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

SustUrbanFoods in 2017



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:


Participation in the public event “Coltiviamo spazi urbani”

Last 18th December, Susturbanfoods joined the public event “Coltiviamo spazi urbani” organzied by the Làbas collective to present their new garden project ORTEO.

The event was a public meeting between citizens, researchers, activists, organized bodies that are interested in the topic of urban agriculture. The goal of the event was to explore the environmental, social and economic aspects of these new practices, share the experience of concrete initiatives and imagining possible scenarios for the city of Bologna.


The roundtable was composed by:

  • Daniela Gasperi – PhD students in the Departmend of Agricultural Science  – UniBo
  • Esther Sanye-Mengual – MSCA fellow, Research Centre for Urban Agriculture and Biodiversity (Rescue-AB) – UniBo
  • Maurizio Bergamaschi – Sociologist of the territory – UniBo
  • Joan Crous – social cooperative Eta Beta Onlus (Bologna)
  • Luana Iori – Gandusio Orti (Bologna)
  • Stefano Scarascia – Arvaia – Agricultural cooperative of citizens of Bologna


The event was followed by an organic aperitif with km.0 products in collaboration with Làbiopizza from Labàs and the social brewery Schiumarell.



Cibi, relazioni e altre trasformazioni nella città contemporanea

Le aree urbane rimandano a paesaggi cementificati dove la natura ha a disposizione solo aiuole e parchi per crescere e colorare di verde alcuni interstizi della città. Ma esistono altri spazi dove piante e individui possono interagire creativamente nella costruzione dell’ambiente urbano? A Bologna, già da alcuni anni, molti fra singoli e gruppi si sono attivati per riprendere un contatto diretto con la natura e donare ai luoghi nuovi significati. Partendo da prospettive differenti, in forma individuale o collettiva, hanno trasformato tetti, balconi, piazze e aree dismesse in orti e giardini comunitari, dove è possibile coltivare, insieme alle piante, anche nuove relazioni sociali. In una città sempre più anonima e frammentata dove i processi di riproduzione del capitalismo globale intervengono nelle forme del consumo, della speculazione immobiliare e dell’esclusione sociale, gli orti urbani si configurano come laboratori di sperimentazione locale, dove costruire nuove strategie di resistenza all’egemonia del modello neoliberale e rivendicare una gestione collettiva degli spazi urbani e rurali. Autoproduzione di cibo, scambio di conoscenze, consapevolezza ecologica, incontro e convivialità, solidarietà tra culture e generazioni, costituiscono azioni ed obiettivi che esprimono una nuova domanda di città e rimettono al centro l’individuo con le sue scelte e le sue aspirazioni.
Domenica 18 dicembre 2016, dalle ore 18:30, vi aspettiamo a Làbas per un incontro pubblico tra cittadini, ricercatori, attivisti, realtà organizzate che sono interessati al tema dell’agricoltura urbana. Andremo a scoprire le dimensioni ambientali, sociali ed economiche di queste nuove pratiche, partendo dalla condivisione di esperienze concrete e immaginando possibili scenari per la città.

Ne parliamo con:

Daniela Gasperi – Dottoranda Dipartimento Scienze Agrarie – UniBo
Esther Sanyé-Mengual – Centro Studi e Ricerche in Agricoltura Urbana e Biodiversità (Rescue-AB) – UniBo
Maurizio Bergamaschi – Sociologo del territorio – UniBo
Joan Crous – Eta Beta Cooperativa sociale Onlus (Bologna)
Luana Iori – Orti di via Gandusio (Bologna)
Stefano Scarascia – Arvaia – Cooperativa agricola di cittadini bolognesi

A seguire aperitivo biologico e a km zero con Làbiopizza a Làbas e Schiumarell – Birrificio sociale.


Knowledge exchange with students at UNIBO

The Marie Sklodowska-Curie individual fellowship promotes the knowledge exchange between the experience researcher (who did the mobility) and the host institution. As part of this exchange, I perform seminars and specific lesson on life cycle assessment (LCA) for the students at DIPSA (UNIBO).

To date, I had the opportunity to perform the following lessons:


Seminar at the Department of Agricultural Sciences of UNIBO

As part of the dissemination of the project, three seminars will be held in the Department of Agricultural Sciences as an opportuniy to exchange knowledge with the colleagues from UNIBO.

Today, we offered the first seminar at DIPSA where we presented an overview of the project, including objectives and expected results, and we showed the dynamics established in the past WORKSHOP with the stakeholders in Bologna.


The two other seminars at DIPSA are planned as follows:

  • October 2017 – Presentation of the methodological framework and preliminary results
  • May 2018 – Final presentation: Results and policy recommendations




Case study: iPom Pellerrossa – Bologna (Italy)

Location: Bologna, Italy
Typology: High-tech protected farm
Urban area: Peri-urban
Innovation type: Technological innovation
Main functions: Water recirculation – Integrated pest management – Geographical synergy



PELLEROSSA is born as the first eco-friendly tomato in the region of Emilia – Romagna by employing agronomic techniques that respect the environment. They are promoted as “100% sustainable” since it grows in a clump of earth wrapped with coconut fiber in a high greenhouse, solid and bright. Every day, hour after hour, is fed with natural substances in order to grow healthy and tasty.


Crops: 2 varieties of tomato

Techniques: Hydroponic rockwool production

Irrigation: Use of well water – Drip irrigation – Use of fertigation (NPK)

Use of renewable resources: –

Sustainable practices: Pesticides-free (Integrated pest management with benefitial insects) – Local production – Minimization of water consumtpion – Use of residual hot water from the bioenergy plant

Other products: –


Visit to Serra Pellerossa


Today we visited the periruban farm of IPOM Pellerossa in the outskirts of Bologna. This farm employs technological innovation to minimize the environmental impact of their tomato production. In particular, the name of the farm “Pellerossa” refers to a local variety of tomato that the farm recovered. This is one the case studies for technological innovation in SustUrbanFoods.