Integrated sustainability assessment of social and technological innovations towards urban food systems

Overview – Special Issue “Assessing the Sustainability of Urban Agriculture: Methodological Advances and Case Studies”

The special issue that was edited for the journal MDPI Sustainability regarding the sustainability assessment of urban agriculture contains a total of 9 original research article on the topic.

  1. Chou, R.; Wu, C.; Huang, F. Fostering Multi-Functional Urban Agriculture: Experiences from the Champions in a Revitalized Farm Pond Community in Taoyuan, Taiwan. Sustainability 2017, 9(11), 2097. DOI. Link.
  2. Sioen, G.; Terada, T.; Sekiyama, M.; Yokohari, M. Resilience with Mixed Agricultural and Urban Land Uses in Tokyo, Japan. Sustainability 2018, 10(2), 435; DOI. Link.
  3. Pollard, G.; Ward, J.; Roetman, P. Typically Diverse: The Nature of Urban Agriculture in South Australia. Sustainability 2018, 10(4), 945; DOI. Link.
  4. Petit-Boix, A.; Apul, D. From Cascade to Bottom-Up Ecosystem Services Model: How Does Social Cohesion Emerge from Urban Agriculture?. Sustainability 2018, 10(4), 998; DOI. Link.
  5. Rogge, N.; Theesfeld, I.; Strassner, C. Social Sustainability through Social Interaction—A National Survey on Community Gardens in Germany. Sustainability 2018, 10(4), 1085; DOI. Link.
  6. Blay-Palmer, A.; Santini, G.; Dubbeling, M.; Renting, H.; Taguchi, M.; Giordano, T. Validating the City Region Food System Approach: Enacting Inclusive, Transformational City Region Food Systems. Sustainability 2018, 10(5), 1680; DOI. Link.
  7. Dezio, C.; Marino, D. Towards an Impact Evaluation Framework to Measure Urban Resilience in Food Practices. Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 2042; DOI. Link.
  8. Sanyé-Mengual, E.; Gasperi, D.; Michelon, N.; Orsini, F.; Ponchia, G.; Gianquinto, G. Eco-Efficiency Assessment and Food Security Potential of Home Gardening: A Case Study in Padua, Italy. Sustainability 2018, 10(7), 2124; DOI. Link.
  9. Sanyé-Mengual, E.; Orsini, F.; Gianquinto, G. Revisiting the Sustainability Concept of Urban Food Production from a Stakeholders’ Perspective. Sustainability 2018, 10(7), 2175; DOI. Link.

Participation in the ESP EUROPE 2018 regional conference

Next week the ESP Europe 2018 Regional conference “Ecosystem services in a changing world: moving from theory to practice” will take place in San Sebastian, Spain. Susturbanfoods will be present in the session B10b Urban agriculture and ecosystem services (K. Specht & M. Artmann). The experienced researcher of the project, Esther Sanyé-Mengual, contributes as co-author to the following presentations:

  • Urban agriculture and ecosystem services in a nutshell: A recent state of the art

ABSTRACT: Urban agriculture (UA) is increasingly proposed as an environmentally friendly practice and solution, which addresses global challenges including urbanization, public health, food security and climate change. UA can potentially have large environmental as well as societal benefits for cities, such as water regulation, improved food security, or air quality. First studies have investigated the impacts of UA on the quantity, quality, and stability of ES provided. Nevertheless, research on ES of UA is still on an early stage. So far, research on the contribution to ES has often addressed UA as a subtype of either “green infrastructure” or “agricultural production”. Still, existing research has shown, that as highly managed plant communities, UA can exhibit high levels of biodiversity, often exceeding that of other green space areas within the city and that it differs from other green urban infrastructure (e.g. in terms of provision of food, pollination, water management, socio-cultural services). Moreover, UA also shows distinct characteristics compared to agricultural production sites in peri-urban or rural areas and therefore potential provisioning and regulating services may largely differ. This paper critically reviews existing research on UA and their potential to support ecosystem services delivery.

  • Ecosystem services of urban agriculture in Bologna: a perception approach from the society to the manager level

ABSTRACT: During the last decades, the expansion of Urban Agriculture (UA) over European cities has been remarkable. UA has gained multiple functions and been used as a tool in the design of more sustainable cities, where the provision of environmental and socio-cultural ecosystem services (ES) has become a central discourse. Diverse studies have focused on the quantification of the ES provision by different types of UA in cities of developed countries (e.g., “food provision”, “biodiversity”) and some authors have also studied the perceived ES provision by users and gardeners (e.g., UA in Barcelona). However, little attention has been paid to the perception of the society as a whole. This study attempts to provide new knowledge in the evaluation of ES of UA by assessing how the provision of ES by UA in Bologna (Italy) is perceived from the point of view of the society of the managers of specific case studies. A non-monetary evaluation of the ES via a Likert-scaled survey was performed, including 14 environmental ES and 12 socio-cultural ES. The survey was compiled by the general public (n=380) and one manager for each case study (n=6). The expected results will provide data on perceived ES of UA from a global conceptualization in the society to the specific perception of managers of different types of UA. Results will be compared to data from the available literature to identify similarities and differences for different study areas and UA types.


