From collective gardens to socialize a neglected neighborhood to connected vertical farms, urban agriculture, which has a myriad of realities in different countries and cities, is in full development, but in search of sustainability and profitability.
Practiced by 800 million people worldwide, “urban food production” must be encouraged by public policies, says the UN Agency for Agriculture and Food (FAO).
In Western countries, urban food production models vary, more or less financialized.
Yves Christol, one of the leaders of the largest French agricultural cooperative In Vivo, discerns at least six different models, after a round of the world only to study the question:
-In the northern European countries, the dominant model recreates indoor climates completely electronically controlled, without pesticides, but without direct soil and without sun either.
– To produce beans in Iceland … –
“This makes Iceland a big producer of green beans,” says Christol, “thanks to the water heating of the basement”.
– In Singapore, urban agriculture, also very high tech, is “political”, intended to ensure the food autonomy of the city-state, whatever the price.
– In Japan, it has developed on repackaging of old electronic plants in vegetable factories, but this model is also very expensive.
– China, for its part has launched urban farms on old soils polluted by heavy metals, it would be too expensive to clean up.
– As for the American model, it is in transition, between the vertical farms of aquapony (system mixing plant culture and fish farming) in New York or Chicago, which are struggling to be profitable, and California overheated, “who risk to be a desert in 15 or 20 years “.
Urban agriculture will fail to feed the cities, and will not be profitable “until the price of vegetables has been multiplied by four” to cover energy costs, Mr. Christol asserts.
– … or strawberries in containers in Paris –
For Guillaume Fourdinier, one of the two founders of the Agricool startup in Paris and Dubai, who produces strawberries all year round in connected merchant marine containers equipped with LEDs, urban agriculture must first be used to fight against “the ecological disaster of transport”.
“Today, with our containers, we are 120 times more productive per square meter than in the ground,” he says, “and we produce in a decentralized way closer to the consumers”. But, it does not give the cost price of its strawberries, sold slightly cheaper than organic strawberries.
– The sixth model, developed by the city of Paris, around the project “Pariculteur”, a proactive and social model, moves the lines, with more than 10 hectares grown in Paris, which should increase to 30 hectares in 2020.
For Swen Deral, organizer of the 48 hours of urban agriculture in several European cities, the urbaculteurs “who fare financially” are those “who do something other than produce”.
“Either they recycle, or they create services around urban agriculture, educational activities, restaurants, or whatever,” he says.
Given the price of land in the city, “the projects most at risk are those that are only productive,” he adds.
Meanwhile, researchers argue that urban agriculture initiatives, in addition to revitalizing and creating “common”, are also a way to combat the effects of global warming, by lowering the temperatures of an environment too much. mineral, or by fighting flood risks, and by reinventing urban planning.
In an article published in the journal MDPI, “gardening the city: managing sustainability and adapting to climate change through urban agriculture”, François Mancebo, researcher at the University of Reims, believes that it should be listed in town planning policies, provided that from the outset they are based on a more participatory elaboration of these policies, involving the inhabitants.