The Future of Food, What Role Will You Play? – Living Architecture Monitor magazine

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COVID19 has highlighted the vulnerabilities of our food system, ones that will continue to evolve as climate change progresses. As we look for solutions, several factors should shape our decision making. 

  • Global food systems are responsible for one-third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. 

  • Cities consume 78 percent of the world’s energy and produce more than 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions (UN)

  • By 2050, it is estimated that nearly 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas (UN). 

  • Today, the average age of North American farmers is around 60 years old, with many nearing retirement.  

What would you say if there was a solution that would address these challenges while also supporting the economy, helping us reach climate goals and improving community health and well-being?

Urban agriculture is the process in which food production takes place within the city itself. Instead of relying on rural farmers to grow, harvest and transport food to city centers, all of this is done close to the consumer. Urban agriculture can take various forms including backyard, balcony, and community gardens, rooftop farms and greenhouses, and more recently, the growing trend of indoor vertical agriculture using hydroponics.

During World War I and II, the “Victory Garden” campaign encouraged citizens to grow food in open urban spaces to support the country’s war efforts. By 1945, 20 million victory gardens produced 40% of America’s fresh vegetables. Once the wars finished, we saw the move away from growing food locally and towards a more industrialized food system where a few large farms produce most of our food at economies of scale. This way of producing food is largely responsible for disconnecting humans from their food and for environmental degradation. 

Today, during COVID19, we are seeing a resurgence of “victory gardens” as a response to the unpredictability of the pandemic on our food supply. Communities are also starting to understand the importance of being more self-sufficient and supporting the local economy. 

So how do we take this renewed interest in local food to the next level and encourage more urban farms and gardens in urban areas? In addition to policy support, we need the tools to equip the next generation of farmers. An organization that is supporting the transition is Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC), the industry association for professionals in the green infrastructure industry. Green infrastructure refers to using nature and natural systems to tackle urban challenges such as stormwater, the urban heat island effect and air quality. 

GRHC is creating the tools to help professionals maximize the return on investment for green infrastructure projects while demonstrating how to design for optimal ecosystem services and community benefits. Green infrastructure needs to be part of the green recovery as it is uniquely positioned to help city regions adapt to climate change and create jobs. Urban agriculture is a more productive form of green infrastructure that can take any project to the next level and support local food production, reduce food insecurity and reduce a city’s carbon footprint. 

The Introduction to Rooftop Urban Agriculture training course is a first for the green building industry as it integrates green infrastructure and urban agriculture concepts. The course examines the history and benefits of urban agriculture and highlights various types of rooftop farms, design requirements, and business models. The course features rooftop farm case studies on Brooklyn Grange, Lufa Farms, Ryerson Urban Farm and more. 

With the success of the online course, GRHC is now hosting an Urban and Rooftop Agriculture Virtual Symposium on Thursday, July 23. The event brings together professionals from diverse backgrounds involved in mainstreaming urban agriculture. 

  • Top Leaf Farms is a regenerative farmer-led design team creating built environment food system solutions that are productive, beautiful and resilient in the face of climate change. Benjamin Fahrer the Principle will share project case studies and farm design tips!

  • Universities are the ideal space for urban agriculture research and education. Ryerson Urban Farm Operations Coordinator, Jayne Miles, will dive into the logistics of running the quarter-acre rooftop farm and what is coming next! 

  • Alex Speigel is a Partner at Windmill Development Group who is sharing two case studies on integrating a meaningful strategy of urban agriculture in mixed-use developments

  • Have you heard of Agritecture? They are a global consulting company that specializes in building integrated agriculture projects. Yara Nagi, Agritecture’s Operations Director, has been involved in more than 60 urban farm projects where she develops the feasibility studies for economic models. 

To learn more and to register for the Urban and Rooftop Agriculture Symposium visit

The potential of urban agriculture to transform our cities has yet to be fully recognized by decision-makers. Food can be used as a lever to solve numerous urban challenges and we need to rapidly start implementing these strategies. The green recovery from COVID19 will not happen without drastic changes to our food system, what role will you play?

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