SiEUGreen White Paper with best practices

This report explores the potential of Urban Agriculture (UA) to enhance food security, improve resource efficiency, and promote smart, resilient, and circular cities.

The discussion is framed within the scope of the Horizon 2020 project ‘Sino-European Innovative Green and Smart Cities’ (SiEUGreen) which explored different pathways to turn waste into resources for growing food in cities through the combination of different technologies. These technologies were tested in five showcases: Campus Ås, in Ås, Norway; World Gardens and Brabrand Fællesgartneriet community gardens in Aarhus, Denmark; Turunçlu greenhouse in Atakya, Turkey; Sanyuan Farm, in Beijing, and Futiancangjun residential area in Changsha, China. 

The insights and knowledge gained with these showcases were the basis to discuss the barriers and drivers of UA in the transition to more sustainable and resilient circular cities, across five aspects (1) environmental, (2) technological, (3) economic, (4) social and cultural and (5) regulatory and institutional issues. The results suggest that city food provision and UA systems can be designed considering circular economy regenerative cycles, but it is important to promote local research that can highlight policy solutions to address context-related barriers and limitations.

Among the main lessons learned across the different aspects, we highlight:

  • The need for more evidence-based research, clear monitoring tools and evaluation/assessment of the different UA typologies and their impact on the environment, society and economy;
  • The implementation of innovative technological developments that support and promote UA for reduce; reuse, recycle/recover resources require more experimentation, large-scale tests and validation both concerning their efficiency, positive environmental impacts, as well as economic viability;
  • The need for high investments, difficulties accessing financial support, underdeveloped business case for circular resource models, and limited recognition of the positive and indirect economic, environmental benefits of UA are among the main barriers that limit the uptake of agriculture in cities;
  • Despite the significant role UA can play in advancing a circular economy (e.g., by supporting sustainable local food systems, promoting community resilience and reducing waste), behaviour and cultural barriers were found to have a deep impact when fostering a closed-loop approach to UA, especially concerning overcoming prejudice against waste as a resource,
  • Local governance and public policy play a central role in framing and supporting UA (e.g., incentives, funding, regulatory frameworks) as a pathway that enables close loops in cities.