Farm produce

Urban farms: hipster trend or a future source of food for our cities?

When we picture a typical inner city area it’s likely that, for many, the image of a concrete jungle dominates and that micro farms are not currently part of the picture. But is this something that is set to change?

Due to growing consumer demand for sustainably sourced foods, coupled with a rising global population and threats to agricultural land from climate change, society is waking up to the idea of alternative food-growing methods and locations.

Hydroponics, a method of growing plants without soil, was previously considered an intensive farming method. However, in recent years, it has become more viable due to improved renewable and LED technologies. Similarly, aquaponics, a system in which waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic creatures supplies the nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, is a method now utilised by several emerging urban farming companies. GrowUp Urban Farms, Infarm and Urban Farmers are just a few companies in Europe who have employed such ideas.

It’s true to say that locating farms within our urban spaces is not currently commonplace. However, the greening of our cities over the coming decades is inevitable due to the increasingly understood benefits of local air quality, human wellbeing and localised food production. Nevertheless, despite the growing trend for urban farming, it is unlikely that we will see the majority of food required by the city come from the city itself any time soon.

Providing space or future capability for an element of urban farming should not be ignored when considering the construction of a new property, a refurbishment or community space. This particularly applies if the future occupants will require a regular fresh food source, such as in the case of schools, restaurants and hospitals, for example. The urban farming concept also fits well for developments looking to integrate with an existing local community or establish a strong sense of place and identity.  

We have explored the possibility of an urban farm on behalf of clients at some of the shopping centres Savills manages. And while we’re yet to install one, the feedback tends to be a consensus that the initiative would be both economically viable, as often a landlord will save the empty rate and service charge contribution costs, and play a positive role in corporate social responsibility. Watch this space.

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