Smart Approach

A look at urban farming, sustainability, and standardization

The day started with a visit to a one year old urban farm called The New Farm centered in The Hague, Netherlands. This urban farm is located atop a six story building used for housing different office spaces. The rooftop and top floor were completely converted into a large aquaponic system containing both a greenhouse and fish tanks. By allowing the plants above to use the nutrients found in fish waste, aquaponics combines two different ecosystems into one to create an efficient use of resources. Thousands of tilapia were grown in the tanks and their waste water was taken through a large filter which then feeds into tubes to be taken to plant soil. The rooftop contained many different kinds of produce such as basil, cilantro, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, lettuce, and many other leafy greens, all fueled by the nutrients of fish waste. The entire aquaponic system recycled around 90 percent of its water. This resource efficient farm can be seen as an example for future food initiatives in urban areas. As the global population grows, more and more people need food and gravitate towards cities. This leads to questions of space and food production, which are both answered by urban farms. The only drawbacks are that they require a lot of money and energy to start. This urban farm combines agricultural and fish production to efficiently feed the planet as the population grows.

Rows of leafy greens at the entrance to the rooftop greenhouse at The New Farm. This was one of two sides. The other side contained tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplants.
Water filtration system used to extract useful nutrients and water from fish waste to be used for produce. Water enters through the black box and then a series of open containers. Ammonia is the main nutrient extracted which is the converted into nitrates by small bacteria in each open container.
The irrigation system for all of the plants in the greenhouse. The system runs nutrients from fish waste and water from below directly to plant roots in a controlled amount. Yellow tape is suspended above the produce to control pest contamination in an organic way.

To finish the day we stopped by NEN, which is a company centered around standardization. Although it seems complicated, standardization is basically agreements among many parties affiliated in producing a product, idea, or system. The goal is to minimize conflict when developing ideas and allow for the acceptance of these new products in different areas, whether its regions, countries, or continents. Some examples are bolt sizes or USB ports on computers. In talking personally with a NEN employee, we learned that the most complicated part of standardization is making all parties agree on an outcome in a timely manner. This process can be difficult but it is necessary for allowing cities to replicate systems that are known to be successful in other smart cities.

An interesting entrance to the standardization building at NEN. Here many parties are worked with to come up with agreements that lead to a higher quality of life.
Rooftop and solar panels of the university. Under the parking lot there are thermal collectors which allow for the transfer of energy and aid in heating the building. The solar panels also acquire energy and produce heat.
The heat pump located inside the university. The structure looks as complicated as the processes that occur inside it. Its main purpose is to minimize energy use when heating and cooling the building.

When moving towards a smart city it important to take steps that enhance the quality of life for its inhabitants. We saw three examples of this in food production, sustainable building use, and standardization practices.

-Charlie Garnett