Urban horticulture is not expected to replace traditional dominant food systems in feeding the world. But it can cover the growing demands of locally available, nutritious, sustainable and fresh produce in urban areas. The Greenhouse Horticulture and Flower Bulbs Business Unit of Wageningen University & Research is working on a decision support framework for cultivation system, crops and production planning of urban growing.
Cultivation in urban environment is constrained by scarcity of land. This requires high productivity and faces environmental and societal concerns regarding resource type and use. This can be achieved in high-tech controlled environment, but it is not always financially viable, certainly not at small-scale.
In the research "Turning resources into food" WUR focuses on simple, passive protected systems. Such systems can find application worldwide, offering opportunities where production is less economically stable and can be a solid alternative to open field cultivation (or controlled environmental agriculture, when not affordable).
In the first phase, the study makes use of greenhouse climate models to quantify the effect of local climate and addition of passive covers (and progressive design improvements) on realized indoor climate and thus growing season. Around 10-12 climate regions worldwide are investigated for this purposes by using meteorological data of selected cities with high population density.
The next phases will involve experimental studies to quantify productivity, resource use efficiency and nutritional values for selected crops as affected by combinations of light and non-optimal temperatures. In the last phase, the study will evaluate the efficiencies of growing systems and suitability of crops in meeting fruits and vegetable dietary requirements of urban population.
The research "Turning resources into food" is developed within the project “Food Systems in European Cities" (FoodE) (European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, grant agreement No 86266.