How do you feed a city without hurting the planet? Brussels has an answer
What do think of when you think of a farm? Rolling green countryside? Fields of wheat?
Well, if you joined us here at the WoW! office in Brussels, we could show you a farm from our window. But it’s not in the country. You can see houses and offices, churches, the railway station. And then a farm.
A farm right in the heart of a big city. It sits on a roof – the roof of the main food market.
Right now, the farm is having a bumper crop of tomatoes.
Fish about town
I bet you can’t guess what other tasty food this farm produces. What do you reckon?
Yes, the farm sells fresh fish. But, you ask, isn’t it easier to catch them in the sea? Isn’t it crazy to keep them in water tanks on the roof?
Well, Steven, who set up this farm a few years ago, doesn’t think so.
Can you think why it makes sense? Think about where this roof is.
On the food market!
Less truck, less fridge
Sure, you can catch fish in the sea. But most people who eat it, live far from the sea.
Steven’s fish comes fresh to our plates right here in Brussels. His bass or trout don’t need to be kept fresh for days, even weeks, in fridges or to be driven hundreds of kilometres from the seaside in trucks.
That makes Steven’s fish good for the planet – because fridges and trucks add to global warming.
Solutions, not problems
Now, Steven didn’t start out as a farmer. He’s an architect. He has worked all over the world, designing buildings and towns.
But since he was young, he tells WoW! News, he was always “interested in seeing solutions rather than problems” and wanted to change the world like his grand-dad, an engineer who helped build the Atomium – the most famous building in Brussels.
Now Steven wants to find a solution for this: More and more people live in bigger and bigger cities. That causes problems. It’s not just the trucks and fridges.
The farms that feed the growing cities can damage the environment – for example, by using chemicals to increase the amount of food but which also pollute rivers and the sea or which harm bees and other insects.
Farming in circles
Steven says, however, that we should not see the city as a problem but as a solution.
In Brussels, his farm produces no global-warming carbon and uses no chemical fertilisers or pesticides.
It works like this:
In the market, there are fridges to keep food fresh. To do that, they throw out heat.
Steven’s farm takes that free heat from the market and uses it to warm greenhouses on the roof. That way, he can grow tomatoes, which usually come from warmer countries far away.
Poo from the fish goes into helping the tomatoes grow. And Steven doesn’t use chemicals to kill pests – he’s got in insects to eat up bugs that damage his plants! Not to mention the bumble bees he’s hired to make sure pollen gets spread around and his tomatoes grow well.
The result? Brussels fish and Brussels tomatoes!
A cool idea
Steven’s “circular” system, to grab heat from fridges, poo from fish, and natural pest control by insects, helps feed the city and is kind to the planet. The farm on the roof even helps keep the market cool in summer and warm in winter!
It’s a great idea, and Steven has plans for more farms – in Lille, Paris and Milan.
Do you know of farms in your area that are doing clever things to feed us without hurting planet Earth. Let us know!
Feeding growing cities damages the planet through transport pollution and intensive farming methods.
Bring farms to the city and harness wasted space and resources to grow healthy food.
Steven Beckers spoke to WoW! News this week and gave us a flavour here of his uplifting vision of tomorrow’s cities.
The website of Steven Beckers BIGH in Brussels has lots more material.
You could try this video, where a teenage farmer explains to kids how a fish farm helps grow plants. You might want to activate the sub-titles though. She has quite an accent!
And finally, Steven in his own words on camera..