Opening of the Smart City Rooftop Farming Project

Good for the climate: Gardening with a view

Take a quick look at this picture: you go to the roof of your house, harvest herbs, fresh vegetables and salad from your raised beds. These ingredients then land directly on your plate: regional, seasonal, sustainable. The experts at LIFE, the JOANNEUM RESEARCH Centre for Climate, Energy and Society, are researching this vision in order to develop a best practice example for the sustainable use of roof gardens. Roof gardens cool the city and reduce emissions at the same time.

Together with partners from business, science and education, an "Urban Farming Project" is being developed on the roof of the Science Tower Graz since autumn 2018. The Smart City Rooftop Farming was opened today, 11th April, in the presence of Johann Seitinger, Member of the State Council, Wolfgang Pribyl, Managing Director of JOANNEUM RESEARCH, Franz Prettenthaler, Director of the LIFE Institute, Herbert Beiglböck, Director of Caritas Styria, Isabella Hollerer, Head of Sustainable Development at bellaflora, Gerald Dunst, Managing Director of Sonnenerde and Hans Höllwart, Managing Director of SFL and owner of the Science Tower.

The use of urban roof areas is increasing worldwide, as is the case in Graz. Since last autumn, 19 plant troughs have been cultivated on the roof of the Science Tower. Land resources are becoming increasingly scarce and the use of roof areas is therefore all the more important. Nutrient plants for food production are cultivated in high-quality substrate in order to research which components are necessary for sustainable, professionalised food production on roof surfaces.

LIFE-Director Franz Prettenthaler outlines the project: "Roofs in the city of the future have three important additional functions: cooling the city, producing food and electricity. The Science Tower is the first building in Austria where a symbiosis of these three functions is shown. Running this sustainable food production on urban roof surfaces is the integrative solution for cities to adapt to climate change: it cools the city and reduces emissions at the same time. Together with an interdisciplinary team of scientists and experts from various industries, we will present practical solutions for the technological, economic, ecological and social challenges of this vision. When our visitors say it actually looks quite natural, it's the best compliment. Every bumblebee, every earthworm and the right microorganisms play a certain role, as do LED lighting, IOT networks and automated humidification systems. But all this requires planning: they have to be brought here, because roofs 60 metres high are not their natural habitat."

State Councillor Johann Seitinger on agriculture in the city: "Every day the Styrians show more and more through their purchasing decisions that they no longer want to consume food anonymously but attach great importance to regionality and seasonality - all this is fulfilled by our local farmers. After all, every kilometre that food has to cover from the producer to the consumer's stomach makes them more expensive and also damages our climate. Urban gardening is therefore very much in vogue and already more than 800 million city dwellers worldwide are part of this movement, which brings nature back to the cities and creates an awareness for healthy nutrition. The know-how from agriculture is also in demand in cities. The 'Rooftop Farming' project is supported by four Styrian agricultural colleges with the aim that plants and harvests should also be possible in the city on an annual basis. In addition, there is a need for increased cooperation with science in order to set important impulses for the digitalisation of agriculture".

Managing Director Wolfgang Pribyl emphasizes: "It is one of JOANNEUM RESEARCH's tasks and a major concern to dedicate itself not only to technology development but also to its social dimensions. One example of this is this project, where sustainable research is carried out at the "highest level" in the truest sense of the word. "Rooftop farming" is a forward-looking concept; the use of roof areas is becoming increasingly important as land resources become scarcer and land is sealed. The aim of the project is to create sustainable food production on roof areas in the immediate vicinity of consumers. This also shortens the 'last mile' that consumes the most resources in the supply chain. I am delighted that in cooperation with the Science Tower, Caritas, bellaflora and Sonnenerde we have succeeded in implementing this unique project. You can see how research bears immediate fruit! Our cooperation should give impetus and serve as a best practice example of a Smart City."

Science Tower owner Hans Höllwart: "The Science Tower is generally a pioneer and lighthouse for urban solutions for the cities of the future - not only technical effectiveness, but also social compatibility must be based on the solutions. The collaborative rooftop farming by Franz Prettenthaler and the JOANNEUM RESEARCH LIFE in the biosphere of the Science Tower with a sustainable supply of resources is the building block to demonstrate a new awareness for the production of food close to humans and to act as a role model for all roof areas, initially in Graz.

Caritas Director Herbert Beiglböck on quality of life and participation: "This is what Caritas is all about when it participates in the ambitious Science Tower project. Here, young people who are otherwise on the fringes are working above the roofs of the city. Young men and women from the youth employment project tag.werk of Caritas cultivate garden areas on the roof of the Science Tower. They plant and care for the troughs, learn how to handle plants and can harvest themselves. In this way they experience themselves as part of a cool project that has an impact far beyond the city of Graz and earn - sometimes for the first time - their own money. At the same time, everyone benefits from their work. We know how important green spaces and gardens are in conurbations. I am very pleased that Caritas has been invited to set an example with this project: Namely, that those who, for whatever reason, and no matter whether in the long run or acutely, are unable to maintain themselves, can certainly make a contribution to a higher quality of life in the city. Therefore, thank you for the chance to offer this project here - and good luck to the Science Tower!

Isabella Hollerer, bellaflora, on a healthy diversity of the plant world: "As a pioneer of sustainable development, bellaflora has been dealing with the issue of climate change and what it means for our gardens for quite some time. The changed climatic conditions pose new challenges for hobby gardeners, landscape architects, the operators of large nurseries and, as a result, the trade. In cooperation with research centres and experts from a wide variety of fields, it is important to find out how we can work together to ensure the healthy diversity of our plant world in the future. And as retailers, we will continue to be able to offer our customers a wide range of products."

Gerald Dunst, Managing Director of Sonnenerde, adds: "Vegetable cultivation in the city is a huge topic worldwide. Many positive effects are achieved at the same time: water retention in the city, improvement of the microclimate, strengthening of nature awareness and much more. In this context, peat-free substrates (climate protection) of the highest quality and liveliness are important - so that the vegetables produced on them become a healthy food. With this project we want to show how well our high-quality and sustainably produced soils work for this and hope for some support or cooperation in soil development".

The people in the city benefit from the immediate availability of locally produced food and more greenery in the city. The implementation of the concept results in short transport distances and a positive effect on the microclimate in the city.

Further research applications as well as a COIN project in cooperation with the institutes DIGITAL and MATERIALS of JOANNEUM RESEARCH on the topic have been submitted.

Many thanks to the partners and supporters!

Sonnenerde, bellaflora, Landesverband der steirischen Gemüsebauern, Lias Österreich GesmbH, Pessl Instruments GmbH, biohelp Garten & Bienen GmbH, Fachschulen Steiermark für Land-, Forst- und Ernährungswirtschaft, tag.werk - Caritas der Diözese Graz Seckau, Grossauer Streets Cafe GmbH, A. Rauch GmbH, SANlight,


JOANNEUM RESEARCH Forschungsgesellschaft mbH develops solutions and technologies for business and industry in a wide range of industries and conducts cutting-edge research at an international level.

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LIFE - Centre for Climate, Energy and Society deals with central questions concerning climate change. LIFE's clear social mission includes strengthening resilience to climate and weather risks and the transition to a low-carbon economy and society by 2050.



Mag. Dr. Franz Prettenthaler, M.Litt
Director LIFE – Centre for Climate, Energy and Society of JOANNEUM RESEARCH
Science Tower, Waagner-Biro-Straße 100, 8020 Graz
Phone: +43 316 876-7601
Mobile: +43 664 602 876 7601