In the heart of Florence’s historic center there is a secret garden created from an old athletics track which has been transformed through Giacomo Salizzoni’s passion and talent into a magnificent backdrop of beauty and social gatherings, as well as a permanent laboratory of good
environmental practices. The garden is called Orti Dipinti (Painted Gardens) and is the only urban garden in the world within a UNESCO-protected area. People of all ages from all over the world visit it: students from local schools and international universities, residents and traveling families, individuals and groups interested in sustainable growth, youths committed to the environment, volunteers and people with disabilities.
Il Bisonte has been taking care of it for a year, providing Giacomo with the resources, skills and support necessary to make his extraordinary community garden increasingly more beautiful, inclusive and sustainable. Environment, biodiversity, automation and digitization are the key words
that guide change, which in turn, is always dictated by listening to people and constantly collecting the “messages” that come from the plants.
“With this project,” explains Il Bisonte’s CEO Luigi Ceccon, “we are committed to doing in Orti Dipinti what we’ve done in recent years in our company. At Il Bisonte, we’ve added the best digital technologies to our authentic artisanal production framework: this choice allows us to better manage processes as well as preserve handcrafted workmanship and enhance the priceless
heritage of knowledge behind it. At Orti Dipinti we do the same: together with Giacomo, we’re working to create a new model of automated agriculture, capable of realizing what appears to most as a utopia, and making a concrete contribution, not only to the sustainable growth of Made-in-Italy production, but also to building a better future for the planet.”
In its first year collaborating with Orti Dipinti, Il Bisonte helped lay the groundwork for its evolution by breaking down its intervention into 3 phases:
PHASE 1: OPTIMIZING LIGHT AND WATER CONSUMPTION
June 2022 / LIGHTING: Only ultra energy-efficient, warm-light LED lamps were used to light Orti Dipinti, perfect for ensuring that the Community Garden has all the sustainability and magic it deserves.
July 2022 / WATER MANAGEMENT: Hundreds of meters of small invisible pipes, attached to the same supports used for the climbing plants, irrigate all the planters. The pipes might not be visible, but their effect is: during the summer, the Orti Dipinti have never been so lush. This responsible move in water management has also saved countless hours of manual watering and nearly 1,000 cubic meters of water in the last twelve months.
PHASE 2: EQUIPMENT AND PLANTERS
March 2023 / THE NEW BOXES: All the plants in the Orti Dipinti have a new home. The old crates made of pallets which had nobly protected herbs, flowers, vegetables and fruit trees for ten years, have been replaced with new fir wood boxes, strengthened and waterproofed with fire and linseed oil so as to better hold the soil and prevent water loss.
April 2023 / THE EQUIPMENT: A storm destroyed the tool shed but funds allocated by Il Bisonte and the help of volunteers made it possible to replace it with a new storage facility.
PHASE 3: A SMART GARDEN
June 2023 / AUTOMATION:The urban oasis that is Orti Dipinti is now ready for a new phase that entails both implementation and experimentation: soon, in fact, digitized and optimized resource management will enable it to become a true data-driven decision maker. Routers, microprocessors, and sensors have already been set up among the plants. They’ll all be responsible for measuring the moisture, temperature, and chemical composition of the soil and ensuring that each plant gets the water, light, and manual labor it really needs at any given time.
A SHARED JOY
“Working with Orti Dipinti,” Ceccon goes on to explain, “we’ve had confirmation that best practices together with craftsmanship can be applied just as successfully to agriculture and horticulture, which fall under the same ethical and sustainable vision of resource use. If we want to defend Made-in-Italy production, craftsmanship as well as agriculture and horticulture must evolve with the conscious use of technologies. Now that Giacomo Salizzoni’s urban garden has acquired new stability and a new capacity for experimentation, it is also ready to set up training programs to transfer its best practices to students and those who want to engage in sustainable production activities. We are really happy,” Ceccon adds, “about this adventure we’ve been able to share with all the people who love this place and its ideas. Together we are creating not only a beautiful and welcoming garden, but also and above all a management model for those who, in other Florentine neighborhoods or cities around the world, would like to follow the example of Giacomo and his Orti.”
To this end, Il Bisonte’s next step in supporting Orti Dipinti will be to build a greenhouse dedicated to practical and theoretical training, which will allow activities to take place even during the winter months.