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Future Food: Paris shows the way with organic farming on rooftops

Future Food: Paris shows the way with organic farming on rooftops

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Aditya Hore

Ahmedabad: The world’s largest urban farm, set to open in Paris by June-end, is expected to revolutionalize agriculture and make cities less dependent on villages.

It will produce around 1,000 kg of organic products every day.

Based on the top floor of a municipal swimming pool in the French capital’s Marais district, this thriving city farm is at the heart of a potential urban food revolution in Europe.

Opened in 2017 by Agripolis, it is part of a series of City Hall-led projects, called Parisculteurs, which will see nearly 100 hectares of vegetation planted across Paris rooftops by the end of the year. Agripolis alone has 10 farms running or in planning stages around the city.

The farm’s vertical system is a closed- loop, which does not waste any water, nor uses pesticides. In a season, it produces some 20,000-30,000 portions of fruit, salad and vegetables. It has become a blueprint for changing the way how the city eats.

“We don’t throw anything away,” says Pascal Hardy, an agronomist and the founder of Agripolis, who entered the world of urban farming only in 2015 by growing vegetables on the roof of his Parisian apartment, media reports said.

“My principal motivation has always been environmental. Our farms are great for biodiversity and efficiency, and they have a very low carbon footprint.”

Agripolis is also set to unveil a 14,000 sq mt farm atop the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles, an exhibition centre in the south-west of the city.

The project, due to open in April, got delayed in the wake of lockdown in France after outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When it opens in June-end, it will be the largest urban rooftop farm in the world and the largest urban farm of any kind in Europe. With more than 30 different plant species, the Porte de Versailles site will produce around 1,000 kg of goods every day in high season. The first harvest of greens is expected after a month.

Visitors will be able to eat at a 300-seated, covered, on-site restaurant, attend educational tours and even lease small vegetable plots of their own. The all-organic produce, cultivated by around 20 gardeners, will be grown using aeroponic vertical farming methods.

“Our produce will be available across the city in a variety of shops, restaurants and schemes,” Hardy said.

Hardy’s urban farms are expected to be successful. “We’ve had a huge demand for their products, with customers asking specifically for Agripolis produce,” said Jeremy, an assistant at a nearby shop that has been stocking food from the Marais farm for six months.

“We just need to cross the road to get the products,” he said.

For now, Hardy’s main challenge is how to reduce the relatively premium cost of city-grown food, although advances in technology is likely to make it cheaper.

Coupled with low emissions and almost no “food miles”, the few extra cents could be a small price to pay.

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