On the first day, the #UASUMMIT addressed politics and innovative approaches. Check our wrap up here.

The first speaker is Anders Modig, from Plantagon Global marketing and Sustainability Department. During his speech, he mentioned that we should treat our future not as an enemy, as people usually do when they do not know something. What’s needed to change the situation is political will, behavior changes, encompassed in a generic shift about how we treat nature.

Anders Modig, Plantagon, Global marketing and sustainability


Anders Modig: It could be a dome but that is more for the tropical areas, the buildings for these areas in Scandinavia are more like normal high houses, maybe leaning a bit.

CITIES: Do you think that this development, when, if, it happens will have a positive impact on the urban environment and why?

Anders Modig: Yes, I think, we need to use the areas much better than we do today, we need to minimize energy use and transport, water and nutrients etc.

CITIES:  Are you taking into consideration to implement this technology in existing buildings?

Anders Modig: Yes, I think that will be most common in the further probably, this is a very important part of the transformative solutions, we need to double our food production in 250 and its only 37 years until then so we need to hurry up.

CITIES: About food production, when you think about food there is a lot of attention to the production, but you mentioned transport: are you thinking of that at the same time or is it something that comes afterwards?

Anders Modig: At the same time, sort of, since we will be selling all the vegetables in the greenhouse on the same spot. You may need to transport it a few kilometers, but the aim is to reduce the transport through the production of food in green houses within the city.

CITIES: Final statement? What will you speak about?

I will be introducing the transformation solution area, I will emphasize that we are using to much of the farmland 80% and 30% of the energy goes to food production in the world, which is to much, and we really need to think about the energy.

After Andrea, the summit welcomed several practitioners in the UA world. Dr He Jie, from Singapore, Prof. Luo Yongqi from Shanghai, Prof. Ulf Ranhagen from Stockholm, Dr. Dickson Despoimmer from New York City and Mr Shrikant Ramakrishnan from Dubai. They all sat down and presented the innovative approaches that their cities are developing.


Prof. Luo Yongqi from Shanghai underlines that when we talk about sustainability, business has to be always taken into consideration. When it comes to UA, the first step is to understand the countryside, and then promote innovation centers in the city.

Dr. Dickson Despoimmer mentiones that building green houses on tops of buildings is the current new business model in NYC. He gives Gotham Greens  and Bright Farms  as examples. Besides those innovative ways of producing food in urban environments, Dickson mentioned that the biggest challenge is that agriculture uses 70% of water. In NYC, 8 million people use a million gallons every day. Recycling the grey water is not only the most important aspect, but also a necessary action to be taken. Nature doesn’t waste anything. Dickson also underlines that this summit, we are creating the new literacy for the UA discipline.

Ulf Ranhagen mentioned that in Stockholm there are not implemented projects, yet, however, small-scale activities are actually taking place. The future Royal Seaport is preparing itself to welcome and integrate solutions of this kind. Stockholm is on a planning stage, on an open area for innovation and transformation. Resource efficiency is very important, and the planning system supports strategic long term thinking. What seems important for Ulf is to promote local initiatives in existing areas, enhancing participatory approaches for redevelopment.

Dr He Jie underlined that Singapore is a small country, with limited land. They used to import 90% of food, however, things are changing: they developed the first vertical farm in Signapore, commercialized in 2012 (for references check here and here  

Shrikant Ramakrishnan from Dubai is happy to underline that urban agriculture development moved towards the private arena. The Real Estate industry within the city is taking the lead. The growing population is in need of green solutions, and it seems that the green revolution is about to happen since there is the capital and the intention.

Prof Beatrix Alsan opens her K-note speech bringing a really practical perspective. Urban green is a trend, and this sometimes implies a lot of simplification. Producing food is not about having a romantic garden on the roof. It’s about securing a continuous flow of nutrients to the city. Being totally in accordance with Beatrix’ approach, we sent her some questions

CITIES- Who are you and why were you invited to the Summit?

Beatrix Alsan: I am chair professor in horticulture at SLU, Alnarp and in phytology at Université Laval, Québec, Canada. Since 1992 I have been involved into the development of environmentally sound cropping systems, with emphasis on greenhouse production systems. Furthermore I am the vice-chair of the EU-action “Biogreenhouses” and also the leader of the recently approved Formas-project on urban farming in African cities. The reason why I was invited as a speaker at the summit is that I am one of the leading scientists in soilless production systems – which display one of the  most efficient ways with respect to use of space and water for production of vegetables, herbs and fruit as well as berries.

In her speech, Beatrix makes an overview of the relationship in between urban development and city development. Land suitable for horticulture has been taken for housing, industry and infrastructures. One solution could be to use water efficiently and grow without soil. On this account, the most environmentally aware solution is to use closed cropping systems.

Beatrix concludes by raising an important issue: traditional farming is becoming increasingly more problematic and this is paradox since we are increasing the investment on this problematic market. The final take is that there is a need a paradigm shift, because by definition, cities are conquered by the food systems, which shapes infrastructures and connecting mechanisms. Technology is not the difficult aspect; the most difficult thing is to change the mindset. Involvement and make people more understanding is considered to be the real challenge.

CITIES – In your presentation, you made a really clear and informative overview of the techniques and the solutions that are being taken into consideration to increase food production in cities. What made us really interested is that you mentioned that the real solutions can be found in the horticultural sector. What is, in your opinion, the most important aspect that a city planner should take into consideration?

Beatrix Alsan : I would like to highlight several aspects that city planners need to take into account:

1)    The crop production system – incl. the crops – needs to be in focus for city planners (it is not about reusing grey water, it is not about reusing urban wastes or about improving inhabitants’ mood, or integration of different groups or reducing crime rate).  Establishment of urban greenhouses for example must lead to produce that the market wants to buy, both consumers and wholesalers.

2)      Although the market in urban areas is nearby, do not forget that facilities for storage (refridgeration, processing) will be needed.

3)      If city planners want to make a change regarding urban food production, infrastructure (access of potential customers, logistics) needs to be considered.

4)      New sources for pollution, such as light pollution, need to be considered (they may be resolved in a longer run, but right now these solutions still are not commercially available or too expensive).

5)      Last but probably most importantly, discuss with people with expert knowledge in the different areas of importance for creating a platform for urban food production (and urban horticulture). There are no quick-fixes.

Transformations are happening in our current urban environments, none of the speakers avoided to tell the story about the fact that the we entered the “urban era”: where the global urban population is bigger then the rural one. Cities are adapting, while some people are shifting their values towards sustainable lifestyles, others are still facing urbanization challenges such as infrastructural adaptation and functional organization. Water, Food and Shelter are the most important needs that the urban inhabitant has, will cities manage to survive this challenging times? Of course, the question is more about how? In the second day of the #UASUMMIT, poltics, market and innovation issues are address, check our other posts to meet the spekers and get updated about the contents.



Created on 30 January 2013

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