Who said rooftops should only be used for cocktail bars and beauty spots overlooking the city?
Although still in its early stages of development, urban rooftop farms have already started to attract attention.
Statistics predict that by 2050 the population of the world will reach 9.7 billion. By the same year, the UN predicts that 68% of the world’s population will most likely live in urban areas, up from 55% in 2018. This substantial growth would imply the need for more agricultural land and more fresh products. Yet, if we consider the climate change challenge and the transport pollution that aggravates it, we are in dire need of more local farms.
There is considerable potential for space usage. There is 4.85 trillion sq ft (450 billion m2) of roof space in the US alone, but only 1% is being used. This way, local businesses could supply their greengrocers locally without the added carbon footprint of transportation.
Leveraging rooftop space in metropolitan areas is a great advantage. This would make a significant positive environmental impact. Transport of goods accounts for 12% of all agricultural emissions worldwide.
Reducing transportation costs and pollution is not the only way in which rooftop farms would be more eco-friendly. They would also improve air quality, absorb heat, and cool down the building. They also would add more of a green landscape to the concrete jungle, which is proven to have psychological benefits for people.
Healthy food would be readily available to local businesses, which would reduce the cost of transport and, therefore, the prepared food cost to customers. The urban farmers might even use fewer pesticides as the crop would not be at risk of being eaten by insects and rodents, producing more nutritious and tasty ingredients for people’s diets.
As the advantages of city farming have become more prominent, many places worldwide have started to adopt this initiative. Among them are the City Farm in Tokyo, Dakakker in Rotterdam, and Brooklyn Grange in New York City. In each of these urban farms, people have added new elements and ideas to match the local demand. In Tokyo’s city farm, they adjusted the agricultural conditions to grow soybeans, eggplants, and rice. These are traditionally the most used ingredients in the region. In New York, on the other hand, the extra space has enabled further expansion. They now also raise chicken for eggs as well as bees for honey production.
In Paris’ 15 arrondissement, we can find the biggest rooftop farm. They went a step further and created a soil-free system where fruit and vegetables are grown on vertical columns using coconut fibre. Their model seems to be the most fructiferous, sustainable, and clean so far. As a result, they started offering a consultancy worldwide to help other city farmers start such productive and eco-friendly agriculture systems.
All in all, it is exciting to see such innovative solutions emerging to combat global issues and improve urban efficiency. Although there is still a lot of progress left to be made, ingenious entrepreneurs have shown that farming can be brought to new heights.