Urban Farmers Box journey in Brazil

It was a big and laborious project. Urban Farmers, a Swiss company for the development of technologies for sustainable agriculture, and swissnex Brazil started the conversation in April 2016. Ever since we could already imagine the big success the Urban Farmers Box, or how it is popularly called “UFBox”, would achieve in Brazil. Fortunately, all the hard work was worth it. There were a lot of backward and forward until every partner was satisfied with the container structure that would be built at the House of Switzerland Brazil 2016 during Olympics and Paralympics Games, at Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, Rio de Janeiro.

The Urban Farmers was idealized for big scale organic and sustainable food production in urban city areas. The UFBox is a container with an attached greenhouse, where the production is made through the aquaponic system, developed by the University of Applied Sciences in Zurich (ZHAW).

The aquaponic system combines the aquiculture (fish culture) and the hydroponic system (plant culture with roots only under water). All the fish waste fertilize the plants, which filtrate the nutrients, then, the clean water goes back to the fish and saves 95% of water, if we compare to the traditional agriculture. The aquaponic system allows all vegetable production to be herbicides and pesticides free.

During the time the UFBox was at the House of Switzerland, the hosts welcomed visits of children and teenagers of public State schools of Rio. Two hosts, carefully selected, explained the operation of the container and allowed the children to be in touch with the vegetables. Afterward, the groups could also get to know the other attractions at the House, created to bring a little bit of Switzerland to Rio de Janeiro. Overall, about 100 kids were part of the project.

We also welcomed kids from Circulando Geral Project, a program created to take children from shelters of the city of Rio to get to know cultural, sportive and social activities that can bring transforming impact. The happiness of the kids was easy on the eyes, they were all very curious and showing interest at all times.

The technology and ideas behind Urban Farmers were also part of events organized by swissnex Brazil at the House of Switzerland.

The Urban Solutions Conference gathered speakers to talk about different problems of our everyday city life towards water, transportation, food production, energy production, and waste. The discussion mixed diverse specialists to discuss possible sustainable solutions to face the current challenges of big cities.

The Food Security Conference was created to close the marathon of swissnex events at the House of Switzerland. “How to feed the planet in 2050?” was the question different initiatives tried to answer through an intelligent and shared discussion. swissnex mobilized environments of Swiss and Brazilian innovative thinking to be part of the event that had the ambitious objective of finding new opportunities to preserve our future with sustainable ways to produce and consume food.

All the events and visits were successful in an amazing and inspiring place, during a festive season at the true “Cidade Maravilhosa” (Rio de Janeiro) in Brazil.

It was the perfect moment to launch the Urban Farmers Box in Brazil and to create partnerships to develop the brand in the following years.

That was how UrbanFarmers met the NGO Viva Rio, a Non-profit Organization leader in entrepreneurship and social innovation, which showed a lot of interest to keep the UFBox at its new Innovation Hub, set up ate the community of Cantagalo, at Copacabana, in Rio de Janeiro.

Together, Viva Rio and swissnex, with cooperation of Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora (UPP) and the Association of Habitants of the Community, we were able to open the path and bring the container to the top, taking the UFBox to be part of the new Hub, the Estação Futuro (Future Station), a space dedicated to innovation and creativity to all people of the community and of the city of Rio.

Starting in 2017, the Urban Farmers Brazil will have a team at São Paulo, and a new and first Brazilian UFBox, with a greenhouse attached at the top of the container, part of the Estação Futuro from Ngo Viva Rio, producing green food , and maybe even fish in a space that promotes education, science, innovation and sports to kids and young people of the community.

Let’s wait for more news is 2017!

Rio de Janeiro, 7 December 2016


Sofia Costa

Project and Operations Assistant

swissnex Brazil