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FEW Workshop: "Scaling Up" Urban Agriculture to Mitigate Food-Energy-Water Impacts


With dramatic growth of urban areas and the majority of the world’s population now living in urban settings, cities have become dominant demand drivers in global food-energy-water (FEW) cycles. Globalization processes have intertwined cities with distant geographies through system interactions that include the exchange of food, energy, water, materials, capital, and the like. Through food consumption, city and ‘hinterland’ have become highly interconnected and interdependent across spatial, temporal, and jurisdictional scale. Growing awareness of the myriad environmental and socio-economic impacts associated with this food production-consumption nexus has sparked an urban agricultural renaissance.

This interdisciplinary urban Food-Energy-Water (FEW) workshop will help to better understand the potential ramifications of “scaling-up” urban agriculture on: 1) food supply and security; 2) water quality and re-use; 3) energy use; 4) biodiversity and ecosystem health; 5) and equity and governance. Prior to the workshop, working groups will prepare summaries on these five issues regarding the state of knowledge, level implementation, and interactions with other FEW systems. A sixth working group will evaluate to what degree an interdisciplinary urban metabolism modeling framework can comprehensively assess urban FEW system interactions. These summaries will be presented at the workshop, where participants will further identify the benefits, challenges, and transition pathways associated with scaling-up urban agriculture.

To uncover the linkages between physical, social, economic, and ecological systems, the project team and workshop participants include a multidisciplinary collection of geographers, engineers, ecologists, biologists, earth systems analysts, complexity modelers, planners, computer scientists, public health policy experts, and others. Emphasis will be placed on identifying tipping points that can enable rapid transitions in urban agricultural systems. Outputs from the workshop include a white paper (30-50 pages) and journal article, both of which will identify the fundamental research necessary for transitioning urban food-energy-water systems so that they are more integrated, sustainable, resilient, and equitable.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Research Areas
Food & Agriculture
Food Systems and Consumer Products