18 February 2020
Author: Renske Buisman
PARIS, France: Urban farms are cropping up all over Paris and aim to bring the cultivation of food and flowers back to the city. The farms’ owners call themselves Parisculteurs and their ambitions are big: greening another 100 hectares in the city this year, a third of which will be devoted to urban agriculture.
The Parisculteurs say that demand in cities for locally sourced food and flowers is strong as is the need for urban green spaces.
In many cases, however, the realisation of urban farms is a challenge: the availability of land in the city is limited and expensive, and city dwellers are highly opposed to the use of crop protection products. For urban agriculture, therefore, both innovative and century-old techniques combine to improve yields.
More recently, start-up Neofarm opened its first greenhouse west of Paris, in the village of Saint-Nom-la-Breteche. The miniature farm covers not more than 1,000m2, which is devoted to growing carrots, lettuce and beans. By using the companion planting technique, based on clever planting schemes to deter pests or lure beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewings on their plot, the fledgeling gardeners hope to minimise the use of crop protection products.
While a weeding robot is under development, Neofarm relies on online information to optimise their cultivation techniques. In this way, Neofarm wants to develop a model for micro-farms, to make it possible to produce high-quality organic products on as little land as possible, close to the city. With their model, the start-up also wants to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the farm does not use fossil fuels, and healthy soil can also store CO2.
Another French start-up, Agricool, produces strawberries and also herbs in containers. The start-up uses an entirely closed-loop system allowing Agricool to use 90 per cent less water than conventional growers.
The importance that Parisian consumers attach to locally produced products, therefore, ensures innovation in the chain. Given the trends toward more organic, locally produced products in France, this development is likely to continue over the next few years, here and in other European countries.