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

Starting of the secondment period in Dortmund (Germany)

The secondment planned in the project just started!

Until the end of May, I will be working in Dortmund with researchers, architects and urban planners of the Fachhochschule South Westfalia (SWUAS), the Company hei-tro and the association Die Urbanisten.

The objective of the secondment is to know more about the aquaponics technology and to value two case studies on aquaponics in Dortmund.

During the secondment, knowledge exchange will be produced as well as different outreach activities will take place:

  • Seminar at SWUAS for students and researchers
  • Participation in the Westfalia aquaponics network meeting

Regarding the networking within the project, during the secondment I will participate in two events:



Launching a Cluster on Entrepreneurial Urban Agriculture

In recent years, the growing interest toward Urban Agriculture initiatives lead to the sprouting of a number of networks and think tanks of researchers, entrepreneurs as well as representatives of the public society. This is the case of the FAO group “Food for the cities”, but also of those born within several internationally funded projects (e.g. “Supurbfood”, COST projects “Allotment gardens in European Cities” and “Urban Agriculture Europe”, LLP-Grundtvig “HORTIS”, Erasmus+ “Urban Green Train”, “Carrot City”), or those promoted by world leading scientific societies (e.g. ISHS-Landscape and Urban Horticulture commission).

In order to extend the impact of these projects and activities and especially in the view of creating educational tools for boosting innovative urban agriculture enterprises, efficient forms of cooperation between Research, Education and Business shall be pursued.

This can be reached by creating an international and interdisciplinary Cluster on Entrepreneurial Urban Agriculture. The Cluster will involve different actors: HEIs, research centers, SMEs, NGOs, Policy Makers, etc into a forum addressing research, policy and market priorities, and implementing thematic workshops and awareness events.

The cluster, that will be constituted as a working group, will schedule periodical discussion forum, meetings and newsletter with the final aims of:
1) Create a knowledge exchange platform on most innovative entrepreneurial forms in urban agriculture and main potentials/drawbacks;
2) Connect experts from the different disciplines in order to create a discussion network on how to implement interdisciplinary training offer in the field of urban agriculture;
3) Respond to the needs of both private sector and the civil society at large in order to timely address relevant research questions and promote topics and initiatives to main funding agencies.

The members of the Susturbanfoods project have joined the cluster as representatives of Higher Educational Insitutions (HEIs).

The cluster will be constituted in July 2017 will first meet during the International Symposium on “Greener Cities for More Efficient Ecosystem Services in a Climate Changing World” that will take place in Bologna, Italy on September 12-15, 2017.

If you would like to join the cluster, contact Dr. Francesco Orsini (ResCUE-AB, UNIBO)


Guest editor in Sustainability’s special issue

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

Today, 11 February: International Day of Women and Girls in Science! – Some notes on gender issues in academia

“On 22 December 2015, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution to establish an annual International Day to recognize the critical role women and girls play in science and technology communities.” It’s today: 11th February. Actually, the 5th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of the United Nations is “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. Yesterday I joined the “Women in science 2017” initiative by providing my testimony regarding my scientific career. All these projects support the increasing awareness of the gender equity issue in academia.

I’m currently preparing a paper of a research study I made with my ex-colleague Beatriz Rodríguez-Labajos, where we evaluated the gender equality in an excellent environmental sciences institution with a mixed methods scheme. To understand the current gender issues in academia, I here list some of the discourses we found in the literature review when preparing our study:

  • The underrepresentation of women in academia, particularly in power positions (i.e., creating a pyramid of power) – Data of the UE in “She figures
  • The obstacles women find in advancing in the career, some of them tied to the current evaluation methods in academia where career breaks (e.g., maternity, caring) are not contemplated
  • The fact that successful men in academia were traditionally men who had a “household woman” who covered all the household non-paid work done. Such traditional patterns of “household wifes”are still kept in mind, making academia a 24/7 career that leads to a difficult family-work conciliation. Even more, women in academia are expected to be a “superwoman” that covers all the demands of an academic position while taking care of the household and family
  • The phenomenon of “gender devaluation”: when women reach a power position, men will devaluate the relevance and power of that position as it’s chaired by a woman, who cannot play such a power role
  • The fact that male attitudes (e.g., agressivity, competition, individualism) are prevailed in academia, contrasting female attitudes (e.g., feelings, co-creation, collaboration). In this context, female sometimes act as a man, showing a cold and agressive attitude (e.g., in meetings)

However, we must overcome some self-barriers that these discourses provoke, as:

  • Gender equity is not exclusively of women and girls. Men also face several obstacles in the academia related to the same issues women have traditionally done. For example, family-work conciliation is also hard for men, particularly those that have a key role in their household where responsibilities are equally shared
  • The competitive and agressive nature of academia is a problematic that might be solved beyond the gender debate
  • Career breaks might be considered in the academic career evaluation not only for family issues but also for personal ones, no matter the gender of the candidate
  • Gender equity is not a 50-50 equilibrium, but an equilibrium of opportunities, rights and respect

Some readings on the topic:

  • Larivière V, Ni C, Gingras Y, et al (2013) Bibliometrics: Global gender disparities in science. Nature 504:211–213. doi: 10.1038/504211a
  • Caprile M, Addis E, Castaño C, et al (2012) Meta-analysis of Gender and Science Research: Synthesis Report.
  • Powell S (2016) Gender equality and meritocracy.
  • Resmini M (2016) The “Leaky Pipeline.” Chem – A Eur J 22:3533–3534. doi: 10.1002/chem.201600292
  • Nielsen MW (2014) Justifications of Gender Equality in Academia: Comparing Gender Equality Policies of Six Scandinavian Universities. NORA – Nord J Fem Gend Res 22:1–17. doi: 10.1080/08038740.2014.905490
  • Shen H (2013) Mind the gender gap. Nature 495:22–24. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-1241.2011.02659.x
  • Zippel K, Ferree MM, Zimmermann K (2016) Gender equality in German universities: vernacularising the battle for the best brains. Gend Educ 28:867–885. doi: 10.1080/09540253.2015.1123229

“The SustUrbanFoods project: challenges in accounting for the sustainability of complex urban food systems” – Contribution to the 6th World Sustainability Forum

The preliminary results of the participatory research process of Susturbanfoods were presented in the 6th World Sustainability Fórum with the aim of showing the relevance of integrating stakeholders in the definitions behind methodological schemes and in the selection of parameters and metrics.

The workshops performed in susturbanfoods invited stakeholders and students of urban food systems (UFS) to put together the elements of the sustainability of UFS, differentiating between the environmental, economic and social dimensions. As a result from the workshops, we obtained a global and comprehensive picture of what are the concepts and elements behind the global sustainability of UFS.

The relation of this concepts between the three dimensions composed the following network, which includes mono-, bi- and tri-dimensional elements.


 The detailed results and further discussions based on the workshop results will be soon published as a scientific paper.