The largest urban farm has opened near the international railway station and the slaughterhouse in Brussels: The Abattoir Farm, with a surface of 4,000m2. This is a European premiere and the perfect example of how Brussels aims to produce better food, and eat better as well.
Ferme Abattoir: sustainability first
The Abattoir Farm is located on the roof of Foodmet, a popular food market in Anderlecht that attracts 100,000 visitors each week. It has a total surface of 4,000m2 and combines a greenhouse, a fish farm and vegetable gardens. It responds to the consumers’ demand for healthier, local and traceable food. Everything is produced naturally, without any chemicals.
Its location on a rooftop is no coincidence: cities need to optimize space, reduce energy and CO2 and recover rainwater for on-site use. The Abattoir Farm demonstrates how the circular economy can be achieved in a dense city as Brussels: it produces healthy, transparent, quality and local food, in the heart of the city. All aspects are taken into account: energy, water, air quality, biodiversity, resources, employment and real estate.
Aquaponics: zero waste healthy aquaculture
The farm’s greenhouse, with a surface of 2,000m2, uses aquaponics, a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture, to grow vegetables and fish. It uses two closed-loop recirculating systems where fish and plants are linked by a biological filter. The filter with billions of microorganisms purifies the fish water, which in turn serves to feed the plants in the greenhouse and the outdoor garden. It is completely natural, without any antibiotics or pesticides, offering quality and safety. The aquaculture has a yearly capacity of 35 tonnes of striped bass fish, a popular fish similar to sea bass that can grow healthily in fresh water.
The greenhouse produces herbs, tomatoes and microgreens, such as garlic chives, pea shoots, radish, mustard, shiso, blood sorrel... Again, no chemicals or pesticides are used. All pest control is biological and the farm’s bumblebees take care of pollination. This is not about mass production. The farm focuses on unique varieties and smaller volumes, to be distributed locally.
Not only does combining fish and veg save enormous quantities of water. It also means less energy, lower transport costs and direct and indirect employment.
An outdoor garden with a view
Next to the greenhouse and the fish tanks, the farm also has an outdoor garden. It currently uses 700m2 but the full 2000m2 will be developed gradually. The roof is a microclimate that is ideal to grow salads, vegetables and fruit, such as blueberries, blackberries, redcurrants and raspberries.
Abattoir only sells its products to retailers, brick and mortar and online shops, restaurants and caterers in and around Brussels, reconnecting the community through food and offering customers the chance to know where their food comes from.
From Brussels to Europe
The group behind the Abattoir Farm is BIGH, the European pioneer in intensive, zero-waste, year-round urban agriculture. It has succeeded in raising 4,3 million euros from several private and public investors. The company will prepare plans for next farms as well: it aims to create a network of farms in all major European cities.
Produce better, eat better
Urban farms are but one example of urban agriculture but it comes in many other forms, such as community gardens, backyard gardens, orchards… The Region actively supports revitalizing unused space in the urban landscape with its Good Food Strategy. One of it objectives is that by 2035, the agriculture in the city centre and suburbs should produce 30% of the unprocessed fruit and veg consumed by the Region’s residents.
Urban farms will play a key role in achieving this ambitious goal. They transform the traditional farming practice by bringing greater yields in smaller areas, meet the consumers’ demand for local, healthy food and give the economy a boost. Urban farming is the future, and it is happening in Brussels!