Leading Urban agriculture from community, Plantagon, and MIT

 6 minute read

The World Food Building is soon to represent the future of urban vertical farming. Are you aware that agriculture products industry is changing its direction from B2B to B2C? Did you know that grow lights market will be worth 5.11 Billion USD by 2022‎? Just one Gothenburg with half a million population has over 200 farms in the city. Discover the future of urban farming in this article.

500 000 citizens
more than 150 urban gardens

According to TechSci Research report, the global organic food market is expected to expand over 16% by 2020. The demand side for the healthy and locally grown food is growing. Tesco reports a 15% rise in organic products sales in 2016. At the same time, WholeFoods chain is educating its customers about green, ecological, and sustainable nutrition for the whole family. As the result, customers all over the world are not only buying organic goods but also get more interesting in growing greens by themselves. Building new urban organic farms is becoming more attractive for entrepreneurs causing the growth of the agriculture market and supplementary goods. For example, the grow lights market will be worth 5.11 Billion USD by 2022‎. The whole sector is transforming itself from B2B sector straight to H2H. The expanse of the target audience is triggered by the consumer side wanting to take farming in their own hands.

The benefits of the local farming include lower logistics expenditure, lower environmental impact and the ability to implement the farms into the circular ecosystem of the city. Also, the community gardens have a positive impact on the societal well-being. As an example of the community power, the Swedish city Gothenburg with a half a million population is leading the development of urban agriculture. Green World Gothenburg 2016 Initiative has shed the light that the city has over 200 urban gardens engaging with community, entrepreneurs, and schools. As a part of the project, Gothenburg Green World, The Foodprint LAB and the City of Gothenburg, have created an interactive map locating commercial and social farms, as well as community, school and community gardens. Moreover, to get acquainted with gardeners and farmers themselves, the city organized popular urban farming safari. Safaries are an amazing way of exchanging experience and spreading the word about benefits of urban farming.

Plantagon is leading
the smart Agritecture

There is another Swedish unit impacting the movement for sustainable urban food development in the world. Established in 2008, Plantagon, innovative global urban agriculture firm, has an aim of being the driving force for sustainable solutions to feed future cities of the world. The company is exceptional for its structure by being a hybrid between a for-profit and nonprofit company called and trademarked as ‘Companization’. While building knowledge-based power with numerous technological patents and organizing networks and conferences for urban agriculture sector bringing top-notch experts together from all over the world, Plantagon is on its way to being the leader in Agritecture. At the same time, by boosting cooperation with universities and supporting students’ thesis, the company is paving a new road for the development of urban agriculture.

At the moment, Plantagon is about to start construction of the World Food Building in Linköping. The building is 17 stories high with half farm half office space; a demonstration of the future symbiosis of urban real estate. The idea of building this vertical farm has come from the need to deal with excessive heat coming from local energy and biogas plants. The greenhouse is expected to be an answer to the problem becoming a part of city’s ecosystem. The World Food Building is using the heat waste and CO2 produced by the activities of the city in order to grow greens for the community. The building is now waiting for tenants with a long-term green commitment[nbsp]to fill high tech futuristic offices.

The World Food Building by Plantagon

World Food Building, Plantagon
Illustration: Sweco

“This type of combined building is unique, and this is one of the many challenges that urban agriculture is facing, as we are creating new rules and breaking new ground. We have also had some other challenges to solve along the way, for example regarding the protection of birds, but also how pedestrians in Linköping would experience a hi-rise building like this,” says Owe Pettersson, Plantagon CEO.

This project will make Plantagon a part of the moving power making Linköping an international research and study venue, a world leading innovation hub for the future of urban agriculture. The Food Challenge is only the first step for Plantagon. The company plans to include energy and water efficiency in its operations. By building a sustainable community of like-minded people, Plantagon has its chance to make a real change towards sustainable and smart greener future for the planet and its habitats.

MIT’s open-source
Food Computer

MIT’s labs are working on the Food Computer that is able to create a fully climate controlled environment for low scaled farming enabling the households ability to be a little smart garden. The new farming technology includes the high-efficient blue LED lighting – an enabler of new urban agriculture generation. The catch is that computer is based on the open-source software developed by Harper’s Open Agriculture (OpenAG) Initiative. It helps develop new techniques and expand the line of greens grown in the Food Computer.

As Caleb Harper, principal research scientist OpenAG at MIT’s Media Lab, defines the current challenges: “The current state of [networked agriculture] is very one-off. Everybody designs their own little unique ‘data center’ for plants, for a warehouse farm or for a vertical farm. They say it’s super special, and they try to create intellectual property out of it. And they won’t let people go in it, because they don’t want other people to steal their brilliant ideas. That’s the problem in my industry now. They haven’t realized that there’s a system that underlies this. And it won’t scale until there is a common platform.”

OpenAg™ Personal Food Computer v2.0 Credit: MIT Media Lab

OpenAg™ Personal Food Computer v2.0
Credit: MIT Media Lab

MIT’s Personal Food Computer is tabletop-sized equipment that could be placed in the kitchen or balcony of any household. Additionally, OpenAG offers a Food Server that is a shipping container of controlled adaptive environment for the green produce. For bigger demand, they have also created a Food Data Centre, which is an enlarged warehouse unit of Personal Food Computer. The possibilities of Open Source, Machine Learning, and data gathering of OpenAG are enormous and can be multipurpose. Already today, students in several schools across the US learn how to code the program, use the open source, as well as the biology of the produce. This is the future long time awaited for.

Insight Box

The discussion about Urban Agriculture and community gardens is already started. The path to large-scale vertical farming is the rocky one due to the investment size and need for down to earth commitment. The problem of food shortage seems so far away at the moment that it is challenging to get everyone on board while even climate change is not acknowledged everywhere. Nevertheless, as consumer demand for the locally grown and organic products grows, the local farming practices will be increasingly exercised.

#Food Computer #future trends #Green World Gothenburg 2016 #MIT #OpenAG #Plantagon #urban agriculture #World Food Building
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