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Organic farms take over abandoned underground parking lots in Paris

Sunday, March 8th 2020, 1:59 pm - Two entrepreneurs in Paris, France have found a new purpose for former car lots -- organic farming

A decline in the number of cars on the road in France has led to more empty underground parking lots, inspiring a company to find a new use for them as the sites for organic production.

A company called Cycloponics has launched its startup project called La Caverne, which repurposes the abandoned lots as organic farms to grow vegetables.

PROJECT REPURPOSES OLD CAR LOTS FOR ORGANIC FARMING

Since 2017, company founders Jean-Noël Gertz and Théo Champagnat have grown and delivered 200 kilograms of organic vegetables every day to Paris grocery stores. At Porte de la Chapelle in Paris, the pair manage a 3,500-m2 (.0035 square kilometres) urban farm located underground, in a retired car park.

The idea is given credibility as Gerst is a thermal engineer by training, while Champagnat is an agronomist.

“We need very precise temperature conditions to control diseases and grow organic vegetables. So in a car park, it’s mainly about climatic engineering. You have to reproduce autumn all the time: a lot of humidity, but also reinforced ventilation,” said Gerst, in an interview with Euractiv.

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Ventilation pipes are attached to in the second basement of the cavern, where oyster mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms are grown. Small packets of water-soluble, sterilized and packaged straw hang from top to bottom and mushrooms grow through tiny holes.

Everything is done with precise calculation to maximize optimal growth. The air is filled with moisture, endives blossom in the dark and the mushrooms are surrounded by a few LED lights.

CAR PARKS HAVE SEVERAL ADVANTAGES OVER OTHER ENVIRONMENTS

The car park has more benefits over the limestone cavities normally used to grow mushrooms, as there is a permanent and exact control of the weather, in addition to greater thermal stability. This is the reason why vegetables are grown in the car park’s second basement, where the temperature remains level in case of a heat wave or extreme cold.

Cycloponics organic farm/CNN Cycloponics has launched its startup projectalled La Caverne, which repurposes the abandoned lots as organic farms to grow vegetables. Photo: CNN

Farming in car parks can also fend against the impacts of the climate crisis. Parasites and other insects, for example, are quite rare in the subsoil, even if endive tubers and straw bought outside are carriers of diseases, such as sclerotinia, which destroyed some of this year’s endive production. Another reason to grow veggies in cities is that they do not breathe the same way and aren't sensitive to micro-particles like animals are.

As well, Cycloponics hosts other structures in its sizeable premises, such as aquariums of sea urchins hand-fished in the Arctic and other projects that grow plants using the hydroponics method. The company were also just awarded projects for two other large car parks in Paris’ 19th district.

“In Paris, as in many European capitals, people no longer have cars, there are too many parking lots, especially in the poorest districts. But we also visited unused car parks on the Champs-Elysée. It would be possible to do something about it!” According to the entrepreneurs.

Source: Euractiv

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