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High-tech vegetables from the city: produce food where it is consumed

High-tech vegetables from the city: produce food where it is consumed


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Study on the agricultural use of urban areas

The world population is growing steadily and is contracting more and more in huge metropolises. In contrast, acreage for food and resources is becoming increasingly scarce. So-called urban farming, i.e. the use of inner-city areas for growing food, is intended to set a trend against this development. The possibilities offered by urban farming were recently examined in a study by the Fraunhofer Institute.

Overpopulation, hunger, deforestation, lack of space for growing areas, over-fertilization, erosion, long transport routes - a solution for all these problems must be found in the future. The agricultural use of inner-city areas could be a step in this direction. In a study, the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering and Organization examined cultivation methods and technologies in order to bring food and resource production back to where it is needed. The study results can be viewed on the institute's website.

Are our options exhausted?

What potential does food and algae production have in cities? This is the question that Fraunhofer researchers dealt with in the current study. The possibilities of intensive cultivation with the massive use of chemicals are slowly being exhausted. Sustainable security of urban food and resource supplies is increasingly a global problem. Urban farming could be an approach to solving these problems. The scientists demonstrate the potential of inner-city agriculture for municipalities and companies and research urban cultivation technologies for food and microalgae.

Fresh high-tech vegetables from the city

In a first pilot project, the Fraunhofer scientists are working on innovative cultivation methods and technologies. Research focuses on growing plants indoors and cultivating microalgae. The new urban agriculture could benefit from the latest technologies in the fields of artificial lighting, sensors and automation processes. Renewable energies could secure the electricity supply and the use of land and pesticides could be reduced to a minimum.

Social and financial aspects

The Fraunhofer team also addresses the economic factors. The experts provide initial overviews of investment and operating costs and show the possibilities for creating new jobs and further training.

Japan and Singapore as pioneers

As the scientists report, urban agriculture will be the first to take place in highly urbanized countries with limited surrounding agricultural areas such as Japan and Singapore. It is also a good alternative for countries with heavy air pollution and high soil depletion.

The world in 2050

According to calculations by the institute, more than 66 percent of the world's population, i.e. more than 6 billion people, will live in cities in 2050. Until then, the options for feeding everyone would be even more limited than they are today. "Urban agriculture and closed resource cycles are not short-term phenomena - in this respect, holistic, locally adapted and sustainable system solutions are important," summarize the Fraunhofer researchers in a press release on the study results.

More research needed

According to the institute, urban farming can be a solution for the future. However, more research, resources, investments, developments and training of specialist staff in this area are currently needed to meet the challenge appropriately. (vb)

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