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

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 


Case study: AgroParisTech rooftop garden – Paris, France

Location: Paris, France

Typology: Rooftop garden

Urban area: Inner city – Rooftop

Innovation type: Technological innovation

Main functions: Experimental research – Education and training – Resource-efficient food production

Users: Researchers – Companies – Students – Citizens



The rooftop garden of AgroParisTech (French Technical University of Agronomy) started in 2012 with the experiment T4P (Toits Parisiens Productifs, a pilot project of Parisian Productive Rooftops). The project aimed at conceiving and evaluating cultural systems based only on urban waste as the substrate. In the project, the reseatch team looked at (i) food production potential, (ii) food pollution), (iii) expected ecosystem services and (iv) Technosol evolution. The garden design is based on cultivation boxes, which are made of wooden containers classically used as backyard composters. Such design was chosen for experimental advantages (better control of conditions, easier measurements) and for providing a modular and flexible design for its implementation in other rooftops. Furthermore, the wooden boxes were cheap and easy to build, enhancing its potential diffusion to other gardens in Paris.


Crops: Lettuce – Cherry tomatoes – Green manures – Tomatoes – Carrots – Onions – Cabbage – Beans – Spinach – Basil – Zucchini – Radish – Màche (lamb’s lettuce) – Mesclun (salad mix) – Garlic

Techniques: Organic substrate production

Irrigation: Automatic irrigation with tap water

Use of renewable resources: Use of urban wastes as substrate (green waste compost, coffee grounds, smashed bricks) – Rainwater use

Sustainable practices: Organic production – Use of pollinators – Pesticides-free production – Runoff water management – Crop association practices – Green manuring





  • Grard, B. (2017). Des Technosols construits à partir de produits résiduaires urbains: services écosystémiques fournis et évolution(Doctoral dissertation, Université Paris-Saclay).
  • Grard, B. J. P., Bel, N., Marchal, N., Madre, F., Castell, J. F., Cambier, P., … & Chenu, C. (2015). Recycling urban waste as possible use for rooftop vegetable garden. Future of Food: Journal on Food, Agriculture and Society3(1), 21-34.
  • Grard, B. J. P., Chenu, C., Manouchehri, N., Houot, S., Frascaria-Lacoste, N., & Aubry, C. (2018). Rooftop farming on urban waste provides many ecosystem services. Agronomy for Sustainable Development38(1), 2.
  • Joimel, S., Grard, B., Auclerc, A., Hedde, M., Le Doaré, N., Salmon, S., & Chenu, C. (2018). Are Collembola “flying” onto green roofs?. Ecological Engineering111, 117-124.
  • Dorr, E., Sanyé-Mengual, E., Gabrielle, B., Grard, B. J., & Aubry, C. (2017). Proper selection of substrates and crops enhances the sustainability of Paris rooftop garden. Agronomy for Sustainable Development37(5), 51.

29.9.2017 – European researchers’ night at Bologna

This Friday 29.9, one of the big outreach events of Susturbanfoods will take place at the city centre of Bologna, within the European researchers’ night (Notte Europea dei Ricercatori).

The Notte Europea dei Ricercatori includes multiple locations with activities and outreach events as a bridge between society and research. Check out the complete program in Bolonga here.

We will be at Palazzo d’Accursio, in the city council building, presenting the laboratory UPCYCLING PER L’ORTO, where common household wastes are transformed into microgardens for allowing the self-production of vegetables in cities.

The LAB aims to:

  • Show to the citizens the horticultural techniques that can be employed in DIY-microgardening
  • Generate awareness on the generation of household wastes and the potential second uses
  • Talk with the society about urban gardening and urban food, in particular by addressing hot debates (e.g., food safety) with scientific data
  • Display images of on-going urban agriculture projects and their sigificance for sustainability

The video of the preparation for the LAB is already availble in this VIMEO link.

See you on Friday evening!

