The Largest Urban Rooftop Farm in the World is Now Bearing Fruit (and More) in Paris

Getting fresh produce into the heart of a major city used to be done by a fleet of rumbling, polluting trucks—now it’s a matter of bringing it down from the roof.

The largest urban rooftop farm in the world uses vertical growing techniques to create fruits and vegetables right in the center of Paris without the use of pesticides, refrigerated trucks, chemical fertilizer, or even soil.

Nature Urbaine uses aeroponic techniques that are now supplying produce to local residents, including nearby hotels, catering halls, and more. For a price of 15 euro, residents can order a basket of produce online containing a large bouquet of mint or sage, a head of lettuce, various young sprouts, two bunches of radishes and one of chard, as well as a jar of jam or puree.

“The composition may change slightly depending on the harvest,” Sophie Hardy, director of Nature Urbaine, tells French publication Agri City. Growing on 3.4 acres, about the size of two soccer pitches, atop the Paris Exhibition Center, they are also producing about 150 baskets of strawberries, as well as aubergines, tomatoes, and more.

Speaking to the Guardian, Pascal Hardy, a sustainable development consultant and member of Agripolis, an urban farming firm, called the Nature Urbaine project in Paris “a clean, productive and sustainable model of agriculture that can in time make a real contribution to the resilience—social, economic and also environmental—of the kind of big cities where most of humanity now lives.”

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Sci-Fi Farming

Currently only a third of the total space on hall 6 of the expo center is utilized for Pascal’s alien-looking garden, and when the project is finished, 20 staff will be able to harvest up to 2,200 lbs (1,000 kg) of perhaps 35 different kinds of fruits and vegetables every day.

Photos by Agripolis

In plastic towers honeycombed with little holes, small amounts of water carrying nutrients, bacteria, and minerals, aerate roots which hang in midair.

As strange as the pipes and towers out of which grow everything other than root vegetables might seem, Hardy says the science-fiction farming has major benefits over traditional agriculture.

“I don’t know about you,” he begins, “but I don’t much like the fact that most of the fruit and vegetables we eat have been treated with something like 17 different pesticides, or that the intensive farming techniques that produced them are such huge generators of greenhouse gases.”

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“It uses less space. An ordinary intensive farm can grow nine salads per square meter of soil; I can grow 50 in a single tower. You can select crop varieties for their flavor, not their resistance to the transport and storage chain, and you can pick them when they’re really at their best, and not before.”

Agripolis

Breaking the chain

Agripolis is currently discussing projects in the U.S., the UK, and Germany, and they have finished several other rooftop farms in France including one on the roof of the Mercure hotel in 2016, which cultivates eggplant, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, salads, watercress, strawberries, nasturtiums and aromatics all directly serving the hotel restaurant.

Growing on the roof and selling on the floor can play a big part in the production of carbon-neutral food because, according to Agripolis, fruit and veg on average travel by refrigerated air and land transport between 2,400 and 4,800 kilometers from farm to market.

The global transportation force is the largest of humanity’s carbon-emitting activities, and reducing the number of flights and truckloads of produce is a great place to start cutting the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere.

For a culinary city like Paris, the Parisian mayor’s proposal to install an additional 320 acres (130 ha) of rooftop and wall-mounted urban farming space could significantly reduce the number of trucks entering the city, easing traffic and reducing pollution.

With rooftop farming being embraced from Detroit to Shanghai, the future is looking up.

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Hundreds of Cities Worldwide Make Streets into Cycling and Pedestrian Walkways—With Plans to Stay That Way

With greenhouse gas emissions set to decline a record-breaking 8% this year, a happy accident of the novel coronavirus pandemic has been its positive impact on cities.

The World Health Organization says walking and cycling are considered the safest means of transport to reduce exposure to COVID-19. So cities around the world have been building new cycling paths and scaling up their car-free street initiatives.

Now, it looks like many of these environmentally-friendly changes will be permanent

Bogotá, Colombia had a head start when the virus began to spread in the city in mid-March. The city had an existing tradition, called la Ciclovía, where it closed its main roads to cars every Sunday. Mayor Claudia López decided to scale the program up, and according to one report, “within days, Bogotá opened nearly 47 miles of new temporary bike routes, adding to 340 miles of paved protected paths, and converted almost 17 miles of automobile lanes to bike routes overnight.”

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For years, Paris has been a leader in the car-free streets movement. Now the capital city is building 650 kilometers (about 400 miles) of new “corona cycleways.” Mayor Ann Hidalgo has said many of these will be made permanent as part of the city’s larger mobility plan. Among other initiatives, the city has accelerated construction of dedicated cycle highways in response to the pandemic, according to the BBC.

In Italy, the city of Milan has announced that over 20 miles of newly installed cycling infrastructure will be kept in place after the quarantine has been lifted. Former New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Saik-Kahn, who is working with the Italian city on the transition, told the British news outlet, “The pandemic challenges us, but it also offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to change course and repair the damage from a century of car-focused streets.”

