An Introduction to Urban Agriculture

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The purpose of Urban Agriculture:

• Urban Food Security – ensures that good quality fresh food is freely available to city dwellers at a fair price by producing it as near to the points-of-sale as possible.
• Reduces the carbon footprint by eliminating the logistics of supplying fresh produce markets from sources lying great distances away from their final points of sale. This factor is the single most important criterion that will assist with the arrest of global climate change.
• Provides employment for urban dwellers that would otherwise be unavailable to them.

The Current Problem
Today, the situation is critical. Oceans are warming and the polar ice caps melting, and action is urgently required on several fronts to arrest the worsening situation. All internal combustion engines must be fitted with catalytic converters and industrial chimney stacks fitted with air purifiers, all of which means additional expenditure for the polluters who, understandably, are resisting moves to bring air purification about. This means that until polluters can be persuaded to spend additional resources on air purification either voluntarily or by legislation, the situation is unlikely to improve.

Heavy refrigerated trucks used to bring produce to markets over long distances, jam up roads contributing further to the carbon footprint while vehicles spend hours every day in endless traffic queues.

Thankfully, there is a cost-reducing solution to lowering the carbon footprint caused by transporting fresh produce over long distances and this is effected by growing produce within city centres on urban farms.

The Role of Hydroponics
As hydroponics is the growing of produce using water-soluble minerals, without soil, it follows that substantial quantities of produce can be grown in urban environments thus saving associated transport costs, which currently account for a significant proportion of the cost of fresh produce, and most importantly, reducing the carbon footprint substantially. Hydroponics uses less than one quarter of the water used by traditional soil -based agriculture, and often can produce fruit and/or vegetables of superior quality because the produce is grown in a controlled environment with perfectly balanced nutrition.

Urban Farming
Large buildings and flat roof-tops in USA and Japan have already been converted to accommodate urban hydroponic or aeroponic farms with great success, and consumers welcome the supply of fresh produce grown near to the point-of-sale. Retailers also welcome the reduction in food costs brought about by the elimination of the costs of transport where produce is grown nearby. Flat -roofed buildings of 3000m2 in extent or more, with load-bearing capabilities, are ideal for the setting of urban farms. Saline-free water for the plants and electricity for the pumps are required.

Vertical Growing
This system of hydroponic growing is most suited to urban agriculture for it enables six times the number of plants to be grown in the same space. Thus where, say, 15 000 plants could be accommodated in 3000m2 using conventional hydroponic systems, with vertical growing 90 000 plants can be accommodated in the same space. Critical mass thus results in the break-even point being reached much earlier.

Benefit of Urban Farming

• Environmentalists react positively to urban farming developments
• Urban farming creates great opportunities for positive PR feedback
• Additional revenue streams are created out of ‘dead space’
• Retailers welcome sources of ultra-fresh produce grown on site
• Ultra-fresh produce offers a longer shelf-life
• Increased foot-traffic by consumers visiting roof-top farms
• Reduction of the carbon footprint essential to decreasing the greenhouse gas effect on the earth’s atmosphere
• Increased opportunities for employment in urban areas
• Improved Urban Food Security (1) and Food Sustainability (2)

Conclusion
Urban agriculture in the form of roof-top hydroponics is a win-win situation for all concerned – the mall or building owner, the retailer, the consumer, the urban farmer and the employees.

For more information on urban agriculture, roof-top hydroponics or living walls contact Happy Holdings (Pty) Ltd: Tel: 083 690 2503 or 081 447 0439

References

(1) Urban Agriculture, Household Food Security and Nutrition in Southern Africa by Florence Egal, Arine Valstar and Stephan Meershoek

(2) http://asi.ucdavis.edu/programs/sarep/research-initiatives/fs/sfs/defining-sustainable-community-food-systems

Happy Holdings is an associate company of Daisyfresh Hydroponics

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