A challenge resulting from the ever increasing population in China is the production of agriculture. With a population of 24 million people and rising fast, food production will become ever more crucial in the city of Shanghai. China has lost over 123,000 square kilometres of farmland to urbanization. It is estimated by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection that roughly 200,000 square kilometres of arable land suffers from soil pollution.
Shanghai’s new approach to solve this issue is the 250 acre Sunqiao Urban Agricultural District that represents the changing nature of the city. In direct comparison to Shanghai’s high-rising skyscrapers in the city centre, Sunqiao follows the same trend of modern Shanghai, moving upwards. The new urban area will start construction in late 2017 with the design of vertical farming systems that will increase the productive capacity of the region as well as reducing operating costs. Due to the increasingly high land prices of many global cities, building up makes this project an economically beneficial choice.
It’s goal is to increase agricultural productivity whilst tackling problems with traditional agricultural practises such as increased greenhouse gas, food waste, deforestation and increased irrigation by promoting a self-sufficient system of re-using waste as fertilisers and using rainwater as a vital resource (see figure).
“20% of the world’s population and employing 22% of Chinese citizens.”
Production will be based on the Shanghainese diet, which typically consists of up to 56% green leafy vegetables. They thrive in the simple setups, growing quickly whilst weighing little, both of which make them an economical and efficient option. While Shanghai aims to become a leader in urban food production, not only does Sunqiao address the demand for locally-sourced food, it also educates the next generation of urban children about where their food comes from. This project goes against the narrative that China is an economy driven by manufacturing. China is actually the world’s largest producer and consumer of agricultural products. In fact, the agricultural sector represents approximately 13% of China’s total Gross Domestic Product. In the United States, agriculture accounts for about 5.7% of GDP. Agriculture in China is also responsible for feeding 20% of the world’s population and employing 22% of Chinese citizens.
In addition, Shanghai has made a persistent effort to safeguard both food and farmers by taking control of local production and distribution while preserving farmland within city limits. This system creates efficiencies, reduces costs, and protects the livelihoods of local farmers. Sunqiao manages to merge the economic interests of agriculture to the economy while preserving the traditional practices of small, localized farms. Sunqiao illustrates how the Chinese government’s strategy of preserving land for agricultural purposes can actively support a more sustainable local food network while increasing quality of life in the city through a community program of restaurants, markets, a culinary academy, and pick-your-own experiences. Sunqiao is an example of how sustainability and preservation can be achieved in the wake of urbanization.