EAGER: FEW: Life cycle comparison of water, energy, nutrient, and carbon requirements of urban and conventional food production strategies

Project: Research project

Project Details


Food production in the U.S. is largely industrial, with ongoing consolidation of farming operations into large production facilities. This practice has greatly increased food yields over the last 50 years, but involves cropping systems that are largely monoculture and require intensive irrigation, chemical fertilization, and long-distance transportation of crops and processed food products. Simultaneously, the U.S. population has largely shifted into urban centers, further increasing distances between food production and consumption, and leaving many communities without a local source of fresh food (Figure 1). A variety of urban food production strategies have been proposed to improve access of impoverished urban populations to healthy fresh food, increase greenspace and biodiversity in cities, stimulate economic development, and reduce energy and carbon required to provide food to urban residents. Urban food production has also been proposed to yield a number of ancillary benefits as green infrastructure for stormwater management. However, the net requirements of urban food production systems for water, nutrients, and energy have not yet been quantified. Further, modeling frameworks are not currently available to evaluate the whole-lifecycle water and energy costs of producing and delivering food to consumers via conventional and urban agriculture. Finally, the potential tradeoffs between stormwater storage and water quality impacts of urban agriculture have not been determined.
Effective start/end date7/15/156/30/18


  • National Science Foundation (EAR-1541891)


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