How much food can be grown in urban spaces? Productive potential (i.e. amount of food produced per unit space, input, time, environmental impact (e.g. emissions) ) determines utility and economic viability. Can urban food production make a meaningful contribution to food security? Can a farmer produce enough food to earn a living? Or will urban farmers need to supplement their income with events, etc? Quantifying productivity is essential for understanding the role urban food production can play in food security.
How will we integrate urban food production into our existing food system? We are all interdependent. Urban food production (i.e. food produced by home growers, community gardens, professional growers) impacts demand from existing local and regional farms. As urban food production increases there will be increasing competition for markets. How do we approach this from a systems perspective? How do we tackle issues like distribution & minimising food waste to ensure a resilient food system?
How will we manage pests and diseases? As more food is grown in urban areas, there will be more issues with pests and diseases. How will we manage this in a co-ordinated way? For example, effective crop rotation would require growers to co-ordinate.
How will we ensure sustainable practices? Wise use of resources (e.g. fertiliser, water) requires observation and monitoring. How can we ensure precision agriculture technology is accessible to localised food production? This will be important for efficient use of resources and sustainability.
What training and education will be available? Managing a productive, sustainable urban food farm requires extensive knowledge and expertise. What educational programs can be developed to ensure urban spaces are productive?
Current Research Projects
Research forms a core part
of what we do. We strive to apply innovative and adaptive thinking to
maximise the benefits of urban farming.
How much food can an urban space produce?
2020 We are setting up a project to measure the productive potential of above-ground, soil-based organic farming. We plan to measure inputs and yield to better understand the role urban farming can play in improving Melbourne's food security.
Urban farming is a hot topic Urban farming is a hot topic right now, for good reason. Urban food production has the potential to improve food security, community well-being, and sustainability. However, important questions need to be answered. Can enough food be produced to make a meaningful contribution to food security? Will urban farms be financially self-sufficient? Will there be real environmental benefits? Ultimately, productivity will determine whether urban farming can live up to expectations.
Research is urgently needed How much food could be grown in urban spaces across Melbourne? For example, if all suitable spaces were used for food production, what proportion of our food needs would be met? This a really important question. The contribution of urban farming to increased food security and resilience comes down to the basic productive potential; the amount of food that can be produced per unit area, factoring in time to harvest and inputs. Some systems, such as heated glasshouses, are very productive but these currently require large investment and have a minimum viable size due to investment and return. In the future, such barriers may shrink with the rise of ‘building-integrated agriculture’.
There are a couple of small studies addressing the productivity of home and community gardens. To the best of our knowledge, there is no published research about the productivity of raised-bed farms in Australia. We’re especially interested in measuring the productivity of organic, raised-bed, soil-based systems since these can be adapted to roof-tops, car parks spaces, or contaminated soil (more common in urban areas). Because soil-based systems don’t require continuous power and careful monitoring, they are a particularly resilient form of urban farming. Soil also has substantial capacity to buffer changes in pH, temperature, etc. And soil-based systems can be easily integrated with waste recycling and carbon capture systems.
Citizen science We are setting up a project to quantify the productivity of our organic, raised-bed, soil-based growing system. We’ll accurately measure how much food (kg) is grown and all the inputs required. This will provide an initial reference point, with the idea to compare in different settings. We hope to involve our local community, inviting volunteers to take part in the harvesting and weighing phase of the project.
This project was initially scheduled to start in April 2020. Start date has been postponed due to the COVID-19 situation. Last updated: April 2020
Closed loop seedling production
2014 - Present Soil blocks as a viable method of raising seedlings.