control most elements of the production: the type and amount of light the plants receive, the temperature of the environment they’re grown in, the amounts of water and nutrients they are given…
This new farming approach has already been adopted in particularly dense Asian cities like Singapore, where crops are grown indoors, in tall buildings. In the United States, aquaponics indoor farms are also being tested, including in Chicago where FarmedHere produces “15 times as many crop cycles a year compared to traditional farming”. However, some challenges do remain, including the fact that vertical farming is very energy intensive, and so far only smaller crops are being grown.
But are city-grown still as healthy as country-grown vegetables, you might wonder? A legit concern that remains, especially considering the substantial pollution levels measured in cities across the globe. Fully embedded in the city ecosystem, urban farming still faces a number of hurdles yet to be overcome. Urban designers, technologists and farmers must learn to work together, in order to make this new agricultural approach a successful one. There is still a long way before urban farming becomes widely spread and abundant enough to challenge traditional agriculture.