Europe’s largest research center for urban food production has opened in West Flanders, Belgium. Called agrotopiaspace is a giant greenhouse where innovative urban horticulture techniques will be applied.
Vegetables and fruit trees are planted on 6,000 m² – an area intended for cultivation. The space is divided into four climatic zones that allow the cultivation of different species.
With horizontal and vertical food production, the key technique is hydroponics. This system makes it possible to reduce the environmental impact, by making a circular use of water, get more productivity in less space and be better protected against “pests” and diseases.
Apart from the roof, the building itself is 9,500 m² and houses various facilities. One of the ideas was to create an educational path for the public who wants to know the greenhouse.
Agrotopia was built of glass and steel on top of a food cooperative. According to the Inagro research institute, responsible for the project, the space is sufficient to develop, test and demonstrate new technologies in conditions comparable to the real world.
Van Bergen architects Kolpa Architects and META Architectuurbureau, who developed the greenhouse project, say the structure is in “circular symbiosis with the city”. This is because the application of sustainability is also present in the construction of the building.
The building collects rainwater on its roof for plant watering, and irrigation runoff is also treated and reused. The heating in the greenhouse comes from waste heat from a waste incinerator.
Producing food in the city can be the key to food security. Several specialists point out that it is necessary to shorten the distances between production and consumption. In this way, urban community gardens are interesting experiences that need to be supported to be extended and improved.