URBAN FOOD JUNGLE
The Urban Food Jungle: Grow it, Cook it, Eat it.
More than half the global population has moved away from the land where food is grown â€” increasing food miles, decreasing nutritional quality, escalating energy and water demands, and putting a strain on farmlands. This raises serious concerns about our current industrialized food system and future food security.
The Urban Food Jungle closes this inefficient loop by once more growing food close to where it is needed, putting the consumer in easy reach of fresh, healthy produce. This has the potential to permeate our city fabrics, building facades, plazas and water features, creating productive cityscapes in the truest sense. The best part? We donâ€™t need futuristic technology to make this work. Rather, a simple retuning of what we do already â€” positive impact design that can be achieved today.
t ri e n t ri c h w a
fi l t e r e d w a t e
A conceptual design that responds to the threat to food security by bringing together sustainable food production, entertainment, education and culinary delight.
An intervention that embodies ‘positive impact design’ — reducing the impact of what we do and positively giving back to the Earth’s ecosystems to which we belong.
high impact design
positive impact design
low impact design
The United Nations estimates that by 2050 the global population will reach nine billion. If we continue to produce food the way we do today, this growth will require an additional 270 million acres of farmland â€” equivalent to 2.5 times the area of California. However, the current trend in many areas is going in the opposite direction, with three million acres of agricultural land going out of production in the U.S. each year.
New farmland 2.5 times the area of California will be required to feed our growing global population.
While the average 1,500 miles our food travels from farm to fork has caught much attention, the types of food we eat and how we buy it has a far greater impact on the amount of energy the U.S. food system consumes. Plus, the distance our food travels impacts on our health. For example, produce that is a week old loses up to 40 percent of its nutritional value.
Feeding Americans accounts for about 15% of U.S. energy use.
Our love of processed food and beverages, together with red meat, requires a disproportionate amount of energy to produce, compared with the energy we actually need to fuel our bodies. A diet of freshly prepared food with less meat has far wider implications than the health of the individual — it would dramatically reduce a country’s energy requirements. As low cost fossil fuels become a thing of the past, how long can our food system maintain the status quo?
An individual’s daily share of the U.S. food system’s energy is 8 times what is required for a healthy diet.
4,000 cal. meat + eggs
3,500 cal. beverages
2,100 calories what an average individual needs*
fruit + vegetables
1,500 cal. dairy
800 cal. grain
An individualâ€™s daily share of the U.S. food systemâ€™s energy consumption, shown as calories of energy and divided by food type.
On average, it requires 16 pounds of grain and more than 1,800 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef. As our population grows and farmland becomes increasingly strained, the extravagant use of resources to produce such small quantities of food will need to be questioned. This will be compounded by our dwindling fossil fuel supplies, which standard farming methods rely on â€” oil being a raw ingredient of chemical fertilizers used to grow our nonorganic food.
What does it take to produce 1 lb of meat?
16 lbs of grain 1 lb of beef
1,800 gallons of water
In stark contrast to red meat production, aquaponically grown fish not only require less feed, but also produce large quantities of fruit and vegetables as a byproduct. In this closed loop system nothing is wasted â€” plants are nourished by water from the fish, in turn cleaning and filtering the water that is then returned to the fish. Excess plant material is used to make fish food, and so the cycle continues.
What does it take to produce 1 lb of aquaponic fish?
2.5 lbs of fish food
1 lb of fish
wormary kitchen recycling
up to 55 lbs of produce
A high yield aquaponic system not only produces fish, but substantial quantities of fruit, vegetables and fish food, without the need for additional fertilizers or excessive water use.
Our cities have the highest densities of hungry mouths to feed, giving many compelling reasons to produce fresh food directly within these areas. Maintaining urban density has many benefits that are important to maintain, so growing food requires new ways of thinking. We already have parks and open space, with buildings presenting many opportunities to create vertical productive landscapes that are ripe for the picking â€” collectively forming the Urban Food Jungle.
Can our cities be used to efficiently produce food?
All food imported into cities.
City densities decreased to make way for traditional farmland.
Food produced through integration within cities â€” reducing the burden on farmland and supplying fresh food directly to the consumer.
