September 2022 -- Urban ag is growing - how do we make sure it's good for people and the planet?
The central project of my dissertation, the FEW-meter project, is drawing to a close, and we're working to synthesize some of our findings so far into policy recommendations for the future of urban ag. This month, we released a roadmap to resource-efficient urban agriculture. While we argue that urban ag is likely to expand in the future and that this is likely to come with many social benefits, we also acknowledge that resource-efficient and environmentally-friendly urban ag is not a guarantee. Food production has a huge environmental footprint, and if urban ag is to help reduce this instead of expanding it, we'll need policy and planning optimized to make that happen. To explore these policies, we conducted interviews with urban ag stakeholders across several countries and followed these interviews with an internal scenario-building process, during which we used back-casting to explore possible urban ag futures and their relationships to urban sustainability. We identify seven key factors and develop key recommendations for how each factor can be leveraged to support more sustainable cities.
In the introduction, we offer the following summary of these factors and key strategies:
Recommendations for key factor 1: Political Frame Conditions
Include urban agriculture into local and national political strategies – Policy should communicate and promote benefits of urban agriculture, creating enabling conditions for urban farmers and gardeners.
Establish a ‘one–stop agency’ at city level for information and support of urban agriculture Support a municipal information point on land access, funding and more to facilitate the start of new projects and initiatives.
Develop national food strategies – Food strategies should join up policies and stakeholders that are at present quite fragmented, including for the urban agriculture sector.
Integrate urban agriculture into health care schemes and make it eligible for social prescribing – In this way, urban agriculture should become a cornerstone for the prevention and treatment of illnesses such as obesity and mental health conditions.
Recommendations for key factor 2: Economic Regime
Develop and push green economy models ecological principles should be allowed to shape the economic regime which can help small scale urban agriculture become more established.
Provide financial incentives through effective fiscal policies – Polluter pays principles and incentives for eco–technologies facilitate the total reuse of waste, including wastewater and food waste.
Stop agrarian land speculation – Policy should recognize that agricultural land has a social value rather than only an economic one. Ownership models can shift towards community land trusts.
Effective economic valuation of multifunctional benefits – Effective evaluation of ecosystem services should decrease noxious practices of industrial farming.
Recommendations for key factor 3: Urban Growth Dynamics
Increase and share the knowledge base about existing urban agriculture activities – Take a census of all types of urban agriculture to increase awareness of its advantages by ascertaining existing capabilities.
Create and publish an open access inventory of available land for urban agriculture, including indoor farming – Provide information about location and status of sites, their size, and facilities available to encourage uptake of spaces for urban agriculture.
Improve infrastructure in rural areas – The digitalisation of rural regions and increased availability of urban land offers opportunities for new urban agriculture projects in cities, using innovative agricultural concepts.
Develop new food hubs – Food hubs provide enhanced opportunities for producer–consumerinteraction and offer a space for alternative food networks which will benefit urban agriculture and urbanites.
Recommendations for key factor 4: Urban Planning Policies
Develop a local food strategy – Put food on the local agenda by specifying major goals, target groups, and measures to reduce the environmental impact of urban food production.
Include urban agriculture in updated planning regulations and policies – Revised plans should embed crop cultivation, beekeeping and other farming activities in building codes. Buildingintegrated farming such as rooftop farming should be encouraged.
Use urban agriculture as a strategic element in green infrastructure programs – Include urban agriculture in planning for urban green infrastructure.
Establish economic models to support the intensification of urban agriculture projects Ensure that planning policies are coordinated with food policies and enterprise policies for urban agriculture to be strongly rooted in the urban socio-economic fabric.
Recommendations for key factor 5: Land-use Pattern
Develop a database of city-owned properties suitable for urban agriculture – This will facilitate access to land for all, including groups and enterprise initiating urban agriculture projects.
Recognize and protect urban agriculture in landuse policies – Facilitate land use both in dense and low-density urban areas, making suitable spaces available.
Establish procedures to consider the effects of land-use decision for urban agriculture – Urban agriculture should be recognised on equal footing with other land-use types in cities.
Provide appropriate land-use tenure contracts and support long term urban agriculture activities – Legislative tools for longer land tenure are needed to encourage the uptake of urban land.
Recommendations for key factor 6: Climate Change
Green the cities – Convert parking lots, rooftops and open spaces to adapt to and mitigate climate change.
Enable efficient use and re-use of water - Rainwater collection, greywater treatment, innovation in water recycling and efficient irrigation are necessary to improve water efficiency in urban agriculture.
Decrease distance between producers and consumers – Urban agriculture shortens the distance between consumer and producer and enables production that matches demand, thus potentially reducing food waste.
Support energy-efficient production – Encourage or embed in building codes waste reuse such as waste heat from buildings, wastewater reuse and nutrient recovery from food/organic waste.
Recommendations for key factor 7: Technical Trends
Provide incentives for affordable green technologies - This includes pollution taxes and compensations for low competitiveness due to some carbon-friendly technologies. Green technologies must include new food technologies (soil-less, insect farming and lab-grown meat), which are suitable for dense cities.
Push technologies for the total re-use of organic waste and wastewater for urban growing – Waste should become a valuable resource and either recycled or re-used.
Provide incentives for ICT solutions that connect farmers and consumers locally – This can strengthen consumer-producer networks (making direct distribution easier), while providing new opportunities for urban agriculture.
Check out the full "roadmap" archived on Zenodo:
Fox-Kämper, Runrid, Kathrin Specht, Silvio Caputo, Jason K Hawes, Agnès Lélièvre, Nevin Cohen, and Lidia Poniży. “Roadmap to Resource Efficient Urban Agriculture.” Zenodo, August 24, 2022. https://zenodo.org/record/6622125.