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Urban farming in the middle of Berlin

Fruit and vegetables grown in former factory buildings: urban farming has found its way into Germany’s cities.

© INFARM – Indoor Urban Farming GmbH

Peppers, aubergines, lettuce and perch thrive between the brick walls of a former industrial site in the south of Berlin. Here, near the trendy neighbourhood of Tempelhof, the largest (by its own account) inner-city farm in Europe opened in the spring of 2015. On the 1,800 square metres of the site of an old malt factory, the company ECF wants to breed 25 tons of perch and produce 30 tons of vegetables annually. “Aquaponics” is the name of the new system, a portmanteau word deriving from “acquaculture” for fish farming and “hydroponics” for plant breeding. According to experts, it is a promising new development, which combines in a closed circuit vegetable and fish farming – and short distances to the consumer.

In the search for new, sustainable forms of food production, researchers and start-ups in Germany are banking on various approaches in urban farming. In Berlin the new inner-city farmer scene is particularly active. In the district of Kreuzberg, for instance, the company Infarm, a start-up of young Israelis, is experimenting with hanging gardens in a loft.

Vegetables in a football stadium?

While in urban gardening city-dwellers grow vegetables for household use on former brownfields or in classical allotments, urban farming is about commercial food production and so about economic success. The start-ups cannot yet provide for the masses, but they can very well provide a new impetus. And this not only in metropoles like Berlin. There are projects nationwide. For example, in Neuenburg am Rhein. There, in the context of the Baden-Württemberg Garden Show, a high-tech greenhouse was built for an acquaponics project. And in Freiburg, the southern German stronghold of the environmental movement, the idea of a creative young man for the new stadium of the football club SC Freiburg made headlines. “Football Farm Freiburg” the thirty-three-year-old Jens Platen calls his proposal for an acquaponic farm on the stadium roof. “As strange as this may sound, it isn’t really”, he told the Badische Zeitung. Vegetable farming on the roof, with tomatoes, lettuce, herbs; aquariums for fish farming below the roof; and then football on the ground floor. Not only Freiburg residents are amazed at the idea.