Reimagining the Future of Food for the Cities

PROJECT SUMMARY

As the world’s urban population is set to increase to almost 70 percent by 2050, the EBRD and FAO look to more than 250 companies in over 85 countries to understand the new wave of commercial urban farming to guide investments that link technology and innovation with food, nature and people.

Context

Identifying modern urban agricultural approaches that can be replicated and scaled is at the heart of this EBRD and FAO project that looks at global innovations. Results help to inform investment decisions in cities of the EBRD’s countries of operation around rooftop farming, indoor farming and others.

55 percent of the global population lives in urban areas. In lower- and middle-income countries, they often lack easy access to healthy foods while supply chains can be vulnerable to disruptions as highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Modern urban agriculture can help stabilize these chains and has the potential to produce around 10 percent of the global output of pulses and vegetables as well as contribute to environmental sustainability through reduced water run-off, climate-cooling and shorter supply chains.

The study considers factors like the sustainability of production, collaborations between large food processors and indoor urban farms, and the new technologies that are the main drivers of competitiveness in urban agriculture. It looks at both positive and negative externalities of modern urban farming and presents data and options to enhance or reduce impacts.

Activities​

To investigate the opportunity to support urban farm initiatives and gain a further understanding of the investment landscape, opportunities, players and stakeholders in this new sector for the EBRD, a cross-regional study carried out jointly with the EBRD and FAO set out to:

Identify and interview key actors including providers of inputs, companies, authorities and local administrations.

Establish networking and data-sharing opportunities for stakeholders via dedicated e-dialogues.

Analyze the modern urban agriculture sector.

Identify the most promising investment sectors and areas.

Achievements

  • Networked with more than 800 market players and influencersfrom both the public and private sectors, including farming companies, technology providers, research centres, real estate investors, retailers and farmers’ associations which will result in a stakeholder mapping report.

  • Early findings include that:
    • Europe and North Americaare leading the way in urban agriculture, particularly with new research and technologies, with growth also observed in Asia, East Europe, the Caucasus (Azerbaijan and Georgia), the Middle East (Lebanon and Jordan), Africa and Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan);
    • different approachesinclude vertical and horizontal farming models, and the use of hydroponics, aeroponics, aquaponics or soil-based modalities; and

high-tech and data-driven operations of crop production in urban and peri-urban environments are driving competitiveness – such as controlled environment farming that uses remote-control systems, robotics, LED lighting and soilless mediums which require significant investment in capacity and infrastructure development.

  • An e-dialogue series with around 950 participants representing up to 300 companies from 65 countries:
    • Thinking urban and peri-urban agriculture
    • Urban agriculture for circular cities
    • The role of technology in urban agriculture
    • Knowledge and skills for commercial urban agriculture
    • Making urban farming profitable
    • The economics of urban farming
    • Energy and urban farming
    • Sustainability and urban farming
    • Investing in urban farming, conclusions and presentation of the study.

The e-dialogues are available to view on the New Role for Urban Farming YouTube channel.

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