Food production and its transportation accounts for more than a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. But urban farmers around the world are changing that. Farm Urban grows greens in the heart of Liverpool, where it’s created the city’s first vertical farm.
For the past five years, Farm Urban has been educating schools, businesses and communities on the benefits of growing food in cities, and creating a sustainable future for food.
Farm Urban’s space-saving vertical towers use the soilless growing system, hydroponics, to grow pesticide-free food, bringing fresh, locally-grown greens to the people of Liverpool.
There are 120 urban farms in the UK, and more than 1,000 community gardens. Urban farms are characterised by innovation – from growing techniques to the spaces they occupy. It springs up on rooftops and takes over underground; squeezes into shipping containers and expands into office blocks – these are nine examples of agriculture’s reinvention for urban areas.
Farmwall, Melbourne, Australia
Australian Farmwall designs urban farming equipment that can be slotted into all sorts of under-utilised spaces. Its aquaponic units are housed across the hospitality sector and in workplaces and schools and it grows micro greens, delivering them straight to cafés and restaurants creating zero-waste in their production, and zero-packaging on deliveries.
GrowUp, London, UK
GrowUp is dedicated to feeding people in a positive way for the environment, today and in the future. It produces sustainable fresh fish, salads and herbs, using aquaponic and vertical growing technologies – growing up to maximise space, and producing crops all year round in its controlled environment. Growing in the city also means it slashes transport costs, reducing carbon-dioxide emissions and minimising the spoilage that happens when food is transported for long distances.
Urban Growers Collective, Chicago, US
Eight urban farms on 11 acres of land provide fresh food to communities in underprivileged areas in the west and south side of Chicago. The Urban Growers Collective approach demonstrates and supports community-based food systems – with produce grown, prepared and distributed within neighbourhoods. In addition to farming, it runs educational programmes focusing on youth employment, farmer incubation and training and job support for hard-to-employ adults.
Sky Greens, Singapore
Vital innovation in land-scarce city-states like Singapore, Sky Greens has won a slew of sustainability awards. It’s the world’s first low carbon, hydraulic-driven vertical farm, using using minimal land, water and energy resources to produce safe, fresh and tasty veg.
Growing Underground, London, UK
A commercial urban farm in a WWII air raid shelter 100ft below Clapham, the UK’s first underground farm provides 2.5 acres of growing space. Low energy LED bulbs mimic the perfect climate, growing microgreens and salad leaves that can be in your kitchen within four hours of being packed. Currently supplying high street stores including Waitrose and M&S, alongside organic outlets like Whole Foods Market.
Brooklyn Grange, New York, US
Growing high above the streets of one of the world’s most populous cities, Brooklyn Grange operates the world’s largest rooftop soil farm. Three rooftops in NYC grow over 80,000 lbs of organically-cultivated produce per year and they’ve moved into education and events, from these towering roofs with a view.
Pasona O2, Tokyo
Found in a nine-storey office building, Pasona allows employees to grow and harvest food at work. You’ll spot a rice paddy occupying the entrance lobby, while flowers, herbs, melons and other veg are grown across this 3,995 sq m green space. Housing over 200 species of plants, fruits, vegetables and rice, all food is harvested, prepared and served on-site.
Swainway Urban Farm, Ohio
Swainway promotes health through eating densely nutritious produce; pays fair wages while running a profitable business, and farms by hand to maximise yield – while minimising petroleum resource use. Fresh mushrooms, microgreens, vegetables, herbs and seedlings are sold at local farmers’ markets, restaurants and small grocers.
Infarm’s ‘hyper local’ vertical greenhouses bring that just-harvested taste to shops and restaurants – including, now, to branches of M&S Simply Food. Managed by intuitive software, the towers create the perfect growing environment for herbs and greens, so shoppers and chefs can pick still-living produce straight from the source. Not only does it reduce transport costs and bring farming into the cities, it helps to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture.
Allan Melia is a freelance filmmaker and Head of Film at Ethos. His short films tell the stories of social economy businesses, and his two feature-length documentaries have been released theatrically in UK cinemas.