Methods and models for viable urban agriculture are being explored in cities everywhere. Selected as Climate KIC’s best start-up of 2013, Berlin-based Efficient City Farming (ECF) has quickly propelled sustainable food production within built-up environments into a new realm.
As populations increase and global resources become increasingly dear, market demand for local, fresh produce from sustainable sources is rapidly increasing. Addressing this situation has become a very popular pursuit across a range of industries, not least agriculture and sustainable design. Efficient City Farming GmbH (ECF), a small start-up based in Berlin has quietly been chipping away at this issue, with a vision of providing city dwellers access to sustainably produced foods grown in their own urban area. Focusing on vegetables and fish, their results so far have been as simple as they are viable.
This year, ECF was voted best German start up of 2013, along with also taking out the Silicon Valley Cleantech Open (the worlds largest accelerator for clean-tech startups). ECF designs and builds aquaponic farming systems. Their work enables the production of food in urban areas that is available direct to consumer, eradicating the need for transport and temperature-controlled supply chains.
The design of ECF’s farming system combines up-cycling philosophies with scientifically proven agricultural techniques. The design can be delivered either as a single unit for an urban rooftop environment, or multiplied as many times as needed to provide fish and vegetable produce in commercial quantities. The flexibility and simplicity in their design has seen this economical start-up generate serious interest from individuals, small co-ops and large supermarket chains alike.
ECF’s urban farms combine two elements that mutually support each other in natural environments: plants, which rely on fertilizer; and fish, which require clean water. ECF’s urban farms are designed to allow plants to extract waste products from the water that houses fish, in turn providing valuable nutrients for the growth of the plants whilst cleaning and balancing the environment of the fish. The resulting produce is free from pesticides and constantly self-replenishing.
With a vision of providing city-dwellers access to sustainably produced food, the team’s first prototype was put in to operation in 2012. The Berlin based CF1 (container farm 1) has been producing high quality fish and vegetables through a transparent process that has generated huge public and press acknowledgment. It paved the way for planning and construction of a second container farm, which was completed in early 2013 and is again enjoying equally high quality and high quantity yields. Following the completion of their third farm, CF3, the next milestone for the team is the much anticipated opening of the ECF Center Berlin, in 2014.
Render for ECG Centre, Berlin
The ECF Center will consist of 1,800 square meters of large Venlo greenhouse space, with three-quarters dedicated to a hydroponic structure for growing vegetables and herbs along with the remaining quarter dedicated to aquaculture for fish rearing. The team estimate the facility’s capacity will allow for an annual production of approximately 24 tons of fish and 35 tons of vegetables.
Both fish and vegetables produced by ECF are sold through an online ordering system direct to customers, virtually eliminating the supply-chain and ensuring the customer receives the freshest produce possible. The system is ready for the market and is currently funded by the European Union Climate-KIC Program. Efficient City Farming’s time is definitely now!
Efficient City Farming Berlin
The ECF Team: Nicolas Leschke (Managing Director), Frank Sippel (Advisor), Karoline vom Böckel (Sustainability Consultant), Christian Echternacht (Marketing & PR).
By Tiffany Vidonopoulos