After high-profile European cities like London, Paris, Monaco, now Tier 2 cities in the EU also move forward with hyper-local food production. Will it become a global trend?
At the growing rate of urbanization, growing smartphone penetration, access to faster (5G) and cheaper internet data streams are certainly revolutionizing how a city organizes itself. Combining with the latest vertical, hydroponic, controller environment agriculture – CEA - trends and technologies, cities can now become self-sustainable in terms of food production.
“Like solar panels decentralized energy production, professional urban farm installations have the potential to decentralized food supply” - an analogy by Marcell Kovacs, co-founder at Maxellco, an innovation agency.
As a result of the pandemic, citizens spent most of their time at home and developed an appeal for home-grown greens and vegetables. Urban farming is emerging from a fun pastime activity to a more strategic food supply to sell off excess produce. Platforms are an effective way to coordinate a certain group of people (such as citizens) with a certain set of actions (such as timing, buying, selling).
“Digital is a key enabling factor to transform the vision into a reality” - says Marcell. “We support these fundamental changes with digital assets, such as platforms and sophisticated algorithms to enable the growers and operators to maintain quality, harmonize production and distribution.”
Private, professional ventures often struggle to bring the production cost on par with market prices. Multiple factors affect the business model, resulting in high-quality, premium products, serving a rather sophisticated high-end consumer exclusively.
Cities are ideally positioned to take full advantage of urban/vertical farming dynamics controlling all aspects of the value chain: from lease agreements to electricity and gas prices to employment and produce allocation. The model could perfectly integrate into existing employment or food programs available at municipalities.
The trend is here to stay
“There is a growing trend in different urban CEA projects, where some focus on the platform, others on the installations in the B2B and B2C space. A successful project requires operational excellence and guarantee to meet HACCP regulations, and food safety guidelines” – says Marcell.
To reach the mass-urban population that is accessible, in dense residential areas, a careful selection of the right location is fundamental to success. Ideally central location, with existing utilities and with a minimal need of refurbishment, underutilized real-estate assets could be ideal for indoor farming installations.
In line with the EU’s Farm-to-Fork priorities, cutting the distance between the two end-points is perfectly possible with smart agriculture. Cities, therefore, play a prominent role in NetZero Supply chains, allowing for a “Hyper-Local”, decentralized food production in the mid-term.
“We see that the trends perfectly fit into the EU’s green agenda, and ample funding opportunities will support the realization of these projects in the form of grants or even green bonds” - adds Marcell.