Urban farming (also known as vertical farming) is an intensive form of agriculture which produces high quality crops year round. Crops are grown in an artificial environment in which temperature and humidity are carefully controlled. Up to 95% of water is recycled and nutrients are carefully provided. LED lighting provides the wavelengths that plants require so energy is saved. Insects are not present so pesticides are not required.
Nevertheless, electricity bills are high and the threat of power cuts is a problem in some areas. However, as the cost of renewable energy falls, urban farming may become more profitable.
The world’s largest urban farm is due to open in 2020 in the Marais area of Paris. It will be around 14,000 square metres, and produce over 30 different types of fruit and vegetables using organic methods. It is being developed by Agripolis, who intend to make the farm a model for sustainable production. In addition, the farm will have its own restaurant and bar, and offer panoramic views over Paris. Their produce will be used to feed residents of south-west Paris through shops, canteens, hotels, restaurants and veg-box schemes. It will reduce food miles and no chemicals or pesticides will be used.
The farm will also have an educational side to it, and there will be opportunities for local residents to lease small vegetable plots.
The director of Agripolis has a vision in which abandoned surfaces and flat roofs in urban areas are used to feed urban populations. Agripolis currently runs five sites across Paris and is committed to planting 100 ha of vegetation by 2020. One of their sites is along an old railway line and another is in an underground car park.