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

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#mysusturbanfoods is an Instagram campaign that aims to collect the ideas and examples of sustainable practices in urban food systems around the Globe. Tell us what makes urban food systems more sustainable and tag us to be featured in the account.


Best shots will be included in the final exhibition of the H2020-MSCA Susturbanfoods project in May 2018 – Bologna (Italy).

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January 2018: Training, data collection, and dissemination activities of Susturbanfoods

With the new year, we have started the last phase of the Project, we are performing the Assessment of the case studies while collecting some missing data. In parallel, we are completing dissemination and traning activities around Europe.


Data collection:

  • Arvaia (CSA, planned agriculture, Bologna, Italy
  • AgroParisTech rooftop garden, third session of data collection, Paris, France
  • New case study: Azienda agrícola Floema (Social innovation, farmer-consumer distribution via WhatsApp), Bologna, Italy


  • Seminar at AgroParisTech, Paris, France: “Sustainability assessment of social and technological innovations in urban agriculture” for researchers and HEI students



SustUrbanFoods at the AESOP Sustainable food planning conference – 14&15th November – Coventry, UK

Last week, Susturbanfoods joined the AESOP Sustainable food planning group in the annual conference, hosted by the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University (UK), on the 14-15 November.

The concept of the conference was the following:

After seventeen years from its early conceptualisation, and ten years on from its institutionalisation (Van der Valk and Viljoen 2014), sustainable food planning is a thriving transdisciplinary research and policy field bringing together policy makers, academics, and practitioners across the globe. Food charters, food strategies and food policy councils have multiplied, ‘alternative food networks’ have gained significant and growing shares of the food market and new forms of localisation of food production, including urban agriculture, are gaining ground and becoming central components of new food policy strategies.

Yet, the scale and speed of the ‘food’ crisis make us see these achievements as modest and utterly inadequate. Urban food poverty and malnutrition, and the related use of food banks, are on the rise even in some of the most wealthy countries of the world; the most vulnerable populations in both the global North and South are unshielded by austerity politics, food-commodity speculation, land grabbing or staple food price rises. Diet-related diseases (such as diabetes and obesity) are growing at alarming rates among children in the supposedly ‘well-fed’ countries of the world. We still waste between 30% and 50% of the food we produce while millions of farmers and land workers growing our food across the globe are struggling to make a living. And the environmental impacts of our food ‘regime’ and diets are devastating.

Planning for sustainable food production and food provision is more than ever urging us to look for more effective, equitable and just approaches that radically change not only the way we grow food, but the very core of our living space.

In the conference, we participated with a study on how urban agriculture is implemented on vacant spaces towards social inclusion and urban regeneration, presenting the results published in an article in Sustainability (MDPI).

Two case studies of SustUrbanFoods exemplify these practices:

Via Gandusio is a community rooftop garden that was implemented by the municipality of Bologna, in collaboration with the University and the association Biodivercity to foster the community building of the residents.


The Spazio Battirame of the Eta Beta social cooperative renovated an abandoned building and the adjacent agricultural space in a suburbial district of Bologna with the aim of producing local and organic vegetables that are sold to Bologna citizens and employing adults and youth in risk of social exclusion.


We took part in the session “Urban agricultural planning & design” 

  • Daniel A.C., Aubry C., Colle M., Barbillon A. “Development of an urban agriculture project: “projection” and “revelation””
  • Solman H. van der Valk, A., Pedroli, B “Alleviating tourist pressure on city centres by fostering alternative food experiences away from tourist hotspots”
  • Sanyé-Mengual E. Gasperi D., Pennisi G., Rizzati N., Bazzocchi G., Magrefi F., Mezzacapo U., Centrone Stefani M., Orsini F. Gianquinto G. “The use of vacant spaces for urban horticulture in the city of Bologna (Italy)”
  • Mees C. “Participatory design and planning for food production, shelter and cultural expression: Shared urban gardens in New York City”

During the conference, a Book launch on the topic took place, including the following publications:


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!

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

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Networking: Visit to Toronto’s urban agriculture projects and Ryerson University

Urban agriculture project have spread over Toronto, as it can be seen in the UA projects map of the Toronto Urban Growers website. Project are classified among community gardens (Toronto parks, Public housing, other), allotment gardens, school and childern’s gardens, urban agriculture businesses (producers), organizations, rooftop gardens, greenhouses, beehives and orchards.

Taking advantage of my visit to North America for the ISIE-ISSST 2017 conference, I visited Prof. Joe Nasr at Ryerson University (Centre for Studies in Food Security), who showed me some of the vibrant UA projects in the city of Toronto.


Ryerson Urban Farm – link

Taking the advantage of a former green roof, the Ryerson Urban Farm started to cultivate the roof of one of the Campus buildings with a pilot plot. Currently, the Farm crops the entire rooftop, including two recent beehives, have some spots with container cultivation around the campus, a food forest and a flower garden. The Farm employs soil-based ecological growing methods (crop rotation, composting, mulching). Tours, educational programs and community engagement complement the food production of the rooftop farm. Food is sold through farmers’ markets (in the same Campus), to restaurants and via Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA).

The Farm in the news – link


Evergreen Brick Works – link

EVERGREEN Brick Works is a “place where the world can experience sustainable practices that enable flourishing cities of the future”. Through the renovation of a deterioring heritage building of past industry in Toronto’s Don Valley, this new spot of the city is a public space and meeting point to exchange and disseminate about green cities, ecology, planning, design, technology and arts. Regarding urban agriculture, Brick Works hosts a farmers’ market on Saturdays, the largest market of Toronto which started in 2007, engaging a large community to get to know local producers. Evergreen also hosts a demonstrative Urban Farming Unit by Ripple Farms (see below). Furthermore, citizens can find local seedlings and urban gardening elements in the EVERGREEN shop at Brick works to develop their own urban gardens.


Know more: Evergreen Brick Works: A Story of Change – Video link

Ripple Farms – link

Ripple Farms is a social enterprise developing the aquaponics technology and business moel in Canada, with its first Urban Farming Unit placed in Evergreen Brick Works. The project aims to produce food locally, in an organic manner, year-round and seeking for resource efficiency (e.g., water and nutrients recirculation). Currently, the unit produces Tilapia and different greens (Arugula Microleaf, Buttercrunch Lettuce, Chard Flamingo, Frisee Endive, Little Gem Lettuce, Mustard Sprouts, Purple Basil, Sunflower Sprouts). Food production is combined with education and dissemination, such as workshops for citizens and schools.


FoodShare at Eastdale – link

The School grown program at Eastdale Collegiate Institute is one of the UA programs of FoodShare in the city of Toronto. The rooftop garden implemented in the former rooftop playground of the school is made of wooden beds and self-watering buckets. Soil with compost is employed for the cultivation. The main objective of the project is to educate and tran youth in food production, cooking and marketing. The education is also the main axis of the business model, complemented with the selling of the produce in farmer’s markets and to restaurants. A total of 65 crops are cultivated in this rooftop, dominated by leaf greens, which have the higher value in the market. Fertilization is performed with self-made compost, as composting and waste management is one focus of the School Grown program. During summer, the program employs students looking for summer jobs to fund their studies.

Learn more: FoodShare’s video