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



Outreach events: Participation in the first meeting of the “Aquaponics network of North Rhine-Westphalia”

Yesterday 18th May, SustUrbanFoods joined the first meeting of the “Aquaponics network of North Rhine-Westphalia” to talk about the sustainability of aquaponics and the case studies of aquaponics systems within the project.

The event was organized by Aufbruch am Arrenberg, the association die Urbanisten and the SWUAS university within the framework of the ERASMUS+ Urban Green Train project, as a multiplier event.

The goal of the event was to exchange expertise and experiences between the administration, aquaponics companies, associations and NGOs, service companies and academics of the sector. The three axis of the meeting were the following:

  • How can aquaponics contribute to sustainable food production?
  • Which social and labor market-relevant opportunities open up?
  • Which bodies are involved when an urban aquaponics project is to be implemented?


  • 9:00 am Get-together
  • 9:30 am Welcome
  • 9:50 am What is Aquaponik – Rolf Morgenstern
  • 10:00 am The Urban Green Train Project – Bernd Pölling
  • 10:20 am Sustainability of Aquaponics – Dr. Esther Sanyé-Mengual
  • 11:00 am Break and exchange
  • 11:30 am Climate Expo – Michael Walther
  • 11:40 am The Aquaponik Verband – Mandy Schreck
  • 12:00 hrs Aquaponik Manufaktur – Ingo Bläser
  • 12:10 am Integrated Pest Management – Dr. Peter Dapprich
  • 12:30 am Aquaponics and Social Work – Yvonne Fischer
  • 12:50 pm lunch break and exchange
  • 1:45 pm Panel discussion: Mandy Schreck, Jörg Heynkes, Rolf Morning Star, Peter
    Dapprich, Mrs. Bonitz (?)
  • 2:30 pm The project Arrenbergfarm – Jörg Heynkes
  • 14:40 h Plantastik – Niels Rehkop
  • 14:50 am Aquaponics at the FH Soest – Rolf Morgenstern
  • 15:10 Food Safety – Dr. Eberhard Büker
  • 15:30 h Plant Nutrition – Wolfgang Grüne
  • 15:45 Coffee and closing day

Case study: DIE URBANISTEN aquaponics system – Dortmund (Germany)

Location: Dortmund, Germany
Typology: Modular protected aquaponics
Urban area: Urban
Innovation type: Technological innovation
Main functions: Water recirculation – Polyculture – Research



The aquaponics system of die Urbanisten is placed in the Union Gewerbehof in Dortmund. It was implemented in 2013 for demonstrative purposes. The installation consists of a 22m2 unheated greenhouse made of aluminum, plastic and glass, where the aquaculture and soil-less production are integrated. On the on hand, the aquaculture production is performed in a 1m3 IBC container and water is filtered by biological and mechanical processes. On the other hand, the soil-less production system is done on expanded clay in polyethylene boxes.


Crops: Tomatoes, Mint, Lettuce, Arugula, Lettuce, Lemon balm, Basil (African blue), True Water Cress

Fish: Grass Carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), Tench (Tinca tinca)

Techniques: Aquaponics production: Aquaculture tank with filters (biological & mechanical) + Soil-less vegetables production with expanded clay

Irrigation: Tap water – Recirculation – Automatic irrigation

Use of renewable resources: –

Sustainable practices: Pesticides-free – Integrated pest management – Local production – Minimization of water consumption – Sustainable production of protein sources

Other products: –


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