As it undergoes rapid urbanization China loses more and more farmland every day. In response to this situation, Cofco—one of the largest agricultural companies in the world—hired Moore Ruble Yudell (MRY) to plan an ambitious demonstration project that would offer a new model of rural development. The client’s goal is to combine agricultural living and working in a sustainable way while maintaining food production close to the city.

The Agricultural Eco Valley employs the concept of “zero energy in, no waste out” and focuses on the cultivation of organic foods. “This state-of-the-art, sustainable project is really about the future of mankind, and how we move forward in planning and building our communities,” states James Mary O'Connor, a principal at MRY in California. “China sees itself as a future leader of eco-agricultural production and technology, and this project is envisioned to set a precedent world-wide”, adds O’Connor.

Located in the Fangshan District, approximately 48 kilometers southwest of the center of Beijing, the project places farmland in the center of the site with research and development in a zone on the north, agricultural production in a zone on the west, and housing on the east and south. The nearly 3,000-acre, carbon-neutral development will also feature a hotel, an exhibition center, commercial and retail buildings, and restored wetlands. An Agro-Botanical Garden will serve as an architectural landmark, attracting visitors and demonstrating environmental principles. A light-rail line will provide access to Beijing, while a multi-modal transit system will take visitors and residents around the development in a pair of overlapping loops.

The project will be built in phases, starting with a conference center and housing for farmers. Overall completion is tentatively scheduled for 2020. When finished, the Cofco Agricultural Eco Valley will accommodate between 80,000 and 100,000 people, provide 30,000 jobs, and demonstrate a closed-loop approach to the use of energy, water, and waste. The client and architects hope the project can provide a new model for rural development by bringing together agriculture, research, food production, education, and sustainable design.