THE URBAN FOOD GARDNER (A Startup) – Agent & Institution For The Sustainable, Circular City

Make a business with urban food gardening and create a corner stone for the sustainable and circular transformation of our cities.

Biohof_arche_5012 450px-Colours_of_Health_(4877352097)


(Dort gibt es auch EINE DEUTSCHE VERSION)

A few days ago there was an idea and I am still thinking about it – so it is probably worth sharing. It is an idea for an urban gardening startup – and for a possible pathway to create non public funded institutions to make cities sustainable, circular and resilient.

One of the well known ideas for sustainable and resilient cities it is to grow more food in the city. Urban gardening. How to increase it?

I live in the centre of this city. Our house has a nice backyard with a garden and our flat a huge balcony. Plenty of space to grow food. But I personally lack the time and interest to do it. But I would love to see the space used. And I know others in this house too (there was an initiative but it failed due to a lack of time). So I thought we could hire someone – our own urban food gardener! Someone to take care of growing food in our garden. And sometimes during the year on our doorstep is a bag full of vegetables from our backyard.

The urban food gardener could not just take care of our house but of many in the neighbourhood. It could be a bit like the model with the cleaning person. In big cities many people hire someone to clean their flat. This cleaning person usually has the key to the flats and takes care of them for example once a week. It could be similar with the urban gardener – just with the key to our house/backyard!

And this is the startup – to offer this service to houses in a city.



# Ancillary expenses

We pay rent for our flat. Included are costs for the janitor, cleaning, garbage, gardening and so on – the ancillary expenses. The urban food gardener would be a cost like this. It just comes with the house.

And yes, a garden service is already included. There are companies that already do this as a business. But a quick internet search didn’t bring up one that also offers to grow food. But it is just a tiny step to break this (systems) limitations :slight_smile:



#It is the little extra services

If you think about the urban food gardener for a while you can come up with more benefits/services for the community of a house than an interesting garden in the back and a little food from it. The urban food gardener could for example offer:
  • workshops for interested house residents (involve them in the process – CSA in the city),
  • organize house or (in connection with other food gardeners) street fests – ‘thanksgivings’ – and bring the community together,
  • send interesting infos out about the weather, ecosystem …

You can come up with more.

The whole role and service is to be the ecological and also social sustainability agent of this house.




# Cicularity janitor & sustainability agent

And it is the extra services that make this really interesting! The role of the urban food gardener could easily grow into the sustainability and circularity janitor of each house.

It is the job to install for example rainwater tanks, show the residents how to hack their waste or waste creating behaviours, scan the energy efficiency potentials of the house and do all of this including setting up and maintaining the garden infrastructure with as little resources as possible – leading by example.

Urban food gardeners love of course openness and share knowledge on an open platform to allow each other to become efficient and circular as quickly as possible.



cfs-logo DE


# Just start with food

But this is just a vision what the urban food gardener could become or grow into. One step to far for today. Noone would hire a sustainability and circularity ‘janitor’ today. But people may hire a food gardener! If the service is offered in a nice way it could really work. And this urban food gardener could build up the potential for more.

# Start already this spring!

Let’s do a quick round of math. Let’s say as a yearly budget you would need (Berlin):


25 000 Euro per year for your living +

10 000 Euro per year for materials

= 35 000 Euro of total income per year

How many customers can you serve? Let’s say:


10 houses with 10 adult residents per house

= 100 adults in total

Ok, this sums up to

(35000 Euro : 100 adults : 12 months)

29,17 Euro per month per adult

Less than 30 Euro per month for an interesting garden in the back of the house and some food from it? I think it could be possible to find customers! And maybe it is possible to serve even more households and to have lower investment and therefore a lower price.

I am not the person who wants to do this job or startup. But I am sure there are people that would love to do it. Please go ahead. I would love to see this happening. If we really want to transform our cities we need people who do it as a job. And here is a startup and business possibility: ‚Professional urban gardening’ attached to community services.

One good thing about this idea is that the more people start doing it the more likely it is that many of them succeed. Build the market for this together.



# Connect

If you think about doing it and you like to brainstorm feel free to reach out to me (but you don’t have to). Use the channels you know and like to reach out and connect to people to help you to start with the idea. I have also set up a topic on the OSCEdays forum for this. There you can post a comment to look for people to work with or to help you. After you have signed up to the forum (with email) you can subscribe to the topic so you’ll get an email when there are new posts.

Ps. And if you know projects or companies doing this already (there must be some!) please let us know about them in the comments there as well.

Thanks for reading.

###Image Credits

[1] Biohof_arche_5012, BY: Arche Zürich, CC-BY-SA [2] Colours_of_Health_(4877352097), BY: Alex Proimos, CC-BY [3] Solanums_in_a_box, BY: Horticulturalist RJ, CC-BY-SA [4] Natur_in_der_Stadt_IMG_97, BY: WS ReNu, CC-BY-SA [5] Begattungskästchen_01, BY: Jürg Vollmer, CC-BY-SA [6] Inspecting_the_bees’work, BY: Caballero 1967, CC-BY-SA [7] [8] Jardin_potager_6, BY: Jean-noël Lafargue, Copyleft License [9] Biohof_arche_5012, BY: Arche Zürich, CC-BY-SA [10] Simple_Diagram_to_show_Rainwater_Harvesting, BY: Adityamail, CC-BY [11] Bright_Lights_Swiss_Chard, BY: ChickenFreak, public domain [12] cfs-logo-DE, BY: Maike Majewski, CC-BY-SA [13] Cucurbitacées_06, BY: Danielvercaemst, CC-BY-SA [14] Euoniticellus_parvus_Kraatz,1859_male(8509550697), BY: Udo Schmidt, CC-BY-SAthank you all for creating open culture!


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