A new farming district, called Sunqiao, will be located between Shanghai's international airport and the city center.

People walk along a busy street at Pudong financial district in Shanghai.
Reuters/Carlos Barria

With over 24 million residents, Shanghai is one of the densest cities in the world.

Sunqiao will include algae farms, greenhouses, green walls, a farmer's market, vertical seed libraries ...


... as well as housing, stores, restaurants, and a science museum.


The masterplan was conceived by Sasaki, an urban design firm that has offices in Massachusetts and Shanghai. It calls for the following (measured in total gross floor area): 717,000-square feet of housing, 138,000-square-feet of commercial space, 753,000-square-feet of vertical farms, and 856,000-square-feet of public space.

The masterplan features a vast amount of public outdoor space.


The farms will primarily grow leafy greens, like kale, bok choi, and spinach. Those will be sold to restaurants, grocers, or exported. In the future, Grove says the district may also raise fish in vertical aquaponic farms.


The district will be developed and maintained by Shanghai Sunqiao Modern Agriculture United Development Co. Ltd., which is working with local planning officials.

He says that the project's largest challenge will be building architecture that accommodates farmland. For example, his team needs to make sure the towers don't cast shadows on crops that need lots of sunlight.


Sunqiao will allow for produce to be grown closer to the city, while reducing the impact of land and water use that comes with traditional agriculture, Grove says. At the same time, he acknowledges the large energy use that comes with vertical farms, which rely on LEDs to grow crops.


"As cities continue to expand, we must continue to challenge the dichotomy between what is urban and what is rural," Grove says.