€1.65m investment for city farming research

A research project investigating how urban resources can be effectively used to grow food in cities has been awarded €1.65m under the Sustainable Urbanisation Global Initiative.

The FEW- meter project will measure and explore the use of energy, rainwater and organic waste for urban agriculture in five countries: the UK, Poland, Germany, France and the US. The project team is composed of 13 partners, who will share the funding awarded. In the UK, the FEW-meter project is led by the University of Portsmouth’s Dr Silvio Caputo.

An international consortium including urban designers, agronomists, ecologists, geographers and policy experts, will look at how urban resources which are typically underused can be exploited in cities to grow food sustainably. The project team aims to develop robust evidence for policy-makers, academics and urban farmers.

The UK team comprises the University of Portsmouth’s School of Architecture, the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, and LEAP micro AD ltd, an enterprise specialising in micro anaerobic digestion – a method of turning food waste into clean renewable energy and fertiliser. The team’s investigation will include experiments in how to how to improve waste as a resource for food growing.

Dr Caputo, a senior lecturer in Portsmouth School of Architecture, is delighted that the university has received £163,745 from Economic and Social Research Council for its portion of the work. He said: “Cities are rich with resources for growing food and the importance of urban agriculture has been underestimated. Growing food in urban areas can cut down on transportation costs and make use of resources that currently aren’t being exploited. I believe the project will provide evidence of the potential for urban farming and hope it will contribute to a move towards more sustainable food-growing in cities.”

Dr Caputo will also co-manage the international work with project lead Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland. Researchers will develop an online portal where urban farmers will upload data over two growing seasons. Data gathered will be analysed and used to design urban farming plans in five cities: London, Dortmund, Gorzow, Nantes and New York.

These designs will also demonstrate the potential for production of vegetables in relationship to urban resources available in each city. It is hoped they will be an invaluable tool for local authorities to plan development sustainably.

Other academic partners include: Poznan University of Life Sciences (Poland); ILS – Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development (Germany); AgroParisTech (France); IRSTV – CNRS (France); The City University of New York (USA) and University of Michigan (USA).

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