It was a Thursday. Once again, we put on our sunglasses and enjoyed the sweet weather in Belgium.
We met at 8am at the hotel and after a 15 minutes walk, we took the bus to Anderlecht, a city in the South East area of Brussels.
We arrived at a farm named « Le Champ du Chaudron » (literally « The Cauldron’s Field ») and were introduced to Bertrand Vanbelle, who explained the project to us. This experimental farm of 30 ares started its activity in 2018 and practices an urban agriculture. If you’re not familiar to this term, that means agriculture near a big city.
Unlike the field next to the farm where only one kind of cereal is cultivated with fertilizers (intensive monoculture farming), they are cultivating various organic products and are rotating the cultures to keep a nutritious soil. They make their own compost to enrich the soil. Leeks, cabbages, aromatic herbs, strawberries are produced and sold directly to the consumers leading to less transport and fossils fuels used this way. They can produce enough to feed 100 homes per week even during the winter !
This farm is a good example of permaculture which is a sort of agriculture directly integrated in the environment with a minimal impact on the ecosystems. Thus, this kind af agriculture may give a job to many people compare to intensive farming (1 person/ha vs 1 person/50ha).
After a rapid lunch, we came back in bus to visit an aquaponic farm located on the rooftop of the slaughterhouse of Anderlecht. This farm produces fishes that grow in big tanks and fresh fruits and vegetables growing in greenhouse : aquaponic means a mix between aquaculture and hydroponic.
The water used for the fishes is filtrated two times and reused to irrigate the vegetables. The first filter removes the solid wastes and the second transforms the nitrites (which are toxic for plants) into nitrates (which are nutritious for plants). The vegetables grow without soil, just a neutral substrate. The plants take around 6 weeks to grow on ebbendflow tables before being sold.
The farm is wonderful example of sustainable agriculture : it runs on photovoltaic electricity from the biggest installation of solar equipment in the area as well as 700 homes, the BIGH farm (Building Integrated Houses) is located in unused spaces, in the middle of the city and uses the heat coming from the slaughterhouse to warm the greenhouses, recycle all the wastes it generates (circular economy) and give all the leftovers produced by the farm to charitable associations.
We finally visited the city of Louvain (Leuven) and bonded around a drink !
Another beautiful day in Belgium !