An urban laboratory for farming technology

How can we make urban agriculture more efficient and in this way facilitate a greater development of green cities?

A growing trend in the development of smart, “future” cities and communities, is urban farming – the practice of cultivating, processing and distributing food in or around urban areas.

By growing fruits and vegetables in urban areas, residents can increase their food security, add valuable green space to their communities, and reduce carbon emissions by limiting the transportation of food from rural areas.

Norway is one of the places where urban farming is becoming increasingly popular, and Inventas og CGI consultants in Oslo banded together to brainstorm how technology can be used to improve urban farming processes. The result is a high-tech, thriving garden on the rooftop of our Oslo office called the Urban Farm Lab.

To a new level

Urban Farm Lab explores how to make urban farming as efficient and autonomous as possible using technologies such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.

For example, the garden’s scarecrows use sound and artificial intelligence to detect birds that might harm the garden and keep them away. Based on the images captured by the cameras, the program identifies the type of bird that has landed in the garden and emits a specific alarm signal that will send that species away. This ‘approach is more effective than a traditional scarecrow that birds quickly learn to ignore.

Another example of technology used in our Urban Farm Lab is the internet-connected irrigation system that alternates between watering above ground and below ground to prevent wasting water (via evaporation) when temperatures are too high. Alternatively, watering can be delayed until temperature and brightness are lower. When combined with the precise irrigation of individual areas, our urban farm is exceptionally water efficient.

A project without borders

Once the Urban Farm Lab’s growing systems are refined for widespread use, we plan to make the Urban Farm Lab’s capabilities available for residential and commercial use so that more people and businesses can contribute to sustainability.