The Potential Role of Vertical Agriculture in Sustainable and Resilient Community Food Systems
This project is being conducted in collaboration with QuantoTech Solutions Ltd. and i-Open Technologies Inc. The research is driven by pressing needs for finding innovative ways of addressing food system vulnerabilities and increasing resilience in the face of climate change and economic shocks, issues that relate to and are compounded by the farm succession and food supply/distribution challenges associated with conventional agriculture. A potential approach for addressing these growing challenges is to explore options for widespread implementation of urban agriculture by adopting vertical farming and controlled-environment agriculture methods. Such farming methods could possibly provide an avenue for sustainable food production, distribution, and access, where technology-driven (but also inclusive and resilient) food production systems can be developed in ways that align with environmental, economic, and food security objectives.
Research Approach and Objectives
The research conducts farm-level experiments that grow lettuces using a hydroponic system under variable light intensities, nutrient compositions, and other conditions. The purpose of the experiment is to identify optimal growing conditions for enhancing food nutrition and yield and reduce operating costs and carbon footprints.
The research also conducts community-level analysis to gain insights into consumer and food vendor (groceries and restaurants) preferences regarding vertical farming and accessing vertically-farmed products. This aspect of the project involves integrating both the farm- and community-level data using a map-based platform, Agrilyze, to identify the environmental, social, and economic implications of scaling-up and developing vertical farms in different neighbourhoods throughout case study communities in British Columbia. The final phase of the project engages local governments, economic development, and food security stakeholders in dialogues around scenarios and potential trajectories for developing vertical agriculture in a manner that contributes to resilient and sustainable community food systems.
The aim of this research is to generate evidence-based knowledge on best practices that reveal both opportunities and existing/emerging challenges for broad-based adoption of vertical farms as components of sustainable food systems. This project builds on interdisciplinary knowledge and studies in community sustainability and food systems vulnerabilities, as well as practical solutions for addressing sustainable food systems challenges.
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This project is supported by the Mitacs Accelerate Program.