Urban Agriculture

Urban agriculture can be described as the agricultural practices to producing fresh food or other agricultural products in urban areas and their surrounding regions (peri-urban). This can function centrally where plants can be grown and animal husbandry, horticulture, and aquaculture can be practiced. It also involves the processing, packaging, marketing, and delivery of food. In purview urban agriculture extends to establish food production sites within the city’s sphere.

As more land area is getting urbanized and larger number of people are coming to the urban areas to reside. It becomes very critical to properly utilize the space in our cities and suburban areas. Research in the last two decades is has proven that Urban agriculture can be a viable option for food production. It can also help in decreasing the effects of climate change and make the food supply chain more efficient.  Proper land use and spatial planning are crucial to practice this effectively. There are various methods to practice urban agriculture including ground-level farming, hydroponic farming, rooftop farming, vertical farming, greenhouses, and other new technologies.

As cities are expanding, this has created new sets of issues like the urban heat island effect, waste management, lack of biodiversity, and high levels of air pollution. With more people moving around the urban space, this has also increased carbon emissions. With urban agriculture, we can try to offset some of the adverse effects of these problems. This kind of agriculture is now being practiced in many cities. Cities like Tokyo, Seoul, and Sao Paulo have their own urban agriculture initiatives. But one of the cities is betting on urban farming in Singapore. The city-state currently imports 90 percent of its food. This also means that any kind of geopolitical tension or a global crisis can severely affect the food supply of Singapore. This means that growing own food becomes critical and essential. Due to this, the Singaporean government has envisioned an ambitious goal to produce 30 percent of its food in the city itself by 2030. This is a special challenge in Singapore’s care due to its tiny land area and highly urbanized population. The city has almost non-existent agriculture land and this is why the focus of food production is on the unutilized urban spaces, on top of shopping malls, hotels, schools, homes, rooftops in parking lots across the city, etc.

In 2009 Singapore government launched a program that incentivizes injecting greenery into development projects across the nation The program was aptly named ‘Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High-Rises’ (LUSH). Their current initiative to build urban food-growing areas within the city will be built upon this program.

Some of the benefits that Urban farming enjoys are immunity from water pollution, a better-controlled environment from the physical forces, and minimal to no use of pesticides and insecticides. But there are some limitations as well. This type of farming can be quite energy-intensive and the outputs can be comparatively lower than traditional farming. This also makes it more expensive.

To make Urban farming more effective governments will also need policies that will make use of the maximum amount of land across the city. Hydroponic farming can be a very effective way to rapidly scale the production where plants are grown with the help of water and the additional nutrients and minerals are added to the water to substitute soil. Additional Urban farming can also help in reducing carbon emissions and making cities cooler. Private firm involvement can also help in stepping up the scale of this kind of farming. This will be the step towards sustainable food production in the cities of the future but to make this happen greater involvement across the citizens and sectors will be needed.