Climathon Stories

The Sky is the Limit for 'Edible Roofs' in Zurich

Imagine if everyone could be a farmer and a farm could be anywhere...This was the inspiration behind Zurich Climathon 2019, organized in partnership with Impact Hub Zurich.


Imagine if everyone could be a farmer and a farm could be anywhere...This was the inspiration behind Zurich Climathon 2019, organized in partnership with Impact Hub Zurich. The global 24-hour climate hackathon challenged citizens to present a personalized food production system and a path toward a more self-sufficient city.  

The Challenge 

In Zurich, space is a precious and finite good. While many citizens are keen to get involved in urban farming activity and produce their own food, it is not always possible to meet the demand as greenspace is very limited. The city maintains over 20 community gardens, but the current wait time for a personal plot can take over one year! Meanwhile, the city boasts five square kilometers of flat roof space, of which only one-third is currently used for urban gardening.  

The city was in search of an innovative approach that combined the synergies of urban farming, fostered biodiversity, reduced CO2 emissions and connected communities. The winning Swiss team accepted the challenge to create a reliable, long-lasting, community-run system to engage citizens in urban farming.  

The Solution  

Research and insights soon gave way to 'Edible Roofs', a platform that identifies vacant roofs of public city buildings and matches them with users interested in urban gardening. Think of it as a long-term AirBnB rental, but for greenspaces.  

“For a start-up, if you're at the point when you’re asking, ‘Why aren’t we doing this already?’ and nobody manages to find a convincing reason why it will not work, then you’ve hit gold,” explained Nicole Hepplers, team member of the winning Climathon solution. 

Edible Roofs encourages citizens to start growing their own food again while fundamentally challenging existing systems. In many ways, the solution is simple. It doesn’t rely on advanced technology or pricey investments, nor does it promise to revolutionize the world. Instead, the platform exploits an underutilized city space to allow for healthy food production. It’s a small adjustment with a huge impact on citizens’ everyday lives. 

Meet The Team 

Participants Timna Rother, Lou Goetzmann, Maja Edenius, Maximilian Mandl, Nina Botzen, and Nicole Hepplers share a strong background in business management and product development, and even have an expert gardener on their team! A desire to make a business contribution toward combating climate change sparked their motivation to participate in Climathon. The team has plans to implement a pilot project and build an urban farm on a Zurich rooftop. Phase 2? Bringing the platform to life in the form of a mobile website or application. 


EIT Climate-KIC's Climathon programme empowers citizens, cities and local economies to come together to develop local solutions to climate challenges. Now, the young Swiss team is challenging others to make an actionable impact that goes beyond personal lifestyle changes. 

“If you have the opportunity to contribute your work, or put forth your time, your effort, your knowledge, your expertise, then you have the feeling that you can actually move something,” remarked Hepplers.  

On 31 January 2020, Edible Roofs will join nine other top finalists for the Climathon Global Awards taking place at the ChangeNOW International Summit in Paris. The winning solution will receive prizes of up to €10,000 to support its acceleration. Best of luck to all the participants! 

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