Growing Vegetables on a Supermarket Roof

Food as local as it gets.

Jul 10, 2022
Growing Vegetables on a Supermarket Roof | Food as local as it gets.

It’s hard to imagine it, but the term locally grown fruits and vegetables is about to take on a new meaning. One day soon, the produce you buy at your supermarket may come from a very short distance away; the roof above the store.

According to euronews, a 320 square meter rooftop garden on the top of a Brussels, Belgium supermarket has yielded over two tons of produce in under a year. Over 60 species of plants are being grown. That’s a lot of food for a small urban garden. 

The Lagum project
The rooftop garden project in Brussels, called Lagum, is the brainchild of three partners: the commune of Ixelles, Université libre de Bruxelles, and the Refresh-xl restaurant, according to Brussels International, a public service website. The commune is a co-founder of the project (the EU also provides funding), the university provides the scientific arm, and the restaurant— a social enterprise –  uses the produce grown on the rooftop.

“We started to use it also with a social purpose.’Refresh’ is a social restaurant, and they use the production (the plants) for the restaurant. But we started to also  distribute that to the vulnerable people,” Nevruz Unal, an elected representative for city renovation, told euronews.

So far, reported euronews, the project has been a success for all parties involved. The restaurant receives ingredients, the community garden is able to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for their needier residents, and the scientific team is able to gain data on  the sustainability of rooftop gardens. 

“We look into the agronomic part of the research, but also we look at the multi-functionality of these kinds of projects. So there is production, yes, but there is also training, and awareness, and cohesion of the social neighborhood,” Fransisco Davila, a researcher at Vrije Universiteit said.

The experimental project also aims to educate people in the process of growing food in urban gardens and will last two or three years. If successful, it could be a model for other European city rooftops.

Not the first rooftop garden
The Brussels team is not the first group of people to look at the flat expanse of a grocery store rooftop, and think, we could make that grow. There have been similar projects in both England, Canada and The Netherlands. 

An urban rooftop garden in Rotterdam started a 7,600 square meter rooftop garden in 2020. The community garden is used to grow fruit, vegetables and other city folks keep bees there.

However, not every project is successful. Food from the Sky was started in 2011 as the world’s first permaculture food garden on the top of a North London supermarket.  It was touted as a game changer. But 11 years later, according to the project website, the roof is now closed. 

In order for these types of projects to really make a difference they need to be able to be sustainable in the long term as well as replicable. One rooftop garden makes a small difference. Many rooftop gardens could change the way food is grown and consumed.

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Tiki is a freelance writer, editor, and translator with a passion for writing stories. She believes in taking small actions to positively impact the world. She spends her free time reading, baking, creating art, and walking her rescue dog.