Could Urban Farming be our future? Is it the way to lower emissions and deal with the challenge of growing enough crops to sustain our populations?

RICS asked some experts in the field, and here’s their feedback.

Michael Hardman

The co-founder of the Food Geographies Research Group at the Royal Geographical Society, and Senior Lecturer in Geography at the University of Salford.

“It will ease the disruption wrought by climate change on crop growing”

Urban Agriculture covers a range of farming, from allotments and gardens to hydroponics and underground farming. With an ever-growing gap between our urban populations and the food systems, the world is facing a serious issue. With the climate debate, we need to reduce emissions to bring benefits to our urban environments.

Climate change is going to have detrimental impacts on our rural yields, with Urban agriculture hopefully being able to support the system. There’s lots of potential for businesses to get involved and invest.

Silvio Caputo

Senior lecturer at Kent School of Architecture and Planning.

“You won’t be able to feed whole cities, but it can help ease the burden”

There will be 9 billion people on our planet by 2030, and researchers say we need to increase our food production by 60% to make sure we can feed them. However, the numbers of pollinating insects are declining, with 40% of insect species falling in numbers. We need to find a system that will work in the future.

Hydroponics is a system where a plants roots are not placed in soil. They are instead watered with nutrients with artificial light enabling crops to grow indoors and all year round. The yield of crop per square meter is also a lot higher as systems can you built vertically to make the most of the space.

The negative side is that the hydroponics system is not energy efficient, with the scale required to feed the population demanding a huge amount of extra infrastructure.

Jens Thomas

Co-founder of Liverpool-based social enterprise Farm Urban.

“Growing crops close to population centres helps to reduce food miles”

Aquaponics could be a sustainable way to grow crops in towns and cities. It is a type of hydroponics, which uses fertiliser from fish, and has the potential to help grow food in the cities. It can reduce the need for transport and packaging, but like hydroponics raises issues with energy consumption.

Alongside growing crops, Farm Urban, is an educational company teaching our younger generations about organic agriculture and researching how these systems can be used in urban areas.

Meg DeBrito

Executive director at Greensgrow, Philadelphia, US.

“Beyond supplying food, there are also educational and wellbeing benefits”

In the USA Greensgrow is located on a brownfield site which has been transformed into an Urban Farm. Although they are not able to feed the entire city they can support the system and help to fill gaps.

Education again is key for them, as well as attracting wildlife including those pollinating insects that are in decline.

Small really projects can make a difference.

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