EXTENDED DEADLINE TO 15/02/2018 – Special Issue “Assessing the Sustainability of Urban Agriculture: Methodological Advances and Case Studies” – MDPI Sustainability

If you’re working on evaluating the sustainability of urban agriculture by advancing in new methodological approaches or assessing specific case studies, check out the information on the new special issue of the Sustainability journal:

“Assessing the Sustainability of Urban Agriculture: Methodological Advances and Case Studies”

Guest Editor :Dr. Esther Sanyé-Mengual

Research Centre in Urban Environment for Agriculture and Biodiversity (ResCUE-AB), Department of Agricultural Sciences (Dipsa), Alma Mater Studiorium – University of Bologna, Italy
Website | E-Mail
Interests: sustainability assessment; interdisciplinarity; urban food systems; participatory research design; industrial ecology; life cycle assessment; ecosystem services; geographic information systems; qualitative research; geographic information system; environmental justice

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue calls for papers that contribute to the assessment of the sustainability of urban agriculture, both by advancing methodological approaches and by providing results from case studies. Cities have been identified as an essential element in addressing global concerns, particularly due to the growing population, and food flow is key in the urban metabolism and in the design of future sustainable cities. Resulting from the environmental awareness of the globalized food system and urban social and economic gaps, urban agriculture has grown in recent years aiming at increasing food security while coping with climate change. Urban agriculture ranges from socially-oriented initiatives, which address social gaps (e.g., social inclusion, food deserts) employing low-tech techniques and educational programs, to high-tech for-profit farms, which focus on maximizing yields (e.g., rooftop greenhouse, aquaponics). The sustainability profile of such diverse forms of urban agriculture might consistently vary and contribute differently to the three dimensions of sustainability: Environment, society, and economy. To date, the environmental benefits of urban agriculture as a local production system, the ecosystem services of urban gardens (both environmental and socio-cultural services) or contribution to food security have been evaluated in specific case studies. However, studies covering sustainability assessments of social and economic aspects are limited, as are integrated methods for assessing urban agriculture.

This Special Issue aims at covering this gap by considering papers that evaluate the sustainability of urban agriculture, proposing new methodological approaches, and assessing new case studies that provide new data on the diverse nature of urban agriculture. New methods and data are essential to support decision- and policy-making for the design of sustainable cities. The consideration of the three dimensions of sustainability, integrated analyses, and quantitative approaches are of particular interest.

Dr. Esther Sanyé-Mengual
Guest Editor


Manuscripts should be submitted online at by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed Open Access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs).


  • environmental sustainability
  • social sustainability
  • economic sustainability
  • urban gardening
  • rooftop agriculture
  • life cycle assessment
  • ecosystem services
  • sustainable development goals
  • multicriteria analysis
  • social metabolism


!! Do not hesitate to contact me for any doubts or details

Launching of the “Rooftop Urban Agriculture” book

The new launching of the Urban agriculture series of Springer (edited by Christine Aubry, Éric Duchemin and Joe Nasr) is the book Rooftop Urban Agriculture, which has been edited by Francesco Orsini, Giorgio Gianquinto (Research Centre in Urban Environment for Agriculture and Biodivercity), Marielle Dubbeling and Henk de Zeeuw (RUAF Foundation).

The book was launched during the International Symposium on Greener Cities for more efficient ecosystem services in a climate changing world, GreenCities2017, which was held 12-15th September in the city of Bologna, Italy.

