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Urban agriculture Growing food on a rooftop
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Gardening & Agriculture Gardening & Agriculture Vegetables

Six floors and a roof box full of urban agriculture

The New Farm in The Hague (Netherlands) opens its doors in May 2018. Then the renovation of the six-storey Philips building on the Televisiestraat (televisionstreet) in The Hague has been completed. The New Farm is an international hub for inner-city food production and food awareness.
Greenhouse on top of building
Residents of the first hour, after Philips and then the municipality of The Hague rejected the building, is Urban Farmers. Since 2016, this company has its own city greenhouse on the roof of the building, where urban vegetables such as courgettes, peppers, tomatoes and aubergines are grown. On the sixth floor, the Urban Farmers apply their knowledge in a fish farm (aquaponics), where the manure that is released from the fish is reused in the city greenhouse. Other companies that have established themselves in The New Farm are Haagse Zwam, Rebel Urban Farms and Uptown Greens, Horticoop & Leafy Green Machine and the first start-ups. The Kookfabriek has been a tenant of the building for 20 years, but fits well with the concept.

Pioneering role

The experiences with Urban Farmers were apparently good, also for the city of The Hague, because from here came the idea to fill the entire building with companies and institutions that have a relationship with urban agriculture. At the beginning of 2016, the business plan for the complete building was submitted to the municipality of The Hague, which in June 2016 gave the green light for the start of The New Farm. Now the building is ready to take a leading role nationally and internationally in the field of vertical and urban farming.

Knowledge center
Man standing between tomatoplants
Eveline Braam is director of The New Farm. She talks about the ambitions: "We want to be a center for food awareness in the urban environment. We are a center for city dwellers, but also a center of innovation, where companies and institutions link their knowledge. The diversity is great. There will be a knowledge center and a livinlab, and one floor is reserved for a 9-meter high LED farm, where year-round vegetables  and herbs are grown without sunlight, without pesticides. On the fourth floor there is room for new companies that actually put their vertical farming ideas into practice. For example, we have a company that grows oyster mushrooms, Haagse Zwam. But we also have a company that experiments with slats, LED lighting and climate control. This company has a Leafy Green Machine, a complete LED farm in a sea container, with a weekly harvest of 80 kilograms of lettuce. The first floor is equipped for start-ups. The interaction (synergy) between new and existing companies is very inspiring. And of course there is room for a restaurant and cooking studio 'De Kookfabriek', where we serve our vegetables, so that people can actually taste what is possible with urban farming. "

Smart cities
Blue watertanks Aquaponics

Fish farm (aquaponics)

Braam sees it as the job of The New Farm to become an innovation and knowledge center. "For the companies that are in this building it is important that they sell products, but otherwise we are still for a knowledge and innovation center. There is a lot of interest at national and international level for urban farming. Of course we have a lot of knowledge about the production of vegetables in ‘the Westland’ (agricultural area in the Netherlands). We use this knowledge ", says Braam, who expects food production in relation to energy consumption and available resources to be a major issue in the coming years. "For example, how do you produce high-quality food with efficient use of natural resources? But also: How do you integrate renewable energy in this process and how do you reduce the environmental impact as a result of the logistics processes? In addition, there is the question of how we fit sensors and big data as a whole. These challenges also have strong common ground with the concept of the smart city. How do you integrate urban farming in an urban fabric? In The New Farm we look for new revenue models for urban agriculture, which in turn lead to new models for real estate and financing. And undoubtedly new regulations will emerge from all that. "

Awareness
Tomato plants on white plastic
But in addition to research into the above issues, there is also an important task for The New Farm in terms of awareness among city dwellers. Braam: "We invite consumers to come in, but also for example to come and eat in the restaurant. School classes can see how vegetables really grow during excursions and learn how important it is to eat fresh vegetables and protein-rich meat substitutes. We are working on awareness. And by that I do not mean that everyone has to put a greenhouse on the roof, but for example the construction of city gardens in a neighborhood. We see sufficient possibilities on vacant pieces of land. Such projects are also good for social cohesion in the neighborhood. "

Author: Gerrit Tenkink

Photos: The New Farm

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