Agri-gurus explore environmental sustainability through Vertical Farming and Urban Agriculture

​iZindaba Zokudla (Conversations about Food) – a multi-stakeholder engagement research project, led by Dr Naudé Malan of the Department of Anthropology and Development Studies from the University of Johannesburg (UJ), hosted the inaugural conference for the African Association for Vertical Farming (AAVF) at Soweto Campus, from 9-10 April 2019. The event intended to offer sustainable and innovative solutions for emergent farmers and other entrepreneurs in Johannesburg.

The increasing world population, the global trend towards urbanisation, climate change and pressure on natural resources are key drivers for policies on global food security. Vertical farming is an innovative methodology for vertical cultivation of agricultural products, which can also realise true zero-mile city food supply.

“We are delighted to have hosted this conference as we can see many benefits in the future for new approaches to urban agriculture in a sustainable food system in Soweto,” said Dr Naudé Malan, Senior Lecturer in Development Studies, UJ.

Vertical farms can be built in new or existing buildings and provide significant benefits in environmental sustainability and human health, minimising the need for water and nutrients, and eliminating pesticides and fungicides, which are now needed in reduced quantities.

“The increasing number of people in cities requires new strategies to supply the necessary food with limited provision of land and decreasing resources. This will become more challenging unless innovative solutions for growing and distributing food in urban environments are considered,” explained Dr Malan.

The conference brought together new and established farmers, scientists, engineers, industrialists and policymakers to discuss current ideas, technologies, commercial applications and research opportunities in Vertical Farming and Urban Agriculture. It will evaluate the benefits, opportunities, risks and challenges of vertical farming / urban agriculture and provide a forum for establishing research collaboration and networking between academic researchers and commercial interests.

Focus topics of the conference included: Available technologies – LED lighting, sensors, AI; Plant condition issues like: CO2, Nutrients, Irrigation, Climate, Lighting; Food safety / HACCP; Robotics; Improved resource-use efficiency; Sustainable Buildings (design, green roof, energy); Smart Cities / Architecture / Urban Design From traditional farmer to vertical farmer.

Alongside the festivities (at no cost to participate) Izindaba Zokudla also hosted the Farmers Lab at the Soweto Campus which is pioneering methods to integrate emerging enterprises with the research and programmes that the UJ offers.

The African Association for Vertical Farming (AAVF) was hosted by iZindaba Zokudla, in association with the Farmers Lab in Soweto, the UJs Centre for Entrepreneurship and the Process, Energy, Environment and Technology Station at UJs Doornfontein campus, Johannesburg.

 

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