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Spinach on the roof - agriculture takes the city by storm!

The city of the future will be agricultural! In September 2014, an international conference is bringing the experts together to look at the crazy idea of growing fruit and vegetables right in the city.

Experts are meeting at the International Conference on Vertical Farming and Urban Agriculture on September 9 and 10, 2014 to give plants free rein in the city!

Yesterday towns were eating up the countryside and arable land was being nibbled away by urban growth. Today it’s the fields that are nibbling away at urban spaces, which are greener and greener! Balconies red with strawberries, rows of potatoes on roofs. Everyone has their own method of turning bitumen green so that cabbage, tomatoes and carrots can be planted on concrete at will. And there is some good news for aficionados of green buildings - the trend is set to continue. According to UN forecasts, 65% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050 and hence cities will be forced to change! Urban agriculture will become commonplace, fruit and vegetables will no longer be transported but grown and consumed locally in urban areas that will no longer be gray, concrete deserts but green to their roof tops! Nevertheless, moving a horizontal vegetable plot to vertical building is no easy task. Over the last 15 years or so prototypes have been blooming in megacities all over the world. Now the movement even has its own days: on September 9 and 10, 2014, the International Conference on Vertical Farming and Urban Agriculture in the UK will bring together numerous international experts including agronomists, designers and manufacturers. They are all eagerly awaited in Nottingham to give plants free rein in the city.

Skyscraper farms

Pioneer of the approach, the American scientist Dickson Despommier has plenty to say on the subject: in 1999 this professor from Columbia University in New York developed the "farmscraper" concept, which is literally a skyscraper dedicated to farming in the heart of the city. Although no building of this magnitude has yet emerged from the ground, projects regularly grab the headlines and will be presented in Nottingham, for example the upright greenhouse Sky Greens that was built in 2012 in Singapore. Imitating Sky Greens, the facades of tomorrow’s buildings will be planted right up to their roofs, but the future of urban agriculture will also be in the home. With this in mind, the Philips corporation designed the "Biosphere Home Farming" mini-farm that gives everyone the opportunity to produce their own food, filtered water and gas. However, before tasting the tomatoes or shrimps produced by this amazing self-contained unit, we will have to wait for it to come on the market – which won’t be for another ten years. In the meantime, the first French "farmscraper" could well spring from the ground in Lyon. The acronym FUL (ferme urbaine lyonnaise) hides a vertical market garden operation which could produce more than 600,000 lettuces every year... (Vegetable) pie in the sky? Not at all, because according to the schedule, it won’t be staying on paper for long – the project completion date is planned for 2016!

For more information:

- VFUA conference website

Main picture: © Getty Images / E+

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