Urban farming in China

Urban agriculture is a hot topic when it comes to promoting food security, resource efficiency and smart, resilient cities. As lead partner in one of the projects developed under a major EU-Chinese research programme on urban agriculture, Nordregio recently visited urban farm sites in China to explore developments there.

On behalf of the SiEUGreen project team at Nordregio, Cartographer/GIS Analyst Shinan Wang visited the project’s counterpart in Beijing, the Rural Development Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). The visit also included a tour of one of the two showcases of urban agriculture in China – SanYuan Farm, located 40km away from central Beijing.

Balconies and aquaculture

San Yuan Farm is a state-owned farm belonging to the Beijing Agricultural Group Co. Ltd. The farm uses modern agricultural technologies such as paper agriculture, (portable) balcony agriculture, and aquaponics.

Balcony gardening is one way of bringing agriculture home, so to speak, which is considered as a solution to the conflict between an increasing demand of farming land from the urban population and limited amount of arable land in urban areas due to the strict land use policy in China.

Aquaponics is an ecosystem that combines conventional aquaculture with hydroponics – the method of growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent – where the main challenge now is to find the nutrient balance of the system.

Teaching and traveling

Education and tourism are important elements in the development of urban agriculture and thus also a part of the work at San Yuan farm. This includes UA-related events, renting arable land to city dwellers who mainly drive there during weekends, and collaboration with primary schools in Beijing to promote agriculture knowledge.

Since 2015, the farm has established a stable collaboration with educational institutions, particularly kindergartens. In early 2018, around 30 kindergartens in the surrounding districts in Beijing participated in one single event. During the seminar, the agenda for the collaborative events in 2018 was settled. Preschool children will come to the farm and experience the farming culture together with their parents. The interaction between the children and the parents are emphasized thorough the design of events.

The farm will also send staff to the kindergartens to promote agricultural education, bringing the equipment of balcony gardens to kindergartens to introduce the technology.

Creating resilient cities

Nordregio and CASS are the main partners working on Work Package 1 of the SIEUGreen programme: Support to institutional and social structures for creating resilient cities with Urban Agriculture (UA).

The focus of this work package is on developing a broader conceptual framework for the project. A main outcome will be identification of processes and structural elements that are key to understanding the current status and future potential of urban agriculture, such as the interaction with local and regional business environments, engagement of residents, the role of governance and institutional settings, land use issues, knowledge transfer and long-term resilient structures and inclusive communities. During the meeting partners discussed upcoming activities in the common work package.

The SiEUGreen project seeks to enhance the EU-China cooperation in promoting urban agriculture for food security, resource efficiency and smart, resilient cities. The project includes showcases in Fredrikstad (Norway), Arhus (Denmark), Hatay (Turkey), Beijing (China) and Changsha (China).

Read more about the project.

See the pictures from the study visit:

Sanyuan Farm, Beijing. Manager Han introducing the farm in the greenhouse

Sanyuan Farm, Beijing. Aquaponic ecosystem in the greenhouse

Sanyuan Farm, Beijing. Exhibition of succulent plants in the greenhouse