When you run out of land, the natural inclination is to build upwards. This is a great solution for people, but can it work for food? Unlike people, our food needs high levels of light to grow, so stacking agriculture vertically on top of itself results in an immediate issue, only overcome by using energyconsuming lighting. An elegant solution is to mix the two together, creating intriguing opportunities not only to grow plants
where there is most light (roofs, facades, arcades), but also to the benefit of its occupants through sky gardens, shade, winter gardens and more. And letâ€™s not forget the most important benefit of providing fresh food for local cafes, restaurants and farmers markets, increasing the nutrients and flavor of the food itself and putting people in touch with how their food is made.
How can food be grown in our vertical cities?
When you run out of land...
...stacking people makes sense.
...stacking agriculture requires extra energy for lighting.
...stacking the two together creates benefits for both.
This is both high yield and flexible, lending itself to a variety of configurations and locations within our urban areas.
An aquaponic Urban Food Jungle in the making.
* denotes water circulation
Horizontal System: Sidewalks, parks, plazas
Vertical System: Building faรงades, walls, pocket parks
Column System: Atriums, wintergardens, parks
Integrating high yield food production within our city centers is not farfetched â€” we are almost doing it already.
The use of living walls is a tried and tested technique for expanding the area of greenery, even in the densest locations. By taking what we do already just one step further, the Urban Food Jungle is clearly achievable.
AECOMâ€™s Westfield London living wall and water feature: opened 2008.
ponic Cycle a u Aq
nutrient rich water While this design is not aquaponic, it demonstrates how a system could be seamlessly incorporated within the urban fabric.
The Urban Food Jungle A conceptual prototype within an urban winter garden, with towering aquaponic columns and views towards a juice bar and culinary demonstration area.
Our buildings create the opportunity to manipulate the microclimate throughout the year, which in turn can be used to an agricultural advantage, forming a synergy between plant types and building systems. Growing food in buildings has the added advantage of reducing water demand by up to 80-90 percent, being unaffected by adverse weather and requiring fewer (or no) pesticides.
Harnessing the urban micro-climate to produce a bounty of fresh foods. Dry Hot
Dry Hot Hot Hot
GOJI BERRY GOJI BERRY
PAKPAK CHOI CHOI
HORNED MELON HORNED MELON
Humid Humid Hot TARO
Our tall city buildings come with an array of devices to clean and maintain them, which could easily be used to harvest the highest of crops.
Harvesting unique productive landscapes using standard equipment.
Bringing fresh produce directly to the consumer; reducing packaging and transportation time; increasing choice, nutritional value and flavor.
Aquaponic nutrient/water cycle
Round level pedestrian circulation
Productive larger trees planted at ground level.
Aerial walkway leading to juice bar and culinary demonstrations.
Food used throughout the site, at local restaurants and farmers markets.
View down to the aquaponic fish pools from the aerial juice bar.
Urban Food Jungle: Grow it, Cook it, Eat it.
The Challenge: Food Security In a rapidly urbanizing world, we are faced with a very real challenge—supporting a larger population with fewer resources. The UN reports that by 2050, the global population will swell to 9.1 billion—with 6.3 billion people predicted to live in urban areas. Supporting this population will entail increasing food production by as much as 70 percent—requiring an additional area of farmland 2.5 times the size of California. This is within the context of farmland that is already feeling the strain. In the U.S., three million acres of agricultural land go out of production each year and half of the original topsoil on the great prairies has been lost to erosion, a process that is continuing at a rate 30 times faster than new soil is produced. Many of the remaining areas are so drained of nutrients that farming relies on the use of artificial fertilizers, which in turn depend on our dwindling oil supplies for their manufacture. In a country renowned for food production, the value of imported food has started to exceed that of its exports. As the population grows and densities shift, food scarcity has the potential to become a defining issue of the coming age, and our response to this predicament will affect the quality and the health of our individual lives as well as the health of our planet. This unprecedented urban growth requires an equally novel approach to alleviate food scarcity, and a shift in our preconceptions about what the urban fabric can offer. The mere conversion of forests and grasslands into agricultural zones is inefficient and unsustainable—any economic gain comes at too great an environmental cost. Conversely, allocating urban land to significant agricultural zones results in lower
urban densities, diminishing the sustainability benefits of urban living—ultimately increasing commutes, energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. Maintaining the status quo is not an option if we are to sustainably support future demands, yet at the same time, our cities present many opportunities that are ripe for the picking, through an integrated approach. An important part of this is an understanding of what it takes to produce our food. The U.S. food system consumes nearly 15 percent of the country’s energy, receiving $14 billion a year in subsides. While the huge distance—1,500 miles on average—that our food travels from farm to fork has attracted much attention, a closer look at the facts reveals that these inefficiencies have more to do with what we eat and where we buy it. We often take the availability of food for granted, but much of it comes at great cost. On average, it requires 16 pounds of grain and more than 1,800 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef, with our love of highly processed, packaged foods having an even greater impact. Each day, one person’s share of the U.S. food system’s energy consumption is equivalent to eight times the energy requirement for an average healthy diet. A simple shift towards fresh food with minimal packaging and more fish instead of meat, would dramatically reduce this energy burden—all the more important as our reliance on fossil fuels becomes increasingly stressed. Healthy eating really does pay on many levels. While we certainly need to increase the yield of food supply coming from existing farmland, we must reconsider the way in which we engage the potential of our urban environment.