NEW PAPER: Social acceptance and perceived ecosystem services of urban agriculture in Southern Europe: The case of Bologna, Italy

New paper of Susturbanfoods published in Plos ONE.

ABSTRACT: Urban agriculture has become a common form of urban land use in European cities linked to multiple environmental, social and economic benefits, as well as to diversified forms (from self-production allotments to high-tech companies). Social acceptance will determine the development of urban agriculture and specific knowledge on citizens’ perception is required in order to set the basis for policy-making and planning. The ecosystem services provided by urban agriculture can be determinant in this process. The goal of this paper is to evaluate the social acceptance and the perceived ecosystem services of urban agriculture in the city of Bologna (Italy), as an example of a Southern European city. In particular, we evaluated the preferences for urban land uses, for different typologies of urban agriculture and for the resulting products, the perceived provision of ecosystem services and the willingness to engage in new initiatives. A survey that investigated these topics (including open questions, closed questions and Likert-scale evaluation) was performed on the citizens of Bologna (n = 380) between October and November 2016. Results showed that urban agriculture is widely accepted by the inhabitants of Bologna, particularly regarding vegetable production. Although intensive farming systems were the least preferred forms to be implemented in Bologna, citizens highly accepted a large variety of urban agriculture goods, with preference for those obtained from plants as compared to animal products. The willingness-to-pay for urban food products was mostly the same as for conventional ones, although the participants recognised the social values, proximity and quality of the former. Socio-cultural ecosystem services were perceived as more valuable than environmental ones. Policy-making recommendations can be extracted from the results to facilitate the development of urban agriculture plans and policies.

Link to the publication here.

[POSTER] Eco-efficiency assessment of LED lighting solutions for urban farming

Next Wednesday 20th June, Susturbanfoods will be present in the XII Giornate Scientifiche SOI (Società di Ortoflorofrutticoltura Italiana) at Bologna, Italy, with a poster talking about the “Eco-efficiency assessment of LED lighting solutions for urban farming“, which will be presented by Giuseppina Pennisi.
Check out the program here:                              

Outreach events – May 2018

The SUSTURBANFOODS project and the final results will be presented during this month in two outreach events:


22 May 2018 – 10h-13h, Scuderie Urban Food CooLab (Piazza Verdi, Bologna)

  • SUSTAINABILITY ASSESSMENT OF INNOVATIONS IN URBAN AGRICULTURE, Dr. Esther Sanyé-Mengual, as part of the Bologna study visit programme of the ERASMUS+ BUGI “Western Balkan Urban Agriculture” project



24 May 2018 – 14h-18h, Fondazione FICO (FICO EatItaly World, Bologna)

  • FINAL CONFERENCE of the SUSTURBANFOODS project, “Integrated sustainability assessment of social and technological innovations towards urban food systems”, led by Prof. Giorgio Gianquinto and Dr. Esther Sanyé-Mengual, with the participation of Dr. Francesco Orsini, Dr. Daniela Gasperi and MSc. Giuseppina Pennisi (Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences, University of Bologna, Italy) and Dr. Kathrin Specht (Humboldt University, Berlin,  Germany)
  • PHOTO EXHIBITION “BUILDING SUSTAINABLE URBAN FOOD SYSTEMS: from SustUrbanFoods to the Globe”, by Esther Sanyé-Mengual: 

24 Maggio ore 14-18 – presso Fondazione FICO: Conferenza finale del progetto “SUSTURBANFOODS: Valutazione della sostenibilità delle innovazioni sociali e tecnologiche nei sistemi alimentari urbani, In collaborazione con il Centro Studi e Ricerche in Agricoltura Urbana e Biodiversità (ResCUE-AB), Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Agro-Alimentari, Università di Bologna. Include la mostra fotografica “La creazioni di sistemi urbani alimentari sostenibili: da SustUrbanFoods al mondo” di Esther Sanyé-Mengual.


Case study: Azienda Agricola Floema – Bologna (Italy)

Location: Bologna, Italy
Typology: Organic farm
Urban area: Peri-urban
Innovation type: Social innovation
Main functions: Organic food production – Direct marketing – Producer-Consumer relationship



Floema produces seasonal and organic vegetables in an extension of 0.75ha and fruit in a extension of 2ha in Crespellano (Bologna, Italy). Created in 2016, the company is run by four young farmers and innovates in a just-harvested direct selling strategy through social media: WhatsApp and Facebook. The business weekly proposes a list of products, from which customers can order their basket (minimum of 15€) to be received the same day of harvest at their homes. Customers can employ WhatsApp and Facebook for this purpose, ordering the basket the day before delivery. Floema complements they offer of fresh produce with added-value options: flour and preserves, which are produced in collaboration with local companies. 


Crops: 60 crops and varieties

Techniques: Organic open-air production

Irrigation: Drip irrigation

Use of renewable resources: Manual harvesting – Organic fertilizer (manure)

Sustainable practices: Pesticides-free (Integrated pest management with beneficial insects) – Local production – Local varieties – Seasonal production – Minimization of packaging use – Use of organic fertilizer from local farms

Other products: Preserves, flour