How a disused Philips factory became “the Times Square of Urban Agriculture”

What will shortly become Europe’s biggest urban farm is nearing completion in a formerly disused office just outside the Hague.

The 1,200 square metre greenhouse will produce 50 tonnes of vegetables a year, which will be enough to feed 900 local families as well as providing food for restaurants and supermarkets.

The De Schilde complex, aka "Times Square of Urban Agriculture", is located at the top of a 1950s building that was used by Dutch technology company Philips as a production facility. It has an ecosystem based on aquaponics and will grow fish as well as vegetables.

Aside from the production of food, the project will provide a showcase for the technologies used in its production system and serve as a platform for urban farmers to engage with the horticulture industries in Holland’s Westland area.

Mark Durno, the 31-year-old Scot at the head of the project, said: "In the next five or even 15 years, this will be a niche of the niche.

"But it links into the circular economy: we have empty rooftops and empty industrial buildings. In The Hague, 15% of buildings are empty. Let’s fill them with produce."

Jan-Eelco Jansma, a researcher in urban-rural relations at Wageningen University, said: "There are examples of viable commercial urban farms, but also growth in allotment gardens in the Netherlands and across Europe – which are not interested in being commercial but have a huge, indirect effect on mental health and liveability in cities.

He added: "I think in 100 years, urban agriculture will be as normal as the city parks we have today."

Urban Farmers, the Swiss company behind the development, started work on the project in 2014.

The greenhouse was designed by Amsterdam architects Space&Matter.

Images via Martijn Zegwaard

  • Updated 5 July 2016 to add correct photographs
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  1. Brilliant

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