City inhabitants will produce food in the corridor of their block?
Replacing food from the supermarket with vegetables produced by residents in the corridor of their block – this is the solution that we want to investigate in the Polish-Norwegian SmartFood project together with the inhabitants of Łódź, a city in Central Poland. Together with our Norwegian and Polish partners we want to test innovative hydroponic SmartFood cabins, powered by solar energy and supplied with rainwater. Łódź housing communities and cooperatives can now apply to host the SmartFood Urban Living Lab.
The aim of the SmartFood project is to co-create and test with city inhabitants solutions for year-round, sustainable and safe production and consumption of food. The project is financed from the Norway Grants and the Polish budget through the National Centre for Research and Development.
– Together with partners from Norway, we have set ourselves very ambitious goals - explains Łukasz Gontar, M.Sc., a scientist from Research and Innovation Centre Pro-Akademia, which is the project leader. – We want the independent production of food to encourage the inhabitants of Łódź to switch to healthier eating habits. Our goal is not only to reduce dependence on retail food purchases, which, as we all observe, are becoming more and more expensive. We also want to limit food waste and encourage residents to get to know their neighbors better.
The idea of the project arose during the IdeaLab workshop, which took place at the beginning of 2020 at the initiative of the National Centre for Research and Development and the Norwegian Research Council. Among the members of the event were future project leaders, representing the Research and Innovation Centre Pro-Akademia from Konstantynów Łódzki, the Cracow University of Technology, the Academy of Special Education, the Norwegian Air Research Institute, the Western Norway Research Institute of and the Norwegian Business School, BI. The organisers invited experts from various fields of science from Poland and Norway to answer the question: what can be done to make the cities of the future better?
– During the brainstorming session with colleagues from Norway, we noticed that a significant part of the food consumed by city residents is now transported over long distances, which is associated with the emission of significant amounts of greenhouse gases – says Dr. Joanna Bąk from the Cracow University of Technology – We eat products that are not necessarily fresh. They are often processed and filled with ingredients that have a negative impact on our health.
– Also in Norway, inhabitants of cities very often eat food packed in plastic, which creates environmental problems in landfills and in the oceans - adds Dr. Mari Hanssen Korsbrekke from the Western Norway Research Institute – Unfortunately, a lot of food is wasted, which has a negative impact not only on environment, but also on the pockets of households. In the SmartFood project, together with partners from Poland, we want to develop and test new solutions that can mitigate these problems.
The project started in September 2021. Intensive preparations are currently underway to start research at the "SmartFood Urban Living Lab", which will be organized next year in one of apartment blocks in Łódź. A team of scientists and engineers will install 20 SmartFood Cabins in the common areas of the block for individual cultivation of food plants. There will also be two installations shared by the residents: for energy and water, which will enable solar energy and rainwater to be collected onsite. Therefore, the crops will be genuinely organic. For a year, 20 families will test SmartFood Cabins and participate in the experiment. Research participants will have the opportunity to produce lettuce, tomatoes and other vegetables themselves. They will also get access to the SmartFood mobile app, thanks to which they will not only see the parameters of their cultivation, but also receive culinary and dietary suggestions.
The housing associations and cooperatives from Łódź, who are interested in hosting the Urban Living Lab, are invited to visit the website www.smartfood.city. The recruitment of housing associations and cooperatives will last until April 6, 2022. Then, residents of the selected block will be invited to apply to participate in the tests. Thanks to the co-financing of the project from the Norway Grants and the Polish budget, participation in the project is free of charge.
Working together for a green, competitive and inclusive Europe
SmartFood has received funding from the Norway Grants 2014-2021 and the state budget of Poland via the National Centre for Research and Development within "Applied Research" Programme. The project benefits from a € M1.275 grant from Norway as well as a € M0.225 grant from the state budget of Poland. The total project value is € M1.5.