Meeting Urban Farmers in Switzerland
Let’s go to Basel to meet Urban Farmers !
I already mentioned on our Facebook page, the impact that the Lufa Farms had on us when we created Les Sourciers and in particular Mohamed Hage’s TEDx.
Today in France urban agriculture is everywhere, but a few years ago it was just a bunch of freaks like us. This video gave me confidence on me and on our project : we were not alone !
So, to me, the Urban Farmers are like the “European Lufa Farms”! They had the guts to start before anyone else does and they worked quite well on their project, it is working, and more importantly to me: it is inspiring thousand of people in Europe and elsewhere.
And on the top of the cake they share great values and are really cool.
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Andreas being very busy with some new projects, we met with Christophe, greenhouse manager in Basel, and little genius of plants and fishes. Nico told me so more than one time on our way back home : «Este chabon la tiene re clara» !
In Basel, the greenhouse works as a showroom, they produce and sell all year round, just like in a regular greenhouse. They also organize guided visits for the public, but that is not all.
It is also a place for tests and experiments : they continuously compare the diferent hydroponic systems, plant varieties, measuring tools and automatisation, etc… The greenhouse is really high-tech, everything is controlled with sensors and all the data is carefully analysed and recompiled. Nothing is left to chance !
They have the ability to adjust the 2 systems (fish and plants) at the same time or separately using different specific minerals in each culture; such as calcium hydroxide for the fish system pH, and chelated iron for the plant system. On the hydroponic side they are using a great software with many growing data that tells the exact composition of nutrients solution required for each type of plant. Weekly they analyse the water and adjust it to the mole until the nutrition is perfect, so the plant develop to their full genetic potential.
It is quite different from our greenhouse organisation in which the water EC and pH are controlled “more or less”. The plants are looking good though; we may have been very lucky. But it is clear that if you want to make tests and measures it is better to have stable data. Also our actual way of growing is not a productive model. In the contrary, they run a productive greenhouse, as the idea is to sell a model with useful production data, which has to be interesting for future clients. It has to be crystal clear !
What I really enjoyed when meeting Urban Farmers is the humility despite all what they have managed to create. They have this way of explaining that there is still so much to discover and they are actually doing many researches to find improvements, permanently. It made me think of Sebastian Figueron’s interview (he is the director of an uruguayan hydroponic company, Verde Agua, since 15 years) when I asked him if he thought that hydroponic culture was the future of agriculture he told me he didn’t think so, no. “That hydroponic culture might be a bridge to the future of agriculture, but that it would probably be very different from anything we know today.”
We also felt that growing local was more than just a business strategy to Urban Farmers, it was obvious for a start, and communicating about the importance of knowing one’s food origin was a mission.
They are currently working on a new project in The Hague: UF De Schilde. A greenhouse is currently being built in the top of a former Philips factory. The production area will be 1900m2 for a total estimated of 45 tons of vegetables and 19 tons of tilapias per year. A very ambitious project but after what we have seen in Basel we definitely believe in them.
And we are very glad that Urban Farmers are the one showing the example in urban agriculture, with fresh produces, riped, healthy and very nutritive.
They totally fit with our values and belief of a modern agriculture, which respects nature and people. We are very happy we got to meet them and that they helped us with our little video project; get people to (re)discovering hydroponic and aquaponic culture all over the world.