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

NEW PAPER on innovation in urban agriculture

New paper of Susturbanfoods published in Sustainability.

ABSTRACT: Compared to rural agriculture, urban agriculture (UA) has some distinct features (e.g., the limited land access, alternative growing media, unique legal environments or the non-production-related missions) that encourage the development of new practices, i.e., “novelties” or “innovations”. This paper aims to (1) identify the “triggers” for novelty production in UA; (2) characterize the different kinds of novelties applied in UA; (3) evaluate the “innovativeness” of those social, environmental and economic novelties; and, (4) estimate the links between novelties and sustainability. The study was based on the evaluation of 11 case studies in four Western European countries (Italy, Germany, France and Spain). The results show that the trigger and origin of new activities can often be traced back to specific problems that initiators were intended to address or solve. In total, we found 147 novelties produced in the 11 case studies. More novelties are produced in the environmental and social dimensions of sustainability than in the economic. In most cases, external stakeholders played an important role in supporting the projects. The analysis further suggests that innovativeness enhances the overall sustainability in urban agriculture projects.

Keywords: urban food systems; innovation; sustainability; city farming; rooftop farming; urban horticulture

Link to the publication here.

The results of this paper are linked to all case studies of Susturbanfoods.


NEW PAPER: The eco-efficiency of LED farming

New paper of Susturbanfoods published in Sustainability.

ABSTRACT: Notwithstanding that indoor farming is claimed to reduce the environmental pressures of food systems, electricity needs are elevated and mainly associated with lighting. To date, however, no studies have quantified the environmental and economic profile of Light Emitting Diodes (LED) lighting in indoor farming systems. The goal of this study is to quantify the effect of varying the red (R) and blue (B) LED spectral components (RB ratios of 0.5, 1, 2, 3 and 4) on the eco-efficiency of indoor production of lettuce, chicory, rocket and sweet basil from a life cycle perspective. The functional unit of the assessment was 1 kg of harvested fresh plant edible product, and the International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) method was employed for impact assessment. Even though most of the materials of the LED lamp and electronic elements were imported from long distances (14,400 km), electricity consumption was the largest contributor to the environmental impacts (with the LED lamps being the main electricity consumers, approximately 70%), apart from the resources use indicator, where the materials of the lamps and the mineral nutrients were also relevant. RB0.5 was the most energy-efficient light treatment but had the lowest eco-efficiency scores due to the lower crop yields.

Link to the publication here.

The results of this paper are linked to the case of LED farming in Bologna (Italy).


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: