Peas & Love, a Belgian initiative that plants urban farms on rooftops, has managed to increase its capital by 1.5 million euros. Worldwide demand for urban farms is booming, and the company wants to cash in.
Worldwide demand for Brussels urban farms
Peas & Love started in Brussels and expanded to Paris, but says now that its services in demand all over the world, as founder Jean-Patrick Scheepers explained in Belgian newspaper De Tijd. His company currently owns seven urban farms in Brussels and Paris, but there is also interest in the concept in London and Dubai.
The urban vegetable gardens of Peas & Love are mostly intended for private users, who can rent little gardens of 3 sqm that feature a plant trough and a vertical plant wall. In each garden, the company plants sixty different crops, from herbs over pumpkins to raspberry bushes. Peas & Love takes care of the maintenance; all that the end users have to do is reap the fruits.
7,000 sqm on rooftops
Currently, the total surface of the farms comes down to 7,000 sqm. By next year, Scheepers wants to have installed double that amount of gardens in those two cities, after which launches in Lille and Lyon will follow. Within the next five years, the entrepreneur is aiming for 100 farms in Europe.
Peas & Love has been working on a capital increase of 1.5 million euros, which is almost complete. Earlier on, the startup managed to raise over a million euros, but to realise the current plans, Scheepers will likely need another 5 to 8 million euros.
Urban farming is absolutely hot, but does it actually work? Two Dutch universities are investigating how efficient vertical gardening actually is. After all, by 2050, 67 % of the world's population – estimated at 10 billion by then – will be living in cities. To keep up with demand, food production will have to increase by as much as 70 %. Will urban farms with vertical gardens (known as plant factories) provide the solution?
Research in the Netherlands are measuring how feasible vertical agriculture is by comparing the needed resources (water, electricity, oxygen, land and money) to the output as well as to classical agriculture. The study will be complete by the end of 2019. The energy used by such plant factories are a major question, says researcher Luk Graamans: although closed vertical agriculture uses less water and oxygen than 'ordinary' greenhouses do, the high density, limited volume and lack of natural ventilation may require more cooling and fume extraction.
"I want to calculate the costs, but so far no one has been able to come up with truly accurate figures," Graamans told Foodnavigator. Could the residual energy be used for other things, such as heating in nearby buildings? The researcher believes in cross-pollination and a future collaboration between urban agriculture and traditional agriculture.
Nevertheless, the industry is still evolving in more ways than one, including efficiency. For example, Scheepers told De Tijd that productivity per plot has doubled in the last three years: "We are now at 40 kilos of produce per year."