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Sustainable Food Production in a Smart City

The global population crosses 7.7 billion, increasing pressure on food, water, and energy resources. Most people are living in urban areas, and this poses several challenges; food security will be a severe issue for the future of citizens.   

The way we have been producing food was adequate but not sustainable in the long run. We created large food hubs that distribute food across the globe. Covid and transportation issues have disrupted the international market. The need for local food production is evident. However, droughts and extreme weather make growing produce in an open field difficult. Controlled environment agriculture (CEA) can offer a solution. Can we produce crops in a more personalized manner?  

We'll have to think differently about how to solve this problem. We think about solving problems as we've always done them. A smart city is designed to be efficient, safe, and sustainable. Via sensors and AI the collected information will improve the quality of life. In a smart city, everything is connected: food is produced when needed.

Sustainable food production examples

In a smart city CEA’s are built near the edge of the city, reducing transportation costs and the CO2 footprint. The greenhouse responds to the weather to optimize plant growth, save water and reduce the usage of pesticides. The maximum risk of losing crops is minimized using AI and ‘natural enemy’ bugs. Most consumers are willing to pay more for eating sustainable fruits & vegetables.


Steiner Greenhouse

The greenhouse of the Family Steiner was built to provide the local region with fresh in season vegetables all year round. The greenhouse uses geothermal energy from the village to heat the facility in a CO2-neutral way. Attached to the greenhouse is a packaging facility. This enables the greenhouse to deliver produce based on need of the consumer to the local supermarket within a day or a few hours. Decease and pests are mostly fought with the use of natural enemies. Earthworms are used to improve farm productivity.

Victoria Greenhouse

Australia is a large continent with varying climates; sometimes, it rains or long periods of draughts occur. The greenhouse offers protection from extreme weather. The greenhouse can use the region's infrastructure, but electricity is scarce. An innovative biofuel plant supplies the greenhouse with heat, CO2, and electricity. This plant takes care of the energy needs, using plant rests and bio waste of cattle to generate biofuel and realize a net negative carbon outcome. 

A greenhouse solution: climate change and growing population

Climate change threatens open field agriculture: an increase in droughts, floods, higher incidence of pests and diseases, fires, and more. Production in greenhouses is typically up to 10 times higher than in the open field and uses much less water. Research results from Wageningen University & Research have shown that in highly controlled greenhouses, only use 5 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of tomatoes. In comparison, open field production can be up to 40 liters more per kilogram.  

The time is ripe for more indoor farming in and around our cities. What do you think food production in a city will look like in 2050? 



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