Urban farming poised to revolutionise agri-food production, says Professor Dickson Despommier and leaders in this market sector
Other innovators who are embracing vertical and urban farming enthusiastically are equally ambitious, but their vision of how far the change will go and its relationship to traditional methods varies considerably. Marco Tidona, Managing Director of aponix.eu, based in Heidelberg, Germany (exhibiting in the Vertical Farm Zone at GFIA Europe 2017 in the Netherlands), says, ’Urban farming will not replace but will complement, the conventional methods of growing our food which will need to become more sustainable.’ He believes urban production would become an element within a circular economy in the urban area. It would reduce waste and traffic for distribution and have positive social and nutritional effects. Like Professor Despommier and Mr Gordon-Smith, Mr Tidona believes this will have a positive effect on the fallout from transporting and shipping produce. Food miles would be reduced and commuters collect produce as they pass distribution hubs – perhaps set up inside train stations – so distribution in urban areas would become a part of day-to-day movement in the city ecosystem.
Mr Tidona is the designer and engineer behind Aponix Barrel, a unique system for use in vertical agriculture, which epitomises the kind of exciting innovative concepts that surround this emerging sector of agricultural technology. He explains that the barrel is used as a growing device in an existing nutrient cycle, either hydroponic, using liquid mineral fertilizer, or aquaponics, using fish organic fertilizer.
The aponix barrels are especially suited to growing herbs and lettuces in high density urban farming situations. The parts fit together like a Lego set and provide a means to assemble the barrel and do away with the need for complicated rack-structures. After harvesting, the ring segments can be easily cleaned and immediately replanted. Reflecting on the role of innovators like himself, Mr Tidona points to the nature of urban organic agriculture, an heterogeneous area of business with the challenges faced differing between sites.