The mass migration of people from rural to urban spaces throughout the world has brought a number of benefits and challenges. Economic opportunities and exposure to new cultures and experiences have provided people with the chance to lead more diverse lives and expand ties of communication. However, the burgeoning urban populations remain highly dependent on the tangible goods produced outside of urban spaces.
In this respect, agricultural goods are in high demand because urban inhabitants require food to consume and fibers to produce consumer goods. There are evolving efforts to meet some of this demand through the expansion of urban agriculture, which is the growing of plants and raising of animals within and around cities.
There are four generally accepted classifications of urban agriculture.
- institutional farms and gardens
- commercial farms
- community gardens
- community farms
The benefits of such efforts are diverse, ranging from urban beautification to social networking to reduced carbon footprints. However, establishing sustainable, cost-effective farm ecosystems within cities has been challenging for a number of reasons.
One of the biggest issues is that space in cities is a hot commodity and, despite being a basic need, food production is not considered a top priority. Ergo, there is heavy competition. Without enough usable space, the benefits of urban agriculture is limited.
This is where zero-acreage farming, i.e. z-farming, comes into play. Z-farming utilizes non-conventional spaces like rooftops, old factory buildings, and vertical spaces. Accordingly, non-conventional growing methods like hydroponics or aquaponics are commonly used. Adopting alternative production methods serves to adapt food production based on the resources available.
Urban agriculture may also utilize alternative spaces, such as rooftops or building walls. However, traditionally speaking, urban agriculture is dependent on soil and more traditional production practices.
In either case, with appropriate planning or creative adaptations, these evolving production systems can be beneficial to urban spaces and their varying array of stakeholders, including community members, non-profit organizations, and businesses.
- Specht, K., Siebert, R., Thomaier, S., Freisinger, U. B., Sawicka, M., Dierich, A., … & Busse, M. (2015). Zero-Acreage Farming in the City of Berlin.
- Thomaier, S., Specht, K., Henckel, D., Dierich, A., Siebert, R., Freisinger, U. B., & Sawicka, M. (2015). Farming in and on urban buildings: Present practice and specific novelties of Zero-Acreage Farming (ZFarming). Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 30(1), 43-54.