Imagining the future of food in cities: the producer city

Thursday 8 May 2014
E5 Bakehouse, E8 3PH

On Thursday 8 May, over 60 guests congregated under the railway arches in the kitchen of E5 Bakehouse in Hackney for the inaugural event in the Young Urbanists’ series exploring the future of food in cities, examining the topic from the perspective of urban food production. The event was chaired by Young Urbanist Steering Committee member and Urban Designer at Foster + Partners, Théo Malzieu. Théo began the event by welcoming the attendees and introduced the topic and all the speakers


Lisa Ommanney – Project Manager, FARM:shop

Lisa discussed how FARM:shop was set up 3 years ago, and it came about as Hackney Council set up a program to help coordinate an arts project with free empty spaces. The guys who set it up wanted to focus on the aesthetics as well as set up a great initiative; the visibility of the venture is very important for engagement in cities. They had to begin self-funding after the initial seed contributions from the council, and most of the income is generated from the cafe portion of the shop. It is a showcase! The farm has chickens, and people come to visit, which is great. They also have hydroponic and aquaponic systems, the latter of which is where a fish tank feeds waste to the plants, they receive nutrients, and then the plants get clean water back through the system. For sustainability it is important to reduce waste. In fact, for fish food, you can collect food waste (compost) from local area, breed maggots, and use that to feed fish, which almost cuts out all inputs! Heat waste is another thing to be aware of in cities. Rooftops are great for gardens, because land is expensive, and building there can help reduce heat waste. Constraints of the city also provide opportunity for creativity!


Eike Sindlinger – Senior Architect and Project Leader, Arup

Eike questioned: why do we need to think about food sustainability in cities? Rising population, rising incomes, and rising demands for special foods (like meat) means more energy in the context of a more volatile world with climate change. Food contributes to carbon footprint: 1/3 is about food and 10% is from transport. Food is nonrenewable the way were producing it! We depend on unsustainable amounts of water and fertilizer. As we expand our cities, we also expand into our water and land resources. A new trendy diet opportunity should be the ‘carbon diet’, ones that have minimal carbon impact. We should link food systems into city systems. Growers in the Netherlands have been doing this for some time, rebalancing urban and rural systems of productions. What about synergies for nurseries and carbon feeding back into the system? What about cities as better places for integrating farming for communities? What about for young people? Integrate natural systems for everyone!


Bethany Hogan YU – Events and Promotions Manager, Team London Bridge

The London Bridge area is very central with many people, and it gets lots of investment from huge projects. Though the Southbank has a lot of touristy things, there is more quirky stuff as you go south from the river. Bethany discussed how Team London Bridge coordinates a vertical rain garden, community secret gardens, and pocket parks. Melior street community garden is an allotment that grows food and sells to the local community café. It hosts big dinners in the garden, and gets chefs to cook fun food in the space! They are engaging in a lot of community projects in the area with many spin offs, including using local farmers markets for recruitment schemes, CV workshops, and doing whatever they can to help get people connected with other movements. The goal is to continue working with the GLA to make it bigger, maybe. They would really like to get a food recycling scheme to connect with others.