Connecting with Agriculture in an Urban Maze

Ag Innovation
Humans have been working on ag innovation since they first tamed wild grains—and now we have drones gathering soil samples, robotic devices milking cows, and biotech papayas resisting disease. CAST’s ongoing ag innovation series examines many current and projected advances that promote food security. Two recent publications are available for free download: an issue paper about plant breeding and genetics, and an issue paper about crop protection.
Another type of innovation involves the urban farm movement that includes rooftop gardens on a refurbished warehouse in Chicago, a thriving vegetable business in a revamped subway tunnel in London, and a productive green zone in the middle of Tokyo’s densely populated megalopolis. 
Urban Farming in the Concrete Jungle
I recently visited the Pasona Urban Farm located in the forest of concrete buildings crowded around Tokyo Station—a rail hub with more than 500,000 commuters passing through it each day. No bucolic pastures or frolicking sheep on this farm, but the ten-story building has its own type of dangling chia-pet growth oozing from it. The lobby is a small rice plot (harvested three times a year), and the first floor is a beehive of human-plant interaction. Scores of visitors gather information and learn about indoor ag techniques, while “metro farmers” tend to vegetables growing from ceilings and sprouting from hydroponic shelves.
This oasis in the middle of 13 million Tokyoites is set up to provide education and research opportunities, but workers and visitors at the small cafeteria do eat the local fare grown there. The site produces 100 different types of fruits and vegetables, and its stated mission includes an effort to reinvigorate rural areas, make urbanites aware of agriculture, create jobs, and promote nutrition.
Precision LED lighting and carefully controlled water techniques help make this urban farm sustainable and innovative, but everyone knows that “hanging gardens in high-rise buildings” will not insure global food security. Education, research, and innovation are the keys. And when commuters with their faces pressed against the windows of a crowded Yamanote Line train gaze at the vines and blossoms flowing from the Pasona Urban Farm, they might have a brief zen moment of nature. 
A Green Oasis in the City: Any connection with agriculture and food production is better than nothing.
by dan gogerty (second photo from; bottom photo from

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