Monocle and Lombard Odier - Food and the city
Rethink Everything and Change the Future
By 2050, 70 per cent of the global population will live in cities. The need to feed so many mouths and reduce our carbon footprint will become crucial to city sustainability. In collaboration with Monocle, this year’s Quality of Life Survey examines novel ways to grow, rear and distribute food. Part of our Rethink Everything philosophy centres on re-imagining and re-evaluating the world around us. In this survey, we aim to explore the self-sufficient cities of the future.
CITY OF THE FUTURE
It’s time to become self-sufficient
Today more than half of the world’s population live in cities and this number is growing every day. As the rural population declines, the quality of life of the majority of people will depend on the efficiency and sustainability of cities around the globe.
“Managing urban areas has become one of the most important development challenges of the 21st century,” says John Wilmoth, director of UN Desa’s Population Division. “Our success or failure in building sustainable cities will be a major factor in the success of the post-2015 UN development agenda.” This means that over the next decade it will be essential for cities to develop a certain level of self-sufficiency to feed their inhabitants adequately and save the environment.
Lombard Odier’s vision for the future of cities is one in which entrepreneurs create the means to address both issues for a sustainable future. Whether it’s through urban farming, mapping apps or encouraging and protecting honeybees, there are many ways to achieve it.
“Cities are monsters of consumption,” says Erez Galonska, CEO of Infarm, Berlin. “I see the future of cities as a place to produce and consume: creating a better ecosystem and improving the life of the city, its citizens and our diet.” His company builds modular farms to hyper-localise food production, just one endeavour that has been transforming how food is grown, harvested and consumed within cities.
Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport was the first to introduce vertical-farming modules to its terminal building, turning long layovers into an educational urban farming experience. And the food grown – including dozens of varieties of herbs and vegetables – is harvested to finesse dishes served at the airport’s many restaurants; a win-win situation for everyone.
Innovative ideas such as this one have made Chicago the US’s urban-farming epicentre, with the Chicago Urban Agriculture Mapping Project counting more than 800 farms around the city. The green market in this state alone is worth some €350m; around the world the vertical-urban-farming market is set to reach €3.5bn within the next three years.
“We cannot have healthy communities without a healthy food system,” says Will Allen, founder and CEO of Growing Power Inc, which is involved in more than 70 urban-farming projects around the world. The recipient of the John D and Katherine T McArthur Foundation’s Genius Grant has become one of America’s leading voices in support of urban farming. In Asia that voice belongs to Bjorn Low, who established Singapore’s Edible Garden City in 2012 and has become the father of urban farming in the region. He hopes to “lower the barrier for urban farming” and as Singapore increasingly invests in clever space-saving initiatives due to its lack of cultivatable land, other Asian nations are following suit.
The East Japan Railway Company has been promoting the concept through the establishment of rooftop farms above stations and offices. Here train stations provide “farmers” with standard garden tools, seeds and DIY advice. The company has also been opening produce shops such as Nomono at Ueno Station, where producers can sell their seasonal crops.
Besides physical urban farms, virtual farms are taking hold too. In Turkey an online platform called Komsukoy lets urban dwellers buy and take care of a plot of farmland in rural Cumhuriyet on an app; an ingenious idea to make the best use of land outside of the crowded city centre. With Komsukoy all crops can be farmed via the app – and once harvested, the produce is delivered straight to the user’s door.
Yet technology’s potential doesn’t end there. More and more apps are being developed to not only locate and look after farms but also deliver produce and help reduce food waste. One example is the Danish app Too Good To Go (TGTG), which allows users to buy discounted leftovers from restaurants, cafés and bakeries.
According to TGTG’s website more than “805,000 meals have been diverted from bins to bellies since Oct 2015”. It’s a good start but doesn’t come close to the 25 million kilograms that City Harvest in New York rescues and delivers to those in need every year – enough to feed 50,000 families per day. Considering that about one third of the food produced in the world is wasted every year, it’s imperative to not only grow more locally and in a controlled manner but also combat food waste at every corner and in every home.
In the ambitious but achievable city of the future it is envisaged that prepackaged produce at supermarkets will be replaced with vertical-farming modules, while every household will have its own plot of land and buzzing beehives on the roof. Instead of being filled with paraphernalia that people don’t really need or want, basements will house entire farms kitted out with hi-tech LEDs.
“The aim is to create a network and a new infrastructure for growing food within urban centres so that the city of the future is more independent,” says Infarm’s Galonska, setting a worthy goal for each and every one of us. It’s up to us how soon we reach it.
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