Guillaume Fourdinier has lived in Paris for six years, but he still misses the taste of the fresh cereal grains, beets, carrots and more that grow on his family's farm in Verton. There, in northern France's countryside, eating locally is a way of life – not simply a trend or a sticker on an apple at the grocery store.
“Local food is everywhere when you are in the countryside. You get fruits and vegetables with better taste, more nutritional value,” he says. “When you are in Paris, what is local food? There is nothing coming from a local farm. I think for quality of life for people living in big cities this is a big problem.”
In 2015, Fourdinier co-founded Agricool, an urban farm that's now comprised of 11 recycled shipping containers on the north side of the city. Eight farmers plant, harvest, pack, and deliver the pesticide-free lettuces, herbs, and strawberries to 60 supermarkets (though Fourdinier expects that number to grow to at least 200 retailers by the end of 2021).
Urban farms like Agricool are part of a broad collection of metropolitan agricultural efforts including everything from vertical farms to greenhouses to aquaponics to community gardens. The idea of cultivating food in or near cities is not new (see the victory gardens of both world wars, for example), but these ventures have become increasingly popular in recent years as the local food movement strengthens. After the rise of the supermarkets led many people to feel disconnected from food production, consumers are again paying more attention to how and where their food is grown, along with how far ingredients must travel between field and plate.
From Brussels to Nigeria, entrepreneurs and farmers are reimagining what farms are and conceiving innovative technology to help grow food in smaller spaces and in more sustainable ways. They're attempting to fix existing food supply chain concerns, which we've all became intimately familiar with in the past year. Images of picked-over grocery shelves and farmers tossing out produce early in the Covid-19 pandemic broadcast the failures and fragility of our current systems.