A lot of hard work is currently being done in The Hague on the topmost storey of a former Philips factory building, where a modern urban farm covering 1,900 m2 is being built. A greenhouse is being constructed here, as well as an indoor fish farm. With investments totalling 2.6 million euros, UF De Schilde is everything but a hobby project.

The Swiss Urban Farmers, a spin-off that has its origins in the ZHAW University in Zurich, was launched in 2013 with the development of De Schilde, in collaboration with the Municipality of The Hague and various horticulture specialists including Priva, Koppert and Rijk Zwaan. As from 20 May, private individuals, retailers and restaurants will be able to buy ‘exclusively grown’ vegetables from this urban farm, such as tomatoes, lettuce and herbs, as well as tilapia fish. If it were up to the Municipality, the rest of the building – which is largely vacant – will house even more initiatives that will put The Hague on the world map as a centre of urban farming.

Fast start

Mark Durno, the director of Urban Farmers Benelux, is pleased with the fast start. ‘We are working on a similar project in Switzerland, but the Swiss authorities require you to submit your plans to a vast number of different agencies. This translates into having to file fourteen different versions of 250 pages each, all of which are examined individually. In The Hague a preliminary version was sufficient, and it took only one meeting to discuss the construction and environmental permits with the authorities.’

It’s now up to Durno to staff the farm with people who not only understand how to grow vegetables, but also how to farm fish. ‘They have to be open to new technologies and be creative. This is not a traditional farm.’ He has received a remarkable number of responses from people yearning for a career switch. ‘We’ve received letters from accountants who wants to become urban farmers, for example. Of course we think that’s fabulous, but let’s not forget that we are running a commercial farm here!’

Visit the Urban Farmers website for more information.

Source: Financieel Dagblad. Photo: Urban Farmers.