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The city of Budapest, Hungary has also constructed temporary cycle lanes. Though they are currently due to last until September, the city has signaled a preference to leave them in place. “We are constantly monitoring the use of the temporary bike lanes, and we are hoping that a good many of them could remain in place,” the mayor’s chief of staff Samu Balogh added. “In the long term, we are working towards implementing traffic-calming measures and new bike lanes so we can create a more inviting environment for cycling and walking.”

In France, it’s not just Paris that is focusing on two wheels. The country’s Minister of Ecological Transition also announced a $22 million plan to support cyclists nationwide. Under the plan, all French citizens will be entitled to 50 euros ($55) in free bicycle repairs, paid for by the government. The program will also fund plans by cities to build more permanent bike racks, bike lanes, and cycling classes.

These initiatives, and many more eco-silver linings, have given hope to those who have seen the pandemic as an opportunity to make lasting changes to the way humans relate to the natural environment.

“We must act decisively to protect our planet from both the coronavirus and the existential threat of climate disruption,” UN Secretary General António Guterres said on Earth Day. “We need to turn the recovery into a real opportunity to do things right for the future,” noting that—like the coronavirus—climate change knows no national borders.

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Need more positive stories and updates coming out of the COVID-19 challenge? For more uplifting coverage, click here.

Watch Notre Dame Cathedral Bell Ring Out for Healthcare Workers on the One-Year Anniversary of Its Fire

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the fire that came within 30 minutes of destroying the beloved Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

Now as a means of honoring its survival and encouraging locals to remain unified in the face of the novel coronavirus lockdowns, the cathedral’s bell rang out across Paris for the second time since the fire.

On April 15th at 8PM when city-dwellers typically take to their windows to applaud healthcare workers on the frontline of the pandemic, three people donned hazmat suits to protect themselves from the toxic lead particulates released by the fire and spent five minutes ringing the iconic bell—which is reportedly the second largest in the country.

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As reporters captured the iconic event on camera, hundreds of French citizens could be heard cheering and clapping from the streets for the duration of the homage.

“The restoration of Notre-Dame… is a symbol of the resilience of our people, of their capacity to overcome hardships, and to recover,” said French President Emmanuel Macron.

Although the structure of the bell’s belfry was undamaged by the fire, it has been rung only once since the blaze, and that was to honor the passing of former French president Jacques Chirac in September 2019.

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President Macron originally planned to have the cathedral fully restored within five years of the fire, but the pandemic—coupled with poor winter weather—has put the initiative behind schedule.

Regardless, restoration managers told Reuters that they at least want to have the cathedral ready to host Easter mass on April 16th, 2024.

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

(WATCH the AFP video below) – Feature photo by David Merrett, CC

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Homeless People From California to France Are Being Given Emergency Shelter During COVID-19 Response

As homeowners around the world are being ordered into self-isolation amidst the COVID-19 outbreaks, legislators are making sure that society’s most vulnerable people are offered the same protection.

Homeless people across North America and Europe are being offered shelter in everything from unused hotel rooms to designated self-isolation centers.

In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan booked 300 hotel rooms at a discounted rate to house the city’s rough sleepers for the next 12 weeks. The mayor’s legislative team plans to continue working with the Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) to facilitate additional discount booking should the crisis develop further during the coming months.

“The coronavirus outbreak affects everyone in London and we must do all we can to safeguard everyone’s health—not least those Londoners who face spending each night sleeping rough on the capital’s streets,” said Khan in a statement. “Rough sleepers already face difficult and uncertain lives and I’m determined to do all I can to ensure they, along with all Londoners, are given the best protection possible.”

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This is just one of the many initiatives that the UK government is implementing to get homeless people off the streets during the novel coronavirus outbreaks. According to The Guardian, legislators are currently working to house rough sleepers in unused hotel rooms and other self-isolated commercial spaces. Not only is the space readily available, research also says that housing the homeless in hotel rooms is less costly than hospital space.

Similar measures have been implemented in California as well. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s legislative team has reportedly secured roughly 4,000 hotel rooms statewide with the hopes that the initiative could help lead to permanent housing after the COVID-19 crisis has been contained.

“This is an opportunity to bring folks indoors, and then try to get them into permanent housing when this is said and done,” said Ali Sutton, state deputy secretary for homelessness, in an interview with CapRadio.

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The state has reportedly allocated more than $150 million to local governments working to house the homeless during the outbreaks with another $50 million being distributed for renting travel trailers and hotel rooms as emergency shelter.

A KUOW report from earlier this month outlined similar initiatives taking place in Seattle as well.

Back in Europe, the Paris government has reportedly opened two separate isolation centers for homeless people who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus—but do not require hospitalization— as the city enters into lockdown. Another 80 sites have been designated as confirmed isolation spaces across the country with another 2,800 facilities identified as potential additions to the nationwide housing network.

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

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