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 


Join our Instagram campaign: #mysusturbanfoods

#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:


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.