Urban farming to grow with increased urbanisation
American intelligence agency J.Walter Thompson have reported that city buildings could be part of the solution to food security issues through ‘urban farming’.
With 87 per cent of the Australian population living in urban areas, Australia is considered a highly urbanised country.
Population growth is particularly significant in major city centres which are already home to 64 per cent of the population.
Urban farming is not a new initiative but has yet to truly take off in Australia.
Australian food security has been a prominent issue recently, with a University of Melbourne study finding that the reallocation of agricultural land for urban use means Australia will eventually grow insufficient fruits and vegetables.
Projects like Perth City Farm, Northey Street City Farm in Brisbane and Pocket City Farms in Sydney are examples of community based urban farms which have a strong community and environmental focus.
Urban farming takes off overseas
Throughout Europe, food retailers are starting to embrace the urban farming initiative.
The leading food retailer Delhaize has launched a vegetable garden and greenhouse on the rooftop of one of its stores in the Brussels area.
The produce allows customers to buy locally, with five kinds of lettuce currently available. There are plans to grow tomatoes, eggplants and zucchini next year.
The benefits of urban farming include giving consumers access to fresh produce year-round, reducing carbon emissions and eliminating the use of pesticides.
The Brussels Minister for Environment and Energy Celine Fremault was supportive of Delhaize’s initiative saying the project is “an excellent initiative.”
French retailer Carrefour revealed a similar rooftop initiative to Delhaize in 2017.
Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn also launched a ‘Help yourself Herb Garden’ in one of its stores recently.
Mobile apps a big part of urban farming
Technology is key to the success of urban farming with Berlin-based start-up Infarm hoping to make urban farms a reality for every supermarket.
The company has created an indoor herb garden for supermarkets where the plants are housed in a protected, nutrient-rich environment.
The farm connects to an app that monitors pH levels and temperature to ensure optimal results are achieved.
Infarm co-founder Osnat Michaeli said that a robust hardware and technology platform was supporting the farms.
“Each farming unit is its own individual ecosystem, creating the exact environment our plants need to flourish,” he said.
According to J.Walter Thompson, urban farming appeals to the ethically minded consumer who is more health conscious and questions how the current food chain processes impact upon the environment.
Brands that are creative in reducing their carbon footprint and tackle climate change will attract more consumers looking for fresh, high-quality food, the J.Walter Thompson report said.