Urban Farm Lab

Mushrooms, crickets, hops, air potatoes and evergreens, all year round. At Myyrmäki in Vantaa, experiments with food production are taking place indoors in an industrial hall.

What is it about?

The production of food has significant effects on the environment. Most of the climate impact of food comes from the use of fertilisers, farmed animal production and uncontrolled food waste.

In the future, most people will live in cities. That is why it is important to develop and test new solutions for producing food in or near cities. These new production methods require less energy and water than produce that is grown in existing greenhouses.

In the future, food production in cities will complement traditional field farming where the growing season is short, in hot and dry or in cold and dark areas, for example. Population growth also forces us to seek new solutions alongside traditional food production to ensure food security.

Growing food indoors under controlled conditions brings food production to cities, which in turn reduces transport distances and the need for packaging materials. With new technologies, food can be produced with less energy and water consumption compared to traditional greenhouse methods.

In practice, food will be produced hydroponically (growing plants without soil by using mineral nutrient solutions instead) and aeroponically (the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil). In controlled conditions, nutrients do not leach into the environment and the growing season is not limited to summer, so new potatoes could be grown all year round, for instance.

What are we doing?

At the Myyrmäki campus of the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Sitra and five companies are experimenting with growing food inside an industrial hall. The Urban Farm Lab, a new urban food production centre, is a laboratory where various urban food production technologies are tested. The commercialisation of indoor cultivation is also tested in the same space.

The centre grows mushrooms, potatoes, crickets, herbs, lettuce and hops. According to the principles of the circular economy, companies take advantage of each other’s waste: For example, carbon dioxide produced by mushrooms is used in the cultivation of lettuce and waste from growing lettuce is used as food for crickets.

For university students, the centre also serves as an interesting learning environment for future food production. Some of the food that is still in the testing phase is already being used in canteens and restaurants.

The experiment is a continuation of the circular economy restaurant Ultima. The next step is to make the business profitable and expand similar food production models to industrial parks and export the technologies abroad.

Who is taking part?

The project is co-ordinated by the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. Five start-up companies are also involved.

EntoCube Oy develops technology for growing insects for human consumption. The company is experimenting with producing feed for crickets using the waste from vertical farming.

Helsieni Oy grows oyster mushrooms in used coffee grounds and, together with students, is building a mushroom growing facility that uses bio-waste generated in cities. Their goal is to implement a modular mushroom farm that is competitive on any scale. In addition, the company is looking for effective ways to utilise its own waste and the waste of other companies operating in the centre.

Little Garden Oy is building an urban, modular vertical farm that cultivates herbs, shoots and lettuce. At the same time, it is exploring business, operational and technological collaboration opportunities with other participating companies.

Redono Oy is testing algae production and hop production. Their goal is to design a “sustainable circular economy model for breweries” where the brewery’s by-products help to produce clean water and food and cultivate fresh hops for the brewery.

Siukkula Oy is developing a growing platform for air potatoes, which is a way to produce potatoes all year round in greenhouses in urban areas or in conditions other than traditional field farming. The production is based on aeroponics, in which potato roots are grown in the air and are sprayed with water and nutrients.

Where are we now?

The project started in late 2018 and will finish at the end of October 2019.

How can I get involved?

The development and innovation environment of Metropolia’s Urban Farm Lab is open to industry operators.

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