The social impact of urban agriculture goes much further than producing food within cities. Sarah Msika, co-founder of Cultivate and Plantation Paris explains how urban farming also creates biodiversity, community, and low carbon produce for city dwellers.
Plantation Paris is a rooftop urban farm in the 18th arrondisssement of Paris. The farm produces 70 different varieties of vegetables and herbs supplying locals, supermarkets and fine dining restaurants in Paris. “When we are building an urban farm, we know that we won't be able to sustain the whole city. The aim of an urban farm is to address a niche, to grow good quality produce” says Sarah.
Plantation Paris prioritises growing herbs and microgreens as they usually come from distant parts of Europe, and lose the most vitamins and nutrients through travel. By producing them in a local urban farm, Plantation Paris is helping reduce transport related emissions and provide fresher produce to the community. “It’s very interesting to grow this kind of produce within cities because it's harvested the same day as it's delivered, says Sarah.”
When it comes to the ideal place to build an urban farm, Sarah recommends large-scale rooftops. This is because the farm can be in the centre of the city close to people, up high with less particulate matter than would be on the ground, and has the capacity for a permaculture garden and greenhouses to be installed. Plantation Paris uses the heat from the data centre in the building below to heat its greenhouses. This helps provide a consistent temperature which is essential to the farm’s success. “If you want to have regular customers and a business model, you need to produce all year long” says Sarah.
Increasing biodiversity is another benefit to urban farming, bringing more wildlife into the city. When Plantation Paris started, there weren’t any bees in the local area – now there are more than 20 different varieties. “All the bees, all the butterflies, now we have a lot of worms also, which means that the soil is very healthy. We also have a falcon that you usually never see within cities,” says Sarah.
Creating community has also been important to the Plantation Paris team. There’s a public area that sits alongside the gardens and greenhouses which enables people to learn where their food comes from as well as enjoy the benefits of nature. “People can witness the fact that we are growing food within cities, and they can buy their products the same day as it was harvested.”
In addition to people purchasing products on site, Plantation Paris has tried to minimise its carbon footprint for deliveries. “We are using very low carbon logistics because we are delivering the baskets of vegetables with bicycle within the city. We're trying to have the lowest carbon footprint in all the process for creating produce” Sarah concludes.
"The aim of an urban farm is to address a niche, to grow a good quality produce"