A Bio-Garden on the roof of the FAO

A prototype for producing food where the land is scarce that welcomes ancient varieties, from the Papecchia chilli to the Catalonian chicory of Brindisi. An agro-ecological laboratory with Italian technology to also study the resistance of plants to water stress

An agro-ecological laboratory: it is the Bio-Garden inaugurated today on the roof of the FAO, in Rome, in the presence of the general director of FAO Qu Dongyu and the deputy director Maurizio Martina. Objective: to explore the possibility of replicating organic roof gardens where the soil is scarce or not very productive to alleviate the shortage of food in the most fragile systems such as mountains and urban areas. The terrace of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations thus welcomes ancient organic varieties including, in this season, Papecchia chilli, Catanese violet cauliflower, Catalonian chicory from Brindisi, local celery from Francavilla Fontana and Sweet Julie pepper, just to name a few.

A cutting-edge modular organic garden, the first of its kind on a United Nations building, created by NaturaSì with the University La Sapienza – Botanical Garden of Rome, the startup Ecobubble and Slow Food as members of the Mountain Partnership, an alliance of United Nations which aims to improve the lives of mountain populations and protect mountain environments, safeguarding biodiversity and high altitude agriculture.

“We have combined the will, determination and competence of individuals who have been working for years to guarantee the right of all populations to live in a healthy environment, thanks also to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems – comments Fausto Jori , managing director of NaturaSì – the Bio-Orto wants to be an example, an experience that can be replicated in other realities to promote an agriculture capable of giving oxygen and healthy food even in urban contexts where the soil is scarce, contexts in which agroecology it can also contribute by giving beauty “.

An agro-ecological laboratory with Italian technology

The Bio-Garden offers solutions to alleviate food shortages especially in regions where agricultural land is becoming increasingly scarce or in densely populated areas where it can reduce the pressure on the environment and bring further benefits to society. “Preserving agricultural biodiversity is vital for food security, as it increases our chances of growing species that can cope with climate change and other stressors,” says Giorgio Grussu, FAO official and coordinator of the funded Mountain Partnership Products project. from Italy.

Designed by the award-winning startup Ecobubble, the Bio-Orto is made with Italian technology: through a system based on the computerized observation of the health of the plant and on the detection of the water content in the soil, it can guarantee crops the supply of optimal amount of water. The crops will be housed in mobile triangular-shaped containers that can be arranged in different configurations. The modules are equipped with mechanisms for water drainage to avoid damage caused by too abundant rainfall.

The plant species selected for cultivation come from the ‘catalog fields’ of the Seminare il Futuro Foundation, of which NaturaSì is part. For years engaged in research and selection of specific varieties for organic farming, the Foundation has among its main objectives that of responding to the impoverishment of agricultural biodiversity, especially in relation to the need to cultivate species resistant to the climate crisis.

In a century, 75% of the plant species used in agriculture disappeared

In the last 100 years, recalls the FA, 75% of the plant species used in agriculture have disappeared. “Among the main causes of the loss of biodiversity we find the use of an increasingly reduced number of plant varieties grown in increasingly large portions of land – explains Jori – Only four large ones produce 60% of the seeds sold worldwide. companies and these are seeds that do not meet the needs of organic, which needs varieties linked to the characteristics of the production areas, or selected for an agroecological practice capable of developing with a good yield in fields where synthetic chemistry is not engaged”.

“This is why – adds the managing director of NaturaSì – it is necessary to invest to promote the research, selection and reproduction of seeds of varieties capable of adapting to the climate crisis to protect, on the one hand, biodiversity and, on the other, ensure freedom for farmers who would thus be able to reproduce the seeds they need on their own. ”Fighting climate change, therefore, but also the growing food crisis denounced by FAO, which sees three billion people suffering from hunger or feeding in wrong way.

Among the objectives, to study the resistance to water stresses of plants

The Bio-Garden lends itself to multiple uses: scientific, educational, dissemination, awareness raising, research on agricultural innovation and cultivated agro-biodiversity, as well as environmental benefits for the FAO building itself. Also for this reason, the data will be monitored and analyzed by the Department of Environmental Biology of the La Sapienza University of Rome to experiment with modern technologies applied to plant nutrition and irrigation for an efficient use of resources, including water.

The intent is to promote forms of organic farming capable of exploiting modern technologies and thus studying the performance of plants and the resistance to water stress of the plants themselves. the Bio-Orto can be the subject of guided tours and in three years it will be returned to NaturaSì for its installation at the Botanical Garden of Rome.