Expect to See Lots of Rooftop Farms in Cities

The Lempert Report
September 21, 2020

Once again Paris leads the way in food.

In Paris, urban farmers are trying a soil-free approach to agriculture that uses less space and fewer resources it is actually the world’s largest urban rooftop farm and has started to bear fruit. Strawberries: small, intensely flavored and resplendently red.

They sprout abundantly from cream-colored plastic hollow columns in fact I witnessed the beta version at Seeds & Chips in Milan over 3 years ago.  This farm is named Nature Urbaine which also includes identical vertical columns with row upon row of lettuces, basil, sage and peppermint. The there are the narrow, horizontal trays packed not with soil but with coconut fiber where heirloom and cherry tomatoes, shiny aubergines and brightly colored chards are grown.

 Pascal Hardy an engineer and sustainable development consultant, began experimenting with vertical farming and aeroponic growing towers those soil-free plastic columns– on his Paris apartment block roof five years ago.

“It is,” he says, “a clean, productive and sustainable model of agriculture that can in time make a real contribution to the resilience – social, economic and also environmental – of the kind of big cities where most of humanity now lives.”

This rooftop farm is 3.5 acres  with a team of young urban farmers who tend it, have picked in one day pick 3,000 lettuces and 150 packs of strawberries. When the remaining two-thirds of the vast rooftop of Paris Expo’s Pavillon are in production, 20 staff will harvest up to 2,200 pounds of up to 35 different varieties of fruit and vegetables, every day.

Hardy says that “I don’t much like the fact, either, that [produce typically has]  travelled an average of 2,000 refrigerated kilometres to my plate, that their quality is so poor, because the varieties are selected for their capacity to withstand that journey, or that 80% of the price I pay goes to wholesalers and transport companies, not the producers.”

Once again Paris leads the way in food. We should follow.