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How urban farming can improve quality of life in cities?

A graduate of the ‘Prototyping future cities’ Master’s programme Andres Gomez addressed the problem of flawed food supply processes that lead to poor quality of products: low nutrition and high level of chemicals. Andres proposed to implement urban farming options and developed the ‘Food Unit’ concept. Moscow families’ needs and opportunities for the idea implementation were analyzed to create a strategy to make every household a producer.

How urban farming can improve quality of life in cities?

What is wrong with supermarket food?

The most food available for the global population is the result of mass production. On the one hand, it is a positive phenomenon because it makes products more accessible. However, the length of the food supply chain affects nutritious properties and forces producers to use chemicals to increase expiration date. It might harmfully affect consumer’s health. 

Agriculture is a huge global industry and its logistic system consists of many steps: production, transportation, processing, another transportation and storage. Only after this long path food comes to the final consumer through distributors, such as, for example, a supermarket or a grocery store. 

The length of the food supply chain leads to lower food quality. Fruits and vegetables need to be processed with chemicals to lengthen its freshness for a longer time before consumption. Another health hazard is a  usage of pesticides during the growing process to make it faster in order to cope with mass market production volumes.

photocredit: Alf Ribeiro

As a result, citizens are deprived of essential vitamins and other nutrients. It is even more significant problem in the context of COVID-19 pandemic when the population tries to develop immunity resistance to viruses.

New urban farming for effective supply

In order to shorten food way from producer to consumer, Andres proposed a system of urban farming. The system can decentralize fruits and vegetables manufacturing from outlying massive crops to city flats. The solution proposed is to organize a growing process in households and to stimulate local fruits and vegetables distribution. Andres developed ‘Food Unit’, the device that makes urban farming more accessible. Local distribution options can include partnerships with food delivery services.
The ‘Food Unit’ system includes:

  • Hydroponic technology
    It allows plants to grow fast without soil. Only water and artificial sunlight is needed.
  • Аutomated manufacturing processes
    Manufacturing becomes ‘smarter’ by data collection system. It tracks growing cycles and the harvest seasons that leads to effective production.

‘Food Unit’ for Moscow citizens

After the analysis of Moscow dwellers needs and households’ opportunities, the implementation of the concept was developed. In the research families with or without children that include 3 members were considered.

The pilot for average moscow household was designed according to:

  • flat space restrictions (approximately 74 square meters);
  • fruits and vegetables consumption for families with 3 members;
  • finance opportunities (based on Moscow average salary – 71 220 rubles (Mosstat statistics).
‘Food Unit’ prototype in Moscow flat
project presentation

Results showed that ‘Food Unit’ is available for an average family in Moscow. Investments for the system production amounts 10 290 rubles. It is a sensible price for two adults with average Moscow salaries. 

Motivation for usage of ‘Food Unit’ for Moscow city dwellers can be nourishing of family diet and products distribution for additional income. Key partnerships should be made with delivery services such as ‘Yandex Eda’, ‘Delivery Club’, 'Fruit Post’ and others.

COVID-19 and ‘Food Unit’

The pandemic is changing consumer’s behavior and challenging markets and new concepts all over the world. Andres commented on the ‘Food Unit’ implementation impact in the new context. 

On the one hand, pandemic could affect the ‘Food Unit’ implementation in a beneficial way: tendency of isolation and human distance can motivate citizens to grow food in their houses. ‘Food Unit’ also may help to cope with mental health issues associated with isolation by providing relaxing activity in the spare time. On the other hand, the pandemic could negatively affect the market distribution between households. People would not trust small producers because of no guarantee and regulations for food security. So, the situation is complex and upgoing change makes it even more complicated

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