Across the globe, innovators are working to make fresh, locally grown food more accessible to city dwellers via urban farming.
In Paris, where consumers pay a premium for fresh everything, the concept of urban farming might lead locals to turn up their nose. Agricool, a French startup, is hoping to dot the country’s landscape with shipping containers that are retrofitted to grow plump, juicy strawberries. What separates this startup from others in the urban farming space is the care it takes in developing custom LED grow lights and precise temperature control. With a new round of startup capital, Agrciool is moving from early stage to production mode.
The short-term plan for Agricool, explains co-founder Guillaume Fourdinier, is to have five custom containers in the Paris area selling strawberries, “Our mission is global and we have to go where fruit and vegetable prices are “an anomaly”. In [places such as] New York, in the Emirates, and in Asia, you cannot find strawberries of good quality at reasonable prices,” Fourdinier told French magazine Les Echos. Once the Paris rollout is successful, the company plans to outsource manufacturing of its container gardens and sell the units globally.
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The fledging company’s roots began in a small apartment in Paris. As Fourninier wrote in Medium:
We were disgusted with the strawberries we could buy in the city. So (co-founder) Gonzague (Gru) and I (both sons of farmers) decided to build a farming system in our apartment. A few weeks later (and really, against all of our expectations) we had 2 strawberries waiting for us. And even more surprisingly, they tasted delicious and sweet!
We were shocked. How did our little experiment, with no preparation, no science, give us strawberries? Ok, only two, but still, real and delicious strawberries! Why does the rest of the world say it’s impossible to grow fruits and vegetables without pesticide in cities? Fear? Ignorance? Laziness?
Whatever, those two strawberries gave us the magic to keep going.
We wanted more. Much more.
And so Agricool warn born.
Agricool is but one of several urban farms operating outside the U.S., each deploying a different market approach.
In Berlin, InFarm is working with wholesale grocer Metro on operating a vertical farm in one of its supermarkets. Twice a week is harvest time and customers can buy fresh basil grown in this 10-foot-high tech-driven agricultural marvel.
In China, Alesca Life is developing turkey hydroponic container farms which will aid with the country’s lack of arable land.
In Singapore, Panasonic developed an indoor farm that produced leafy greens which were sold to local grocers and restaurants. From its inception in 2014, the 2,670-square-foot farm yielded 3.6 tons of produce per year. With its success, both the size of the farm and its output have nearly quadrupled.
Clean Air Nurseries in South Africa has patented what it calls a “closed-loop water system” called EGGS to grow greens indoors in a short time frame with less water. EGGS is a computer-driven technology that monitors the recycled water as it flows through a series of glasss tubes, while using a hybrid of hydroponics, aquaponics and aeroponics techniques.
No matter what the approach, it’s clear urban farming is beginning to work its way into dense city landscapes as a way to bring fresher food closer to point of consumption.
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