Urban farms have huge untapped potential to fight hunger

Urban farms have huge untapped potential to fight hunger

New research has shed light on the huge potential for urban agriculture to provide food security and sustainable development.

Researchers at the Arizona State University (ASU) and Google analysed a range of datasets to estimate the size of services which could be met by urban farming. This included looking at population sizes, types of terrain and climatic conditions to derive global scale estimates.

They projected that annual food production from urban farms could reach 100–180 million tonnes. In addition, it could also see huge energy savings of up to 15 billion kilowatt hours and create up to $160 billion of economic worth each year.

The researchers estimate that their findings “represent the first effort to consistently quantify these incentives globally” and highlights how the urban environment can “alleviate mounting concerns associated with global environmental change and unsustainable development”.

The UN estimates that more than half of the world's population currently live in cities, and that this is set to increase to 67% by 2050. At the same time, demand for food is also going to double in certain areas, such as Africa. 

Africa’s urban areas are also expected to grow faster than any other continent over the next 30 years, meaning more of its agricultural land will need to adapt to the built environment.

Nicholas Clinton from Google, and lead author, explained:

“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 will consume it”.

Matei Georgescu, ASU associate professor of geophysical sciences, said:

 "Our estimates of ecosystem services show 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 from agriculture in urban areas.


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Image Credit: Salman Diweny

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