On Tuesday, June 30th, the group of 10 Early Adopters, leaders of rooftop greenhouse projects coached by Groof partners since 2019, has attended an online webinar with PAKT, a project of 1800 m² urban farming built in Antwerp, in Belgium. Our group of Early Adopters has been inspired by this sharing of experience in the field of urban agriculture. PAKT bridges the gap between urban agriculture and "classical" agriculture by giving the farmers of the region visibility through their weekly market and sales platform.
Launched in 2017 by two brothers, this project quickly became financially viable and the two brothers were able to hire two urban farmers. This project is a great example of diversified vegetable gardens combining on and off-ground farming on an industrial site. In other words, traditional vegetable growing is mixed with newer technics such as rooftop plantings based on low-tech knowledges on an old warehouse, aquaponic systems, green walls, etc. The rooftop greenhouse does not recycle energy from the building below, but it provides vegetables for a longer period.
Through this project, they aim at creating cross-knowledge about urban farming in their neighbourhood, showing a good example of local and sustainable food project for municipalities and developing a bridge between local producers and consumers. Everything is circular and absolutely nothing is wasted there: the farmers make their own fertilizer using kitchen leftovers from the restaurants on the site, chicken dung and even fish.
In order to make the business model sustainable, this private company collects various incomes such as citizen’s contributions to grow their own crops on rooftop gardens and have access to regular workshops, collaborations with organic and local farmers who sell their products on an online platform as well as in high quality local restaurants, workshops for schools, consulting for other urban farming projects, etc.
They describe this project as a social experiment, a place where people come together and get to know each other through the garden. Indeed, PAKT has transformed this industrial site into a common space with a kitchen, a pizza oven, places to share food and drink, gardens, etc.
During the Covid crisis, even despite the financial difficulties, they could feel that their network was really strong, and their contributors really want to help and learn. Nowadays, this project represents 100 people from the neighbourhood who participate in the projects to grow their own vegetables and herbs and a group of 10 volunteers who take care of the rooftop gardens and share their knowledge.
In October 2020, an on-site visit is expected with the selected projects for the second part of Groof coaching.
More info on PAKT project here: www.pakt-antwerpen.be
Mathilde Gougeau for Groupe One