Different Ways of Producing and Providing Food


French Pavilion at the Expo Milan 2015: Different Ways of Producing and Providing Food

Let’s take a look at the french pavilion at the 2015 Expo Milano. It is an interesting lightweight wood structure that can be dismantled and reused at the end of the Expo.

How can we feed the world, today and tomorrow? How can we ensure adequate food for mankind that is of good quality and healthy in the long term? France is focusing on this central issue posed by Expo Milano 2015, with a commitment to participate fully in the discussion, providing answers based on its capabilities and points of excellence.

Its communication is based on four pillars: contributing to global food production, through the potential of France’s productive infrastructure; developing new food models, to address the need for better production; improving self-sufficiency in developing countries, with a policy of skills and technology transfer; and aligning quantity with quality in all areas, be they health-based, nutritional or culinary.

At the Universal Exposition, France will present a full array of its renowned and unique distinguishing features, ranging from its know-how in land management, to agriculture, which already allow its brands to be present in all markets of the world.

Rooftop Aquaponics

World’s First Commercial Rooftop Aquaponic Farm by David Thorpe

aquaponic farming in Swiss

Urban farming comes in many shapes and forms: from traditional farming, to permaculture, hydroponics, aeroponics, and aquaponics. These new farming systems will help develop more produce in urban environments and have more residents be engaged in providing food to their families and communities. David Thorpe focuses on aquaponics, and how it has grown commercially in Switzerland. This type of farming will show how to save land, water, and provide more food to overpopulated cities and countries.

Aquaponics – aquaculture (fish farming) + hydroponics (growing plants without soil) – could furnish 12% of a person’s diet per 3m2 of roofspace, according to a prototype study. From a small unit you can harvest both fish (usually tilapia) and vegetables, while using the waste from the fish to feed the plants and the plants to clean the water for the fish.

Lots of people are interested in aquaponics – more than hydroponics for example but there are few examples and data is hard to find. Basel, Switzerland hosts the only commercial example in Europe, situated on a rooftop of LokDepot.

It’s a brainchild of the Institute of Natural Resources Sciences. The Institute focuses on biological farming, ecological engineering, integrative ecology, landscape and urban greening and has pursued 20 years of development and research into fish species and a broad array of vegetables grown under different conditions.
According to Ranka Junge of Zhaw Zurich university, speaking at the International Conference on Vertical Farming and Urban Agriculture last week, the benefits are: nutrient utilization; low water consumption; edible plant production as well as fish. But the drawbacks are that you need to know about both fish and plant production; the complex system involves a lot of expertise.

“For this reason, doing it on a commercial scale is hard,” she said. “But the advantages are no use of pesticides or antibiotics, making food local, adding greenery in the city, nearly closed nutrient cycles, reduced energy input, perfect food safety control, around a 90% reduction in water use, and that vertical farming increases efficiency.”

Roman Gaus and Andreas Graber run the world’s first commercially successful aquaponics farm at LokDepot. Costing $900,000 to build, it occupies just 26 m² and has been operating since winter 2012. It is capable of producing 5000 kg of vegetables and 500 kg of fish per year. The numbers work as follows: the main input is the fish feed which is 1 kg for ta fish harvest of 700g and between 5 and 10kg of tomatoes. 300 L of water goes in and 290L is evapotranspired to be condensed and returned (cleaned thereby) to the fish. (Fish produce ammonia and their water needs to be continually refreshed or they die: the plants do this job.) This amount of fish produces 2 L of sludge, which gives nutrients to the plants and is vermicomposted. No artificial lighting is used. In a year, it has used 20.9MWh of electricity and 32.2MWH of heat plus 763m3 of water to produce 3401kg of veg and 706 kg of fish. 10kg fish was wasted and 577kg veg wasted. So the top line is it produces 2.7 kg fish and 13.1kg veg/acre.
There is no environmental pollution and the food is organic and healthy, produced with respect to animal welfare, fresh and sustainable. In the shop, the fish sell out quickly even though the price is slightly high.
Ranka Junge has calculated that on this basis 3m² of rooftop space could feed one person 12% of their diet.
“In Basel there is 2,000,000m² of vacant rooftop space. If 5% of this rooftop space were used for aquaponics, that is 100,000m², which could feed 34,000 people or contribute 8-20% of the fresh fish and vegetable consumption in Basel,” she concludes. There are many ways in which this system could be improved, she says, such as with improved water management, building integration, climate control and energy use, but she is convinced that it is a proof-of-concept and innovative model.

