Project plants seeds for widespread urban farming

Technology and health

Published Oct 28, 2013

City dwellers may one day soon harvest vegetables and catch fish without leaving their kitchens, using equipment under development at KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

An example of a "plant wall". (Photo: Susanne Kronholm)

Inside a flat in Haninge, Sweden, a team led by KTH assistant professor Annika Carlsson Kanyama is testing various solutions for raising produce and fish, as a practical and sustainable option to offset household grocery purchases.

As the world becomes increasingly urbanised, home cultivation has the potential to contribute to environmental sustainability, nutrition, and even indoor air-quality.

“We see a demand for climate-friendly alternatives,” says Carlsson Kanyama. “There has been an increased interest in urban agriculture, in addition to the trend of growing at home.”

The project includes prototype furniture that houses systems for growing vegetables and tilapia, a genus of cichlid fishes that are particularly suited for small-scale farming.

Inside one cabinet, tomatoes are cultivated with water from an adjoining aquarium. The hydroponic method requires only fish food and enough water to replace that which evaporates.

The flat also features various kinds of wall planters and grow lights for cultivating salad greens and herbs.

A planter that provides a light source. (Photo: Susanne Kronholm)

“We will test which plants thrive best on the walls and measure productivity in terms of the number of harvests,” Carlsson Kanyama says. “Over the long term, we want to determine how much of one’s purchases of greens and herbs can be replaced through self-production.”

As the world’s urban population increases to an estimated 5.2 billion by 2050, urban agriculture has the potential to make a strong impact not only on transport emissions but indoor air quality.

“Evaporation moisturises the air. It prevents air dryness that occurs in heated homes,” she says, adding that it also makes a home smell wonderfully of plants.

The project is conducting user tests in which participants assess their interest in the agricultural methods, and how much money and time they would be willing to invest in a farm of their own. When completed, the project will report the results of the tests to the Delegation for Sustainable Cities, which is the project sponsor.

For more information about the Green Kitchen project, contact Annika Carlsson Kanyama, project leader and associate professor at KTH Centre for Health and Building at +46 (0) 8-790 96 08 , +46 (0) 709-58 88 97 or annikack@kth.se.

A system for simultaneously growing tomatoes and tilapia, side by side. (Photo:
The project's test flat features 'plant walls' and 'plant paintings'. (Photo: Marie Gullew/KTH)