Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Urban Farming - Beyond the Allotment

 Urban agriculture, the researchers say, could help feed a world that may face future challenges in industrial agriculture as a result of climate change.

“We’ve known there are benefits to having these small plots of land in our cities, but we found that the benefits extend well beyond having fresh food in the hands of those who consume it,” explained lead author Nicholas Clinton of Google Inc.

A study by the National Science Foundation (NSF)Arizona State University (ASU) and Google researchers has used a data-driven approach to assesses the value of urban agriculture and quantify its benefits at a global scale.

“For the first time, we have a data-driven approach that quantifies the ecosystem benefits from urban agriculture,” said Matei Georgescu, a geographer at ASU and corresponding author of the paper. “Our estimates of ecosystem benefits show the potential for millions of tons of food production, thousands of tons of nitrogen sequestration, billions of kilowatt hours of energy savings, and billions of cubic meters of avoided storm runoff.”

“Analysis of the food-energy-water nexus sometimes leaves the impression that benefits are concentrated in one place and costs in another,” added Tom Torgersen, program director for NSF’s Water, Sustainability and Climate program, which supported the research. “But that’s not always the case. Urban agriculture is an underdeveloped industry that could sequester nitrogen in cities, generate energy savings, help moderate urban climate, reduce storm water runoff, and provide more nutritious foods.”

They projected an annual food production of 100 to 180 million tons, energy savings of 14 to 15 billion kilowatt hours (from insulation properties provided by rooftop urban agriculture), nitrogen sequestration between 100,000 and 170,000 tons, and avoided storm runoff of 45 to 57 billion cubic meters annually.

Looking toward the future, Clinton said that countries with the most incentives to encourage urban agriculture have two main characteristics — a large enough urban area to support agriculture, and a mixture of crops that lends itself to urban cultivation.

“Relatively temperate, developed or developing countries with the right mix of crops are expected to have the greatest incentives for urban agriculture,” he said. “That would include China, Japan, Germany and the U.S.”


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