French startup is using hydroponic techniques to bring organic farming into abandoned urban areas.
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Something is growing under the streets of Paris. An underground farm has been built beneath an old car park in La Chapelle, a neighbourhood in the north of Paris. The farm, by Cycloponics, an indoor farming startup, will grow lettuces, herbs and mushrooms using hydroponic techniques in which the plants are grown in nutrient-rich water under low-energy LED lights, without the use of soil or natural sunlight. The 3,600 square foot farm, called La Caverne, has already begun producing oyster, shiitake and Paris mushrooms, and will begin endive production next. Produce will be sold to markets and restaurants and delivered by bike.
The concept was begun by entrepreneurs Théophile Champagnat and Jean-Noël Gertz, whose aim is to bring market gardens to abandoned urban areas. Champagnat and Gertz want their farm to be anchored in the life of its neighbourhood, and plan to eventually provide produce at preferential rates to local residents. Cycloponics claims that their recipe for success will lie in the care given to each variety of plants grown in La Caverne. “We use aquaponics for certain crops, the cultivation on straw or hemp substrate for others” explains Champagnat.
La Caverne is not the first farm to be built by Cycloponics in abandoned areas – earlier in the year they opened a farm in Strasbourg in a former war-time bunker and another site is under development in the basement of a social housing unit in Bordeaux. We have seen other novel ideas for urban farming, including plantscrapers – large buildings that house indoor farms, and an indoor shelving unit capable of growing 21 different types of vegetables in your living room. Urban farming is clearly an idea whose time has come. Will farming in abandoned urban areas help to revitalize inner cities and create more vibrant and healthy neighbourhoods?