Tech Focus: Opportunities in urban planning explained

There are good opportunities in urban farming, according to experts at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Advantages for farmers, urban businesses, municipalities, and project developers are seen by Jan Willem van der Schans, the university’s expert on short food supply chains and regional food systems.

He says farmers on the city outskirts see a unique, local market for urban farming. Municipalities don’t know what to do with undeveloped lots. They are eager to provide urban farmers with land, partially as it can be linked to a variety of meaningful social functions.

Real estate project developers bought large plots of land around cities for future housing, but the economic crisis has left many residential developments far from ‘completed’.

“Allowing the land to be used for urban farming creates a positive vibe, well-kept green public space, playing children, and common activities,” says van der Schans.

He sees entrepreneurship as the key to success. “One could focus on a niche market, such as producing exclusive cheese with milk from Dutch Deep Red cattle, a rare cow breed, for example. Or combine the sale of food products with a café or restaurant, or a care function for people with disabilities.”

“In business management it is a golden rule that a company’s strategy should be based on one clear-cut revenue model. For urban farming, however, a mix of business models may be a good foundation for survival.”

For example, a farmer could keep rare cattle breeds (differentiation), and grow vegetables and fruit which he sells in his own shop, using people with limited job opportunities (diversification), while using residual heat and organic compost from the city.

A city resident who perceives the farm as a peaceful oasis will visit regularly (experience). A painter’s club uses the location to organise workshops, and considers the urban farm as its home base (shared ownership).


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