Ag Tech and Research News

New “rooftop farm” at FAO highlights how innovative technology can help safeguard agro-biodiversity

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19 November 2021, Rome: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) today unveiled a prototype rooftop farm at its Rome headquarters, an initiative that highlights how innovative technology contributes to making agri-food systems more sustainable and to increasing access to healthy diets.

The farm will help explore the potential of urban agriculture to alleviate food shortages in areas where agricultural land and soil is limited, such as mountains and cities.

Sponsored by the Italian retailer NaturaSì and designed by the Italian urban garden design company Ecobubble, the installation is housed entirely in mobile, triangle-shaped modules made of corrosion-retarding steel. The farm is also equipped with an “intelligent” automated system that ensures crops get what they need to thrive, as well as with sensors that monitor nutrients, pathogens, atmospheric pollution, moisture and climate.

Addressing the inauguration ceremony, the FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu, noted that the rooftop farm is in line with FAO’s mission to promote agro-biodiversity, science, innovation and sustainable agri-food systems as key tools for fighting hunger and implementing the 2030 Agenda. He stressed the rooftop farm “will serve as a prototype that can be replicated as terrace farming in urban areas.”

Qu also noted that the new rooftop “reflects the potential of collaborating with innovative and ethical private sector companies”. But “above all, it is an example of how we can ensure better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all – leaving no one behind.”

Fausto Jori, CEO of NaturaSì, said that the use of an ever reducing number of plant varieties represents one of the main causes of the loss if biodiversity. “This is why it is necessary to invest to promote research, selection and reproduction of seeds capable of adapting to a changing climate in order to both promote biodiversity and the freedom for farmers to reproduce the seeds they need by themselves”.

Conserving agrobiodiversity

The rooftop farm will feature a wide range of plants including neglected species and crops at risk of extinction provided by “Fondazione Seminare il Futuro”, a foundation engaged in the research and selection of specific varieties for farming, of which NaturaSì is a member.

These include examples of crops cultivated under the Slow Food Presidia label, which helps safeguard threatened local plant varieties.

Also growing in the farm will be examples of mountain plants recognized by the Mountain Partnership Products Initiative, a labelling scheme supported by the Government of Italy, which promotes ethical, fair and mountain products.

Data generated by the farm’s sensors will be monitored and analysed by Sapienza University’s Botanical Garden of Rome.

The ceremony was also joined by Federico di Vincenzo, founder of of Ecobubble, Paolo di Croce Secretary General of Slow Food, Vincenza Lo Monaco, Ambassador of Italy to the Rome-based UN Agencies.

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