The Potential Inefficiencies of Urban Farming When a city exhausts its buildable land, the natural inclination is to expand vertically. Therefore, it seems only natural that the impulse to include agricultural land within the urban environment would follow suit—hence the popularity of the multistory greenhouse or “vertical farm” as a conceptual design solution. Over the years, vertical farming has come under a great deal of criticism for understandable reasons—while it brings food production closer to where people live, it thrives only when it optimizes natural light. Yet stacking greenhouses on top of each other makes it impossible to provide crops with uniform natural light. The energy required to artificially light these greenhouses is expensive and ultimately cancels out many of the potential benefits of such a project. The Urban Food Jungle: an Adaptive Solution The Urban Food Jungle is a conceptual design that responds to the threat of diminishing food security and the inefficiencies of classic urban farming models by interconnecting sustainable food production, entertainment, education and culinary delight. This “aquaponic” system not only grows organic fruit and vegetables, but freshwater fish too—one nourishing the other in a sustainable, high yield system. A series of pools are used to raise the fish, generating nutrient-rich water as a by-product. This is circulated to the top of dramatic sculptural columns, fertilizing a variety of plants as they filter and clean the water on its descent back to the ponds, creating a lush edible canopy. In stark contrast to beef production, one pound of fish also yields up to 55 pounds of produce, with the fish food also being a by-product of the
plant production. This closed-loop system not only eliminates the need for artificial fertilizers, but uses up to 80-90 percent less water than traditional agriculture. There is a potential catch, however, in that many of our favorite fish are carnivores that consume more protein-rich food than they produce, making them inefficient to farm. Also, farmed-raised fish are often low in healthy omega-3 due to the amount of corn they are fed. In the Urban Food Jungle scenario, fastgrowing omnivores, such as tasty Tilapia, are raised and fed with excess vegetables, worms from wormeries used to digest organic waste from adjacent restaurants and omega-3 rich flaxseeds. In this particular application, the Urban Food Jungle inhabits a glazed winter garden adjacent to densely populated buildings, cafés and restaurants. Ground-level pedestrian circulation enables easy visitor access; meanwhile, a floating pod-shaped food kiosk serves fare prepared with fruit, vegetables and fish cultivated on site—a focus for culinary demonstrations. Most importantly, food harvested from the Urban Food Jungle can be used to supply local restaurants, cafés and farmers markets, feeding the immediate population. The system optimizes the use of direct natural light in two ways: first by strategically locating plants in areas with micro-climates that suit each species’ specific needs; and second by supplementing light already being used by a building’s occupants. This has the potential to become a decentralized network of food production, analogous to having your own fuel cell. It is also an adaptable system,
lending itself to be modified and embedded within the existing urban fabric in a variety of forms, including in double-height lobbies, sky gardens in tall buildings and performative outer skins or green walls on buildings and other structures, not to mention in plazas, parks and other outdoor spaces. Sounds farfetched? As is evident with projects, such as AECOM’s acclaimed Living Wall at the Westfield Shopping Center in London, even a north-facing façade can be transformed into a productive landscape—in this case using native woodland plants to form a vertical wildlife habitat in the middle of the built environment. By interconnecting the water feature at its base, an aquaponic system could have been employed, with the growing of food being just one further step. We already employ many of the methods that could make the Urban Food Jungle a reality, and its potential benefits would be profound. This high yield design has the potential to be deployed throughout various cities—addressing food scarcity through “positive impact design”— not just reducing the impacts of what we do, but positively giving back to the ecosystems to which we belong. The Urban Food Jungle is a unique solution as it extends beyond low impact design—it rehabilitates and responds to the existing urban fabric in a strategic and sustainable manner, which allows it to maintain the intrinsic efficiencies of urban density. Aside from offering our cities a new take on the pocket park or urban parkland, the Urban Food Jungle provides a model that makes it economically beneficial to use urban space to produce food. By directly linking the Urban Food Jungle to entertainment, restaurants
