Urban indoor agriculture the answer to an over populated and hungry world?

Any Smart City vision is incomplete without smart food. The current world population of 7.3 billion is projected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050. Of that population 7.7 billion (80 percent) are expected to live in cities. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also estimates that farmers will have to produce 70 per cent more food by 2050 to meet the needs of these 9.7 billion. Notwithstanding the fact that the quantity of food produced isn’t a safeguard against world hunger (we currently produce enough food to feed the world’s population, but 795 million people still go hungry due to poverty), there is a pressing need to produce more food, with greater efficiency, and a lower carbon footprint.

A potential answer to the problem of food production is urban indoor agriculture, the growing of crops in a building within or near a city, using artificial light to stimulate photosynthesis. The controlled system helps growers reduce or eliminate pesticides and other chemicals, and its proximity to the end consumer ensures fresher produce with greatly reduced food miles. The quality of the solution is driven by how lighting, climate control, software controls, sensors and logistics work together.

Kate Hofman and Tom Webster founded Grow Up Urban Farms in 2013 as London’s first commercial urban farm. Housed inside an industrial warehouse, the farm combines aquaculture (fish farming), with hydroponics, the practice of growing plants in a nutrient solution with no soil. This is a symbiotic system with one product, the fish, providing fertilizer for the second product, the plants.

With a year-round growing season, the 6,000 sq. foot urban farm produces 20,000 kg of salad greens grown in vertically stacked trays under Philips LED lighting. Researchers at Philips GrowWise Center have developed precise ‘growth recipes’ for each product. Just like a cooking recipe, a growth recipe includes an ingredients list and a method, and Philips provides extensive support in both areas to ensure the end result meets the customers’ exact needs.




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