Here, the list of contents and authors is available:

Part I The Status and Challenges of Rooftop Agriculture Marielle Dubbeling

·        Introduction Marielle Dubbeling, Francesco Orsini, and Giorgio Gianquinto

·        A Panorama of Rooftop Agriculture Types Joe Nasr, June Komisar, and Henk de Zeeuw

·        Rooftop Farming Policy Tim Delshammar, Sofie Brincker, Kristian Skaarup, and Livia Urban Swart Haaland


Part II Design of Rooftop Agriculture Systems Francesco Orsini

·        Elements of Rooftop Agriculture Design Silvio Caputo, Pedro Iglesias, and Heather Rumble

·        Soil Based and Simplified Hydroponics Rooftop Gardens Alfredo Rodríguez-Delfín, Nazim Gruda, Christine Eigenbrod, Francesco Orsini, and Giorgio Prosdocimi Gianquinto

·        Technology for Rooftop Greenhouses Juan I. Montero, Esteban Baeza, Pere Muñoz, Esther Sanyé-Mengual, and Cecilia Stanghellini

·        Rooftop Aquaponics Beatrix Alsanius, Sammar Khalil, and Rolf Morgenstern

·        Integrating Rooftop Agriculture into Urban Infrastructure M. Gorgolewski and V. Straka


Part III Rooftop Agriculture Management Giorgio Gianquinto

·        Water Management and Irrigation Systems Ioannis L. Tsirogiannis, Francesco Orsini, and Paulo Luz

·        Managing Mineral Nutrition in Soilless Culture Alberto Pardossi, Luca Incrocci, Maria C. Salas, and Giorgio Gianquinto

·        Sustainable Pest Management Giovanni Bazzocchi and Stefano Maini

·        Produce Quality and Safety Beatrix W. Alsanius, Andrea Kosiba Held, Martine Dorais, Cecilia Moraa Onyango, and Lars Mogren


Part IV Multifunctional Rooftop Agriculture Francesco Orsini

·        Rooftop Agriculture for Improved Food and Nutrition Security W. Baudoin, Y. Desjardins, M. Dorais, R. Charrondière, L. Herzigova, U. El-Behairy, N. Metwaly, C. Marulanda, and N. Ba

·        Biodiversity of Flora and Fauna Francesca Bretzel, Francesca Vannucchi, Stefano Benvenuti, and Heather Rumble

·        City Resilience to Climate Change Teodoro Georgiadis, Ana Iglesias, and Pedro Iglesias

·        Resource Efficiency and Waste Avoidance Esther Sanyé-Mengual, Joan Rieradevall, and Juan Ignacio Montero

·        Community and Social Justice Aspects of Rooftop Agriculture Kathrin Specht, Kristin Reynolds, and Esther Sanyé-Mengual

·        Designing Green Corridors Network Within Cities: A Case Study in Vienna Maeva Dang

Part V A Geography of Rooftop Agriculture in 20 Projects Henk de Zeeuw, June Komisar, Esther Sanyé-Mengual, Rémi Kahane, Giorgio Gianquinto, Emmanuel Geoffriau, Ching Sian Sia, Alfredo Rodriguez- Delfín, and Salwa Tohme Tawk

·        A Geography of Rooftop Agriculture in 20 Projects Henk de Zeeuw, June Komisar, Esther Sanyé-Mengual, Rémi Kahane, Giorgio Prosdocimi Gianquinto, Emmanuel Geoffriau, Ching Sian Sia, Alfredo Rodríguez-Delfín, Salwa Tohmé Tawk, Heshem el Omari, Saumil Shah, Juan Ignacio Montero, B. N. Vishwanath, Rajendra Hegde, Luana Lori, Jessie Banhazl, Christopher Horne, Saber Osman, Carl Philipp Schuck, Viraj Puri, Bryna Bass, Edwin “Pope” Coleman, Chris Somerville, Pol Fabrega, Mat Pember, Amelie Asselin, Ricardo Omar, Sergio Eiji Nagai, Lyvenne Chong-Phoon, Allan Lim, Maria Lloyd, Shuang Liu, Gloria Samperio Ruiz, and Arlene Throness

Part VI Conclusions G. Gianquinto, F. Orsini, and M. Dubbeling

·        Conclusions Marielle Dubbeling, Francesco Orsini, and Giorgio Gianquinto