William McGrath, Amsterdam Office, Bord Bia – Irish Food Board
As Ron Finley once said in his Ted Talk on Gorilla Gardening - “To Grow your own food is like printing your own money”. Urban Gardening is by no means a new phenomenon – it has been around for hundreds of years. Back in the 1800s urban gardening took up much of the space that we see in gardens and parks in modern day cities and towns. Back then urban gardening was not a past-time or a way to improve your social media followership but instead it was a way to survive. People didn’t have the luxury of popping down to the supermarket to fetch a fresh bag of rocket lettuce or freshly pickled beetroot, instead they had to put in the hard graft and grow the food from scratch. We have come so far in the last 100 years in relation to food technology and production that we have become comfortable with where our food comes from and how it gets to our dining tables.
Recent years have seen a revolution in the concept of urban gardening. Not only can we see urban garden plots popping up in suburbs of most cities but we can also see people growing plants and herbs in their homes and on their apartment balconies. In Stockholm alone, people have turned their balconies into a miniature oasis of speciality herbs, vegetables, and flowers. With urban populations around the world forecast to grow over the next decade, we can begin to see that people are conscious of where their food is coming from especially in an urban setting.
A new initiative created by the leading Swedish retailer ICA Kvantum - Liljeholmen in cooperation with Urban Oasis, sees retailers in Sweden beginning to grow their own micro-herbs and vegetable in the basement of their stores. The system used is a Hydroponic system, meaning they grow the crops in a water solution as opposed to soil, making the crops are less reliant on fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides. Joakim Haraldsson – Sales manager stated “We can use this technique to cultivate anything we want. We are just a small step away from sun-ripened tomatoes and ripe strawberries for Christmas”. The idea came from a group of four student, who created the concept of Urban Oasis as a pilot project in University. The idea has continued to grow momentum in Sweden, with ICA Maxi Lindhagen also creating plans to grow speciality herbs in their basement using the same concept.