Monday, July 11, 2011

have the swiss been talking to will allen?


Video - Growing Power movement redux.

swissinfo | As people are recognising the need for more sustainably grown produce, new ideas about agriculture are taking shape.

Swiss entrepreneurs Urban Farmers are pushing the concept of local production and have come up with a pioneering solution to many of the problems of conventional farming methods.

Urban Farmers attended the International Federation of Landscape Architects' World Congress at the end of June. The event drew around 850 participants from around the world to Zurich's Kongresshaus to discuss issues including the integration of agriculture into an urban environment.

Using an almost closed-loop aquaponics system – that combines raising aquatic animals with cultivating plants in water – to produce fish, vegetables and herbs, the firm has developed one of the most ecologically friendly ways to eat. They believe the technology can soon be commercialised.

Top retailers Migros and Coop have expressed an interest in the company’s plans and the firm has been awarded a prize by environmental organisation, WWF Switzerland.

The Swiss Farmers Association said it approved of the idea as a complement to traditional farming, but that it was hard to know how workable it was.

"The concept of urban farming sounds like a good idea to us. Actually, it is a form of Suisse agriculture and our goals in miniature: Produce locally, ecologically food for the local population and pay attention that the circulation of nutrients is closed," spokeswoman Sandra Helfenstein told swissinfo.ch.

"Unfortunately, we cannot judge the potential and the viability of a production like this in the city. Are there enough suitable places and are the consumers interested to buy this product for a higher price?"

Rooftop boxes

With acquaponics there is no waste created, no need for soil or pesticides, and it is all contained in a box designed to be set up on the rooftops of urban buildings.

No transportation is required, thereby cutting out oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

WWF Switzerland sees one advantage as being that no land needs to be cultivated.

“If you can use a surface that is not otherwise being used, it’s worth a try,” spokesman Philip Gehri told Swiss public radio DRS. “It doesn’t mean though that we think cities can provide for all their food needs this way.”

The Urban Farmers box contains vegetables grown in a glasshouse on top of a tank of fish, which provide nutrients for the plants through their waste as it is taken up with the water through the roots of the plants.

"The beauty of this natural system is that it's a symbiosis of fish and plants which lives on its own," Urban Farmers CEO Roman Gaus told swissinfo.ch.

"The main reason for doing this is ecological," added Gaus.

"We think urban agriculture has a future because the current conventional agriculture is at its peak, with issues such as E-coli, CO2 and so on.”