Traditional farming usually takes place in the countryside and rural areas. That is not the case, however, when looking at the urban gardening – or urban farming – movement, which has become increasingly popular these past few years. We decided to find out some interesting ways of doing urban gardening.
The Danish urban gardening firm TagTomat (or “Roof Tomato”) led by architect and urban farmer Mads Boserup Lauritsen aims to change people’s mindset about farming in general.
In 2011, Mads Boserup Lauritsen came up with the idea to grow vegetables in self-watering plant boxes on the roof of a garbage shed in the backyard of his house in Copenhagen. The phenomenon TagTomat/Roof Tomato, as the founder likes to call it, started when he placed five plant boxes on the roof of his garbage shed. In 2012, Mads Boserup Lauritsen set up his first gardening workshop funded by the local committee in Nørrebro. The funding allowed him to distribute fifty plant boxes to the families participating in the workshop. Since then, Roof Tomato has spread to other backyards, as well as to any available green pockets and even the cracks between the houses in the city of Copenhagen.
“We wanted to raise more awareness of the time it actually takes to grow, let’s say, a cabbage. The goal of Roof Tomato is not to produce a lot of vegetables for consumption purposes, but to create commons in the city, where small projects can make a difference on the larger scale when they are taken together. As an example, we helped some citizens with a ‘sidewalk garden’, which harvests rainwater from the rain gutter; so, of course it is self-watering and furthermore it can take 10 000 litres of rainwater away from the sewers. Maybe from a large-scale viewpoint, it makes little difference, but if every corner had a sidewalk garden, we could maybe avoid or minimize local water flooding in our basements during heavy floods”, states Mads Boserup Lauritsen, who continues:
“In Denmark, we generally live very close to the farmers, so you can say we grow our own vegetables as a hobby, but also often in a social context. And this social context is exactly what TagTomat advises cities, large companies, architectural firms and other stakeholders to adapt to in their projects. The value of a bag of quality carrots may be only $3, but the value of creating a green community is often much more, let’s say more than $30 000. So you can do the maths and see the benefit of what we do.”
TagTomat has a great amount of DIY and Open Source culture injected into the fabric of the company. Through social media and uploading videos on Youtube, Mads Boserup Lauritsen inspires and educates people about green projects that they can do at home. One of his ideas involves a small plant pot that can be installed in a cola bottle that has been cut open. A small wick from the plant pot is connected to a water reservoir at the bottom of the bottle, so that the soil in the plant pot is automatically kept watered. This DIY version has now been converted into a product called ‘KøkkenKassen’ (or ‘The Kitchen Box’), made out of recycled wooden floors and an icebox.
“It is all about changing people’s mindset about recycled products, urban farming and gardening. Gardening takes time, and some people seem to forget that in their busy everyday lives. That is why they should use self-watering homemade containers”, states Mads Boserup Lauritsen, before climbing up to the roof with his daughter and picking tomatoes for dinner.
In the Far East, Singapore is one country that seems to have found a solution to produce more locally grown crops and vegetables. Maybe out of necessity due to the lack of land in Singapore, and the fact the nation previously imported almost 93 per cent of all its fresh produce.
Sky Greens is a Singaporean company that has produced a vertical farming system, which has been installed in the outskirts of Singapore. Using minimal land, water and energy resources, the system provides the community with fresh, locally grown vegetables.
Vertical farming is not by any means a new idea: it can be traced back to the indigenous people of South America and East Asia, who originally used vertically layered growing techniques to produce rice and other crops. The term ‘vertical farming’ was first coined in 1915; however, development of the idea was rather slow, with the concept only coming to successful commercial realisation in the last decade.
In August, it was announced that Sky Greens were one of the five winners of the ‘Danish INDEX: Award 2015’, the world’s biggest design award. The five winners were selected out of a total of 1123 nominations received from 72 countries. Sky Greens Vertical Farming System emerged as winner in the ‘Work’ category.