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Planning for sustainable urban food systems: an analysis of the up-scaling potential of vertical farming

Daniel Petrovics and Mendel Giezen

Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 2022, vol. 65, issue 5, 785-808

Abstract: Food production and consumption related environmental challenges have come to the forefront of policy discourse in the past decade. This links primarily to concerns in terms of agriculture fueling climate change, but also in terms of long-term food security and availability for growing populations. A proposed solution to these pressures at the urban scale is Vertical Farming (VF), in the understanding of this article, a high-yield form of controlled environment agriculture, staked on multiple layers, which promises to produce leafy greens and vegetables within cities, with potential to reduce the resource intensity of urban food production and consumption. The particular contextual conditions required for VF to be sustainable have not as of yet been holistically assessed. Accordingly, by analyzing these contextual conditions in the Global North, this research assesses how VF can be up-scaled for the sake of sustainability – particularly climate mitigation – by viewing urban food systems through the Multi-Level Perspective. The article presents three findings in relation to the up-scaling potential of VF. Firstly, singular VF interventions in cities should have further functions integrated at the scale of the farm for the sake of viability. Secondly, VF interventions carry the most potential for climate mitigation if they are viewed through urban-level systemic food planning, which sheds light on the contextual conditions needed for VF to contribute to sustainability. Finally, the globalized dynamics of the neoliberal political economy, and in turn the localized effects for food systems, have implications for VF that need to be taken into consideration in framing up-scaling policy.

Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1080/09640568.2021.1903404

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