Akihabara News (Tokyo) — About three years ago the Grand Hyatt Tokyo built an organic garden along the urban skyline, allowing the head chef to boast that some of the vegetables being consumed by his patrons had been grown right there on location by the restaurant staff.
“That was probably the first organic hotel garden in Tokyo,” comments Jon Walsh, the New Zealander who was brought in as a consultant to establish this little garden in the sky.
Walsh, who describes himself as probably being “the only native English-speaking professional urban farming consultant in Japan,” first established his company Business Grow in 2002. At first, it was simply a boutique corporate communications company, but for most of the past decade he has shifted its focus to urban farming.
Recently, he says, the business is “going skyward.”
For Walsh, the rising popularity of urban farming is really a no-brainer. It can bring multiple benefits to Japan, including the improvement of the nation’s low food self-sufficiency rate, as well as climate change benefits such as the reduction of heat usage through better insulation and less need to truck food in from the countryside.
Moreover, such organic food is also more healthy: Being fresher means higher nutritional content. People would also consume fewer pesticides.
Much of the infrastructure for urban farming already exists. Basically any sunlit space can be used. “Rooftops are the best places because they typically get the best sunshine,” he observes. “There’s huge potential to grow food in any major city.”
Walsh has many ideas about where we might see such urban farms in the future. “Every supermarket with a flat roof should be growing food up there in a greenhouse,” he contends. He also envisions hospitals with rooftop gardens where patients can get some outdoor time and enjoy gardening for therapeutic purposes.
So far, Walsh has built or supported over forty urban farms in Tokyo.
He notes that “our grandparents basically grew food organically” and now it is time for urbanites to regain some of the skills that people used to take for granted.