Anken Rooftop Farm: Urban Farming in Shanghai

Very good to all Agrohuerters. Since we have arrived in China we have visited many peri-urban orchards, but finally, we have found the first urban orchard, in this case in the form of a rooftop farm or skyfarm (orchards on roofs or vegetable terraces) located at number 668 of the Huai An street in Shanghai.

Anken Rooftop farm:

The visit to this rooftop farm or skyfarm, known as Anken rooftop, has been thanks to the Good to China association, a very large team of professionals and volunteers who work to improve their environment and promote ecological initiatives. When we said visiting Shanghai, we wrote to various associations or community gardens that we found in the city and they responded immediately by offering to show us their projects, so we were able to spend a few days with them visiting various rooftop farms in different locations.

This orchard, like a good rooftop farm, is located on the roof of a building, this one about 6 stories high. The main use of the roof of this building is nothing less than the space of a cocktail bar that decided to liven up its clients’ cocktails with the views and smells of an orchard, which is why of the 10 terraces of the rooftop farm have only allowed to cultivate in 3.

Here we can see the terrace of the bar and to the left the rooftop farm lost in a sea of ​​buildings.

The terraces used by the bar are mainly intended for the cultivation of aromatic herbs, mint and spearmint, for their cocktails. Others have peppers and some ornamentals, but in general they are a bit neglected, a shame having a group of people willing to grow them.

In this rooftop farm we also find an area of ​​ornamental vegetable covers in which we find species of the sedum genus. As you know, these species also contribute to the purification and improvement of the environment and attract beneficial insects as we saw in the phytokinetic project, but they do not provide any food for gardeners and do not require much maintenance.

This is the vegetal cover that we find at the entrance of the orchard.

Our visit to the Anken rooftop farm:

Both Lucia and I were very happy to finally be able to visit an orchard as such in China. A space cultivated by several people, being able to talk to them and learn a little about their way of doing things and what had motivated them to cultivate a rooftop farm in a city with such a difficult climate and high levels of pollution.

This rooftop farm is relatively young since the members of good to China have been cultivating those 3 terraces for approximately 6 weeks before our arrival. And even for a short time they have done a very good job and their part of the garden, in my opinion, is much better cared for than the one managed by the bar.

When they arrived, they found a soil plagued with weeds that several of its members were good at removing.

Here we see what the orchard looked like when they arrived.

Now the first lettuce and garlic are beginning to germinate on the terraces and they have the compost bin ready, so they don’t lack anything.

After hard work they have managed to germinate the first crops.

My impressions of the orchard:

We have been lucky that the members of this rooftop farm spoke English, so we have been able to find out how they manage their space and their pest control and prevention methods.

From what I could understand, the terraces of this rooftop farm, about 12 meters long by 1.5 meters wide, divide them into three different lines. The central line is deeper than the rest, it is about 20 cm deep and the others about 10 cm, due to the volume of soil in the terrace. Different crops are alternated in each line, leaving an acceptable planting frame. The sowing is direct without preparing a seedbed previously and it is watered by hand in the absence of drip irrigation.

When we arrived at this rooftop farm, they were removing the small legumes and grasses that had sprouted on the terrace. As I did not observe any very harmful weeds, I recommended that they not do it, since in an environment as dry as that of Shanghai, these small shoots could better retain the humidity of the bed and if at any time they bothered them, they could remove them when they were larger. making less effort.

When we arrived they were removing those small shoots that you see in the image.

But really, the older gardener of the rooftop farm did not pay attention to me, nor did she pay much attention to other advice that I offered her about the waste that should be composted, etc… I only commented on small details that I thought could be improved, advice that they gave me other gardeners or things I learned for myself in the garden…

It has already happened to me in several gardens and some members of community gardens have told me that sometimes the people with more knowledge about gardening within the group adopt the role of teachers for the others, exert more control over the routine of the garden and find it difficult to accepting new advice a bit, especially from someone younger…

I feel very sorry for this kind of attitude. I think that these spaces are for interacting with people, exchanging opinions and concerns without any desire to be better or worse than anyone else, only with the aim of learning together.

Despite this, we very much enjoyed visiting a rooftop farm in Shanghai and the development of this type of initiative that promotes environmental awareness in the city. All the best !

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