France: Vertical farms struggle to put down roots in agricultural sector

Michèle Lori, 86, never misses the weekly farmers market on Wednesdays in the Cité Maraîchère in Romainville outside Paris. "I've lived at the bottom of the street in the Marcel-Cachin housing estate for 60 years. I was really looking forward to the opening of this place. I even have a trowel with the name of the Cité Maraîchère," said the dynamic octogenarian.

Since opening in the summer of 2021, the Romainville Market Garden City is a hybrid public place that combines a horticultural greenhouse, whose products are sold at prices that vary according to customers' household allowance (sometimes a discount of as much as 75%), an awareness-building space, a job-integration workshop, and a café. The space's innovative character is not only due to the many things it is used for, but also to its design: Vegetables grow under a large glass roof, like in a greenhouse, but on several levels, up to six stories high in two modern towers.

"More than a production site, it's a place of observation and life, in the town's political district," said Yuna Conan, the director of the Cité. The site employs 15 people on a social integration program along with supervisors and has distributed 240 membership cards to the city's residents, a third of which correspond to products at the lowest price.

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