Urban farming refers to when crops are grown in cities. During and immediately after World War II, urban farming was popular in Europe and North America when resources were scarce. In more recent years, the interest in city agriculture has been renewed but for much different reasons.
The Renewal of Urban Farming
New food production projects have started in cities. The motivation for urban farming isn’t just for food, but also increasing plant and animal life in cities. There are hopes of improving communities through unifying people of diverse backgrounds, improving mental and physical health whilst also regenerating derelict neighbourhoods.
Making the Best of Small Spaces
Although these new farming projects still struggle to find space, people are finding creative solutions. Some are growing food in skips, on rooftops, on sites that are temporarily free or on raised beds in abandoned industrial yards. To make the most of these unoccupied spaces, urban farmers are using agricultural technologies to ensure that their crops thrive.
How Urban Farming Works
Hydroponic systems are an example of such technologies. Growers can cultivate plants without using soil and natural lights. Instead, crops are grown in absorbent material and artificial lighting is used. Although hydroponic crops require more energy than regular crops, they use significantly less water and produce much higher yields.
Hydroponic systems were engineered as a space and resource efficient form of farming, which currently represents a considerable source of industrially grown crops. In 2016, the hydroponic market was estimated to worth £4.9bn. Furthermore, growing such crops usually requires sophisticated and expensive technology however simplified versions are affordable and easier to use.
Growing crops in cities has great potential. As urban structures expand and space decreases, the ability to grow food in small spaces can be greatly beneficial. There are aspects which still need to be improved. Hydroponic systems require nutrients that are often created with chemicals.
Prospects for the Future
Nevertheless, developments are being made so that organic material can be used instead. For example, the Bristol Fish Project is a community-supported farm which breeds fish. The organic waste from the process is used in hydroponic systems to grow plants.
The main aspect that is lost through urban farming is the ability to work outdoors with the changing seasons. However, as cities and populations develop, urban farming could be the solution to the growing pressure on food supplies.