… is the new idea of the Swiss company Urban Farmers. All you need is an empty, flat rooftop of an industrial building, and you are in business – the company delivers all you need for a fully-fledged aquaponic farm. You can buy a ‘kit’ that includes enough material for a commercial-size farm, ranging from greenhouses to retrofitted shipping containers that take the place of offices or kitchen spaces, and even a fire ladder that provides direct access to your roof. Furthermore, they provide all software necessary to keep an overview of what is happening on the farm, making it seemingly straightforward to start growing on a small scale, even for those new in the urban farming business.
The aquaponics model cultivates fish and plants at the same time, using the symbiotic feedback loop that the fish droppings fertilize the plants and the plant roots filter the water for the fish. This makes the model relatively efficient, especially when considering that transportation, refrigeration and waste are minimized. Furthermore, the rooftop model is able to use other sustainability-enhancing methods such as rainwater harvesting, organic waste composting and the use of renewable energies.
In a first field experience in Basel, a 400-square meter farm was able to grow five tons of vegetables in a year and produce nearly 1,800 pounds of fish, all the while saving 90% of the water used in traditional agriculture.
Is urban farming a model for the future? That might be another question for another day, but making the necessary infrastructure available and easily adaptable to the local context, as is the mission of Urban Farmers, is definitely a great step towards testing it out on a larger scale. Plus, doesn’t build-your-own-farm just sound like a great project?