There’s something poignant about this photo of a former bank vault in Tokyo that’s been converted into a semi-automated urban farm. In Japan, urban agriculture is not only making good use of spaces where money used to be, it’s also compensating for the traditional farmers that its shrinking population is shedding.
From Mumbai to Manila, cities in emerging economies are looking to urban farming to bolster job growth, improve food security and make more productive use of organic waste. The surprising role model for off-farm farming is Havana, Cuba where 90% of fresh produce supply is grown in the city. Nationwide, urban farming has created 350,000 jobs for Cubans and has boosted the average caloric intake from 2,323 per Cuban per day in 1993 to 3,547 today. Apparently, one main cause of this shift in food sourcing is the inefficiency of state-owned farms.
China is also exhibiting how to industrialize the trend on a massive scale. The Modern Agricultual Science Demonstration Park in Beijing shows how a farm in the city can provide vegetation as well as aquaculture and livestock. Don’t expect an organic meal to come from here though. An entire section is dedicated to plant cloning and seed hacking.