UrbanFarmers’ greenhouse is ‘an example of cities reconnecting with food’, says Jan Willem van der Schans. Photograph: space & matter
“I always refer to the debates about parks in the city in the past. I think in 100 years, urban agriculture will be as normal as the city parks we have today.”
By Senay Boztas
Apr 27, 2016
De Schilde, a brick-and-glass flanked seven-storey building, was built as a television and telephone factory for Philips in the 1950s by the modernist architect Dirk Roosenburg. It has about 12,400 sq m of total floor space, largely abandoned but too solid and expensive to knock down. In the Netherlands, 18% of offices are empty, due to the two last economic crises and cuts in the size of government. Dr Hilde Remøy of Delft University of Technology has predicted office vacancy in the Netherlands will soon reach 25%, the highest in Europe. According to Cushman & Wakefield’s global office forecast 2015-16, the European average will be about 10%.
Modern technology has helped make urban farming a viable prospect. At UrbanFarmers, the shimmery tilapia swim in 28 tanks. Baby fish, farmed in nearby Eindhoven, come in on one side, fed by an automated system; across the room are tanks for the bigger fish, which will be killed by electrical stunning. In another vat of water, bacteria convert waste ammonia from fish excrement into nitrates to fertilise the plants on the roof above. Meanwhile, the plants – which are grown without soil – purify the fish water. This closed system, known as aquaponics, has been used for centuries.
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