and education, its program becomes deeply embedded in mechanisms that will perpetuate its growth in a variety of social, spatial and economic sectors. The Urban Food Jungle: Community Benefits The Urban Food Jungle is a living manifestation of the merits of decentralized sustainable urban agriculture. The potential health and educational impact of the Urban Food Jungle cannot be understated—it can serve as a powerful platform for educating the public through horticultural and culinary demonstrations, and developing partnerships with local restaurants, businesses and farmers markets. America’s fascination with The Food Network and televised cooking programs such as “Top Chef,” “Chopped” or “The Next Food Network Star” are perfect examples of our eagerness to learn about the foods we consume. The success of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s “Feed Me Better” campaign—a school lunch program aimed at educating and providing students with nutritious food—illustrates the ability of such initiatives to effectuate change. The Urban Food Jungle creates a dramatic and playful setting for children and adults alike to discover what the ingredients of their favorite foods look like from plant to plate, informing food choices and reconnecting the urbanite with the productive landscape.
Grow it, Cook it, Eat it.
Team Aidan Flaherty Blake Sanborn Haein Lee James Haig Streeter (project director) Jeremy Siew Eden Project UK—Horticulture
Endnotes  Vidal, John. “The Future of Food”. The Observer, January 2012. Online.  Canning, Patrick; Ainsley Charles; Sonya Huang; Karen R. Polenske; and Arnold Waters. Energy Use in the US Food Economic Research Service. March 2010.  Ibid.
Bibliography of Works Consulted Bill Benenson, Laurie Benenson, Tracy J. Brown, Eleonore Dailly, and Gene Rosow (Producers) and Bill Benenson, Gene Rosow, and Eleonore Dailly (Directors). (2009). Dirt! The Movie [DVD]. Bomford, Michael. “Beyond Food Miles”. Post Carbon Institute, March 11, 2011. Online. Burdett, Richard; Deyan Sudjic; London School of Economics and Political Science.; Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft für Internationalen Dialog. The Endless City: the Urban Age Project by the London School of Economics and Deutsche Bank’s Alfred Herrhausen Society London. London: Phaidon, 2007. Canning, Patrick; Ainsley Charles; Sonya Huang; Karen R. Polenske; and Arnold Waters. Energy Use in the US Food Economic Research Service. March 2010. James Colquhoun and Laurentine Ten Bosch (Directors + Producers), (2008). Food Matters [DVD]. Australia. (Also available online). James Colquhoun, Laurentine Ten Bosch, and Carlo Ledesma (Directors), (2012). Hungry for Change [DVD]. Australia. (Also available online).
Glaeser, Edward L. “The Locavore’s dilemma”. The Boston Globe, June 16, 2011. Print. Ladner, Peter. The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed our Cities. New Society Publishers, 2011. Notestein, Frank W. “Population: The Long View”, in Food for the World, ed. T.W. Schultz. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1945. Mark Rossen, Alan Siegel and Christopher Taylor (Producers) and Christopher Taylor (Director). (2008). Food Fight [DVD]. United States. Thompson, Warren S. “Population”, The American Journal of Sociology v.34 (1929): 959-75. United Nations, Long-Range World Population Projections: Based on the 1998 Revision. 1999. Vidal, John. “The Future of Food”. The Observer, January 2012. Online.
About AECOM AECOM is a global provider of professional technical and management support services to a broad range of markets, including transportation, facilities, environmental, energy, water and government. With approximately 45,000 employees around the world, AECOM is a leader in all of the key markets that it serves. AECOM provides a blend of global reach, local knowledge, innovation and technical excellence in delivering solutions that create, enhance and sustain the worldâ€™s built, natural and social environments. A Fortune 500 company, AECOM serves clients in more than 130 countries and has annual revenue in excess of $8.0 billion. More information on AECOM and its services can be found at: www.aecom.com. For more information on the Urban Food Jungle contact: James Haig Streeter Principal 300 California Street, Ste 400 San Francisco, CA 94104 (415) 796-8100 firstname.lastname@example.org www.aecom.com/urbanfoodjungle