On the Roof with Urban Agriculture Experts
Antoine Trottier (AT): If we take, for example, the fight against climate change, the only data really taken into account by the governments is CO2 production. Hence, urban agriculture projects are not fully recognized for their climate change benefits. Urban agriculture helps in sequestering carbon for example. Based on this principle alone, urban agriculture is much better than nothing. Furthermore, knowing the distance traveled by regular food is very great and therefore carbon intensive, rooftop farms are indeed saving a lot on equivalent CO2 emissions through import substitution. Urban agriculture will not have as significant an impact in the climate change fight because it doesn’t reach the minimal requirements to be converted into carbon points through the policies and programs existing today. The policies and programs and the funding that comes with them, should recognize urban agriculture’s multiple emission reduction benefits.
Unfortunately, the carbon intensity or footprint of food is not represented to consumers in grocery stores. Clients and consumers pick a product based more on price differences, than on the location where the food was actually produced. On top of that, there are no certification of carbon or labelling requirements of the equivalent CO2 that are associated with the full production/delivery cycle of specific items – essentially no carbon intensity labelling. If we had policies that supported these types of advertising and labeling, it would probably have a big impact on how we choose to buy our different food items.
3. Which jurisdictions are leaders in policy development related to urban agriculture and agritecture projects and why?
HGS: There are lots of examples and each one is doing it its own way, but here are a few that stand out:
Singapore – the Singaporean Government has established urban agricultural educational & training programs for locals, and incentivizes developers to include urban farms as part of their new green building requirements.
Paris – the Parisculteurs initiative has been working to cover unused spaces like rooftops and walls with vegetation. The program helps maintain biodiversity, whilst allowing us to address issues of urban space re-naturalisation.
Atlanta – the first major US city to hire a director of urban ag within the Mayor’s Office and really integrate urban farming into the broader food access and local food conversation.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi – the new Food Tech Valley is an integrated modern city that will serve as a hub for future clean tech-based food and agricultural products.
Victoria, BC, Canada – the “city of gardens” – they embrace this nickname with some great non-profits and a food systems coordinator that has led or supported several initiatives to strengthen the capabilities of community gardens and even home gardeners to grow their own food.
AT: The City of Vancouver has already and for some time now integrated urban agriculture in their urban development plans and specific bylaws. Montreal recently nominated a project manager for the development of urban agriculture. AULab, is a research group associated with University of Québec At Montreal which helps municipalities in Québec put into place urban agriculture programs. They also developed a networking and coupling program called Montréalculteurs, very similar to ParisCulteurs. It is a platform where owners put their building or land up for use by farmers that will be able to cultivate those sites. We are expecting a very real comeback from all these initiatives.
Hats off to cities like Toronto that put in place a mandatory green roof bylaw! To convert an extensive green roof into a rooftop farm is much easier than to start from a standard roof.