Back in Basel, after completing feasibility, Roman Gaus and Andreas Graber have secured the first EUR1.0m in project funding for a new development in the Netherlands. Watch the UF De Schilde Campaign Video here. The start of production for fish and vegetables on the roof is anticipated as early as March 2016. The team has also produced a Bolt-on System to enable the seamless integration of aquaculture systems into existing (hydroponics) production models for protected crops such as vegetables, fruits or flowers.

What is Unique About Aeroponics?

Farm Urbana 2014 - Ruth Meghiddo

Aeroponics is considered a closed hydroponic system. Therefore, nutrients and water are continually recycled, preserving our natural resources and the environment. This economical growing system is suitable for home growers and commercial growers alike, and can produce a wide variety of crops in a relatively small growing space.

Aeroponics is cutting edge in the world of hydroponics. Aeroponics is a hydroponic system in which plant roots are suspended in air and intermittently soaked with a nutrient-rich, mineral based solution. Similar to hydroponic growing the nutrient solution flows or drips onto the roots of the plants and then drips down into a reservoir or collection pipe, where it is used again. Research suggests that aeroponic systems maximize oxygen availability at the root zone, thus helping to maximize plant growth.

Aeroponic systems provide consistent phytochemistry from the herb roots because growers are able to precisely control the inputs into the plant. High quality medicinal roots can fetch a premium price in certain markets. This is an exciting technological breakthrough in the world of herbal root production, because medicinal herb plants are typically damaged when roots are harvested using conventional growing techniques.

Aeroponics is also commonly used in educational facilities, theme parks, and restaurants. It can create many variations of aeroponic systems.

Food & the City: Urban Agriculture

Farm Urbana 2014 - Ruth Meghiddo

Food and the City: Urban Agriculture and the New Food Revolution

Farm Urbana 2014 - Ruth Meghiddo

When you’re standing in the midst of a supermarket, it’s hard to imagine that you’re looking at a failing industrial food system. The abundance all around you looks impressive but is really a facade. In fact, there’s just a three-day supply of food available for any given city due to complex, just-in-time international supply chains. The system is not only vulnerable, given the reality of food scares, international crises, terrorist attacks, economic upheavals, and natural disasters, but it is also environmentally unsustainable for the long term. As the cold hard facts of peak oil and peak water begin to have an impact, how will we feed a world population of seven billion and growing, most of whom are now urban dwellers?

One answer is urban agriculture. Food and the City examines alternative food systems in cities around the globe that are shortening their food chains, growing food within their city limits, and taking their “food security” into their own hands. Award-winning food journalist Jennifer Cockrall-King sought out leaders in the urban-agriculture movement and visited cities successfully dealing with “food deserts.” What she found was not just a niche concern of activists but a global movement that cuts across the private and public spheres, economic classes, and cultures.

She describes a global movement happening from London and Paris to Vancouver and New York to establish alternatives to the monolithic globally integrated supermarket model. A cadre of forward-looking, innovative people has created growing spaces in cities: on rooftops, backyards, vacant lots, along roadways, and even in “vertical farms.” Whether it’s a community public orchard supplying the needs of local residents or an urban farm that has reclaimed a derelict inner city lot to grow and sell premium market veggies to restaurant chefs, the urban food revolution is clearly underway and working.

Food and the City is an exciting, fascinating chronicle of a game-changing movement, a rebellion against the industrial food behemoth, and a reclaiming of communities to grow, distribute, and eat locally.



Food and the City by Jennifer Cockrall-King