Urban Communities Achieve Food Security through the Urban Farming Concept
Ide Bisnis Pertanian(Istimewa)
The United Nations announces that the global population reached 8 billion last year. This number is mostly due to an explosion in population, especially in urban areas. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations stated that Asia cities are growing at a fast pace and they predicted that nearly 55 percent of the region’s enormous population is expected to reside in urban areas by 2030.
The rising population of urban areas has enormous consequences for urban security and nutrition. A rise in urban population means an expansion of rural areas, and the faster the conversion of agricultural land into settlements and commercial buildings, the more limited agricultural land is going to be. This poses a threat to food security. Especially putting into consideration that agricultural land and work are primarily available in rural areas and they provide food for the urban areas.
Reaching the food security goals has been a focus of the Ministry of Agriculture for the last few years. Especially considering the state of the world supply chain during the pandemic, that shows the government a glimpse of the worst-case scenario when Indonesia is too dependent on other countries for supplies.
“Talking about food security is talking about the strength of the state and nation,” said the Minister of Agriculture, Syahrul Yasin Limpo.
He continues that whatever power the Indonesian government has, it cannot properly protect the country if there’s no guarantee of food security. This is why other than trying ways to innovate agricultural technology in Indonesia and repurposing unused land like mining land as agricultural land, the government also pushes for innovative farming methods, like urban farming.
The urban farming concept with hydroponics and verticulture
Urban farming is farming done in the urban area by utilizing open areas in the community. The main goal is to increase access to fresh and local food and vegetables for the community.
The open areas don’t have to be a backyard, they can also be rooftops or windowsills and even indoor spaces. It can also have various growing media, not just soil. And it is done by implementing new agricultural technology and innovation like hydroponics and verticulture.
Hydroponics and verticulture is a popular choice for urban farming due to how fitting it is for the condition around the urban settings. Hydroponics is a planting technique that uses a water-based nutrient solution rather than soil as a growing medium and can include an aggregate substrate like vermiculite, coconut coir, or perlite as root support.
Hydroponics is perfect for urban settings as it does not require large open soil and can be done indoors in a climate control room. Setting up a hydroponics system can be done in many ways, but the five main elements are essentially the same. The five main elements are fresh water with a balanced pH, oxygen, root support, nutrients, and light.
Planting using hydroponics has a lot of benefits. For one, it is a great space-saving alternative to traditional planting with a high productivity rate due to its ability to be densely spaced together. It also produces high-quality food and requires less water than traditional farming.
The other urban farming technique that is verticulture, is an urban farming technique that utilizes vertical planes as a planting space. The goal of verticulture is to optimize narrow spaces in urban settings.
Verticulture can be done in many ways. Plants can be planted in regular pots with soil, then placed on walls, stacked in a stair-like frame, or in a tube with holes on the side where the plants go. Hydroponics and verticulture is certainly a space saver option for planting food in the middle of a city.
High productivity plants suitable for Urban Farming
Urban farming makes it possible to fulfill urban food demand and helps ensure a sustainable food distribution system. Urban farming mostly focused on small to medium size plants with a high productivity rate. Although it is possible to plant trees in a city, the production rate may not be as big as planting in rural areas due to limited soil space.
Urban farming mostly focused on horticultural plants like salad greens, cucumber, tomatoes, garlic, and chili. Depending on the method, some plants are more suitable for hydroponics, and some are better for verticulture. For example, leafy plants or salad greens like lettuce, spinach, or bok choy are great planted with horticulture as it grows fast and produces better results with a controlled nutrient source. Whereas plants like cucumber, tomatoes, and garlic are more suitable for planting on soil with the verticulture technique, as it requires deep soil to produce better results.
According to Capital Area Food Bank websites, here is a little guide for minimum soil depth for a few horticulture plants.
10-12 cm: lettuce and other salad greens, coriander seeds, cilantro, and basil leaves
15-18 cm: string beans, garlic, onions, Chinese cabbage, mint, and thyme
20-23 cm: eggplants, fennel, spinach, parsley, and rosemary
25-30 cm: beets, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, and lemongrass
All of these plants are easy options for new farmers or experienced farmers to plant with hydroponics or verticulture techniques. They also don’t grow into too big of a plant and are quite easy to maintain in the Indonesian climate. Not to mention with the space-saving techniques of urban farming, these plants can produce twice the yield compared with traditional farming.(Safaanah)