How do we keep cities livable? - World Horti Center

The ∑-Grow Inside panel wondered: How do we keep cities livable?

The fifth ∑-Grow Inside webinar on Tuesday 27 June focused on food-producing circular cities.

The fifth ∑-Grow Inside webinar on Tuesday 27 June focused on food-producing circular cities. Worldwide the migration to cities is enormous. The UN predicts that by 2050 three-quarters of the world’s population will live in cities. How do these cities remain livable and how are the citizens provided with food? A professional panel of four dived into this topic and came to the conclusion that the Lego bricks are available, but each city or region requires its own build structure.

Every region is different
The panel included Thera Rohling, program director of Sustainable Urban Delta. Rohling is currently working with a consortium on a master plan for Singapore. The question is which food system makes Singapore less dependent on food import and provides its inhabitants with sufficient healthy food. This calls for a sustainable and productive system of the highest level, according to Rohling. “But”, she points out, “every region is different. So each region has a different food system. For example, creating jobs can be important for one region, while for the another it’s more relevant that local farmers start producing more efficiently.” Panel member Desh Ramnath agrees. He is mainly active in India for Dutch Greenhouse Delta. Ramnath: “It feels like we’re looking for a one size fits all solution, but there isn’t one. With every city you have to think again and decide whether the adjustments you make are more sustainable and adaptive than the current situation.”

City as an entity
Architect Jago van Bergen of Van Bergen Kolpa sees (mega)cities as entities that should play a role in the food strategy. Now this strategy is often a national policy. Van Bergen: “The city council is responsible for the well-being of its citizens. Greening of the city can make an important contribution to this. To cool down the city, for example.” With prestige buildings such as Agrotopia in Roeselare, Belgium, Van Bergen shows that it is possible to combine different functions in one building: producing food, working, living, learning and meeting each other. “What we still have to find out is what the added value is of producing food in the city,” says van Bergen.

System approach
It is clear that developing food-producing circular cities require a lot of collaboration and not just technological solutions. Jolanda Heistek, director of Greenport West-Holland, emphasizes that we have to tackle it as a system approach. “The way we have organized it in the province of South Holland with a complete ecosystem”, she says, “is a good example of how it can work”. Rohling: “However, not every city has the Westland as a neighbour. Some regions don't even have access to fresh food. For these regions it is really important that they start producing their own food again.”

Lego bricks
The panel agrees it’s a challenging puzzle. Political systems, local diets, the availability of water, energy, labour, climate and space all play a role. As well as the logistical challenges and the prevention of waste. The panel sees it as a pile of Lego bricks. All bricks are available and every city or region requires its own building. The Dutch horticultural cluster can help build this structure. Not only with high-tech solutions, but with the development of tailor-made food systems as well.

Next ∑-Grow Inside
The ∑-Grow Inside series continues this October, with the sixth seminar on October 3, 2023. The topic for this edition will be communicated in the coming months. The ∑-Grow Inside series is part of the ∑-Grow pavilion in World Horti Center and is organized in close cooperation with the community Indoor Farming NL and supported by GreenTech, FarmTech Society and Greenport West-Holland.

You can already subscribe for ∑-Grow Inside on October 3.