What was once considered a visionary utopia and seemed more suitable for science fiction movies is gradually becoming reality.
Vegetable and fruit production are moving into the cities. New greenhouse technology with low energy cost, water circulation and zero-waste production systems has become become part of the urban environment. Should we call it ‘farming’, or better ‘gardening’? However you name it, It has little in common with pensionaries working a small abandoned plot or the image of hippie communities growing weed in rooftop gardens. Urban agriculture is high-tech and highly professional.
These new food production operations (to avoid the term ‘farming’) show a different cost structure making them financially strong, even independent and as they produce more food per area than any other system they are able to exist on pricy property. You don’t need to invest in heavy machinery which is not in use most of the time. You don’t need irrigation systems, huge storage facilities, tonnes of pesticides and many miles to the market.
You need skilled personnel to run a system of year round on demand production with mixed cultures, precision nutrition, aquaponics, vertical farming, dosed CO2 application, automated harvest and packaging. And such talent is easier to attract in the city than in the country side. Combined with lower overall ecological footprint and complete transparency this new industry is ticking all the boxes with people who cannot identify themselves with traditional farming practises and remote rural life. Off course we will not feed the city populations from what is grow in cities. But with more awareness about heath and ethics more and more consumers in Nairobi, Istanbul, Berlin or Sydney ditch meat and grains in favour of a greener, more sustainable and more nutritious diet. Food is lifestyle. The value is shifting.
After the agricultural revolution some 8000 years ago and the industrialisation of agriculture a century ago the face of food production is changing again – this time at a much faster pace.