The research project "Sustainable Food Security - Resilient and resource-efficient value chains (SiEUGreen)" seeks to strengthen EU-China cooperation to promote urban agriculture, focusing on increased food security, resource efficiency and smarter, more robust cities.
Improving urban agriculture
The project has been granted seven million euros (about 66 million Norwegian kroner) in four-year support from Horizon 2020, which is the EU's research and innovation program. With its budget of 80 billion euros for the period 2014-2020, Horixon 2020 is considered the world's largest. SiEUGreen is built around preparing, developing and evaluating examples of urban agriculture in five selected European and Chinese urban and peri-urban areas: Fredrikstad in Norway, community gardens in Aarhus, Denmark, previously unused municipal areas with a dense refugee population in Turkey and large, urban farms, so-called community farms, in Beijing and a development area in central China with solutions similar to those in Fredrikstad.
Large interdisciplinary cooperation in Europe and China
NMBU has the project management for SiEUGreen. The Norwegian Institute for Bioeconomy (NIBIO) is also a partner. In total, 20 partners participate in the project: 14 in Europe and 5 in China, which together form a multidisciplinary consortium of European and Chinese researchers, technology providers, SMEs, financiers, local and regional authorities and communities. From NMBU, researchers from the Faculty of Biosciences, Faculty of Environmental Sciences and Natural Resource Management, and the Faculty of Science and Technology participate. Niels Torp and the Nordic Holding Group are industry partners.
"It's really exciting and fun to have received such a project after you have worked on this topic for about 40 years. There was only one application that got money from this call, namely ours, so the chances of getting support were not great. It came like lightning from clear skies, says Professor Petter D. Jenssen at the Faculty of Environmental Sciences and Natural Resource Management.
Jenssen has been a pioneer for the development of nature-based and cycle-based sewage purification methods and built three new master's programs in Norway, Nepal and Pakistan, focusing on sustainable water and drainage technology adapted to local conditions - a technology that is central to the new Horizon 2020- project.
Jenssen is project coordinator alongside NMBU's professor Trine Hvoslef-Eide at Biovit. From NIBIO, Jihong Liu Clarke and Trond Mæhlum are central.
Impacting society and economy
The project will demonstrate how technological innovation and social innovation in urban agriculture can have a positive impact on society and the economy through the use of new resource-efficient agricultural technologies in urban and urban areas. It will develop innovative approaches to social engagement and investigate economic, environmental and social benefits (and disadvantages) of urban agriculture based on a circular way of thinking and a circular economy.
Proximity to cultivation
An important part is to look at the social impact of having a lot of greenery in the cities.
"Urban agriculture is much more important than we are aware of. Getting close to food production in cities is a value in itself. Growing vegetables, fruits and berries yourself is twice as healthy. It is healthy to eat and healthy to grow. Growing food itself strengthens both physical and mental health, and since more and more families are staying in towns, it is also useful for children and getting closer to food production," says Professor Trine Hvoslef-Eide.
"For urban planners, using green ceilings and walls is also a good way to get greener and more environmentally friendly cities. Plants bite dust, produce oxygen and act as water-repellents (counteract flooding). Green ceilings and walls reduce noise in the cities, insulate buildings against both high and low temperatures - and, in particular, they counteract floods. Climate change gives more extreme weather, and diverting water is an important part of reducing flood risk," she points out.
Large development project in Fredrikstad
In Fredrikstad, the old hospital will be converted into apartments with very strict environmental requirements.
It is the company Niels Torp AS who are the architects. The project manager for the development is Norwegian-Chinese and very engaged in the project SiEUGreen, where they will include food in the apartment complex and install more environmentally friendly toilet types - such as vacuum toilets, urine-sorting toilets and solar-powered toilets.
"90% of the sewage contamination comes from the toilet," Jenssen says, and points out that they will look at how the alternative toilet types and subsequent treatments can transform this pollutant into a valuable resource in the form of biogas and fertilizers.
"I started my career at NMBU working with sewage networks in scattered settlements. Now, with local solutions, this has become trendy again. Large systems are very vulnerable, especially when they are computer controlled. We can create solutions that eventually make any one house self-sufficient with water and drainage etc. I think the future in many areas is becoming more and more decentralized, "Jenssen says.
"What we are going to demonstrate in Turkey, Denmark, China and Fredrikstad will have big consequences. We will build energy efficient solutions that make the homes comfortable with 10% of today's water consumption - and maybe 10% of the energy and heating consumption we have today. We will not get the consumption down to zero, that is not realistic, but looking at solutions to reduce it by at least 90%. We will also document this as well as look at how this can be done on a large scale, he concludes.