Feature Image courtesy of https://www.futurewild.com.au/
Urban farming is defined as “an industry located… within a town, a city or a metropolis, which grows or raises, processes and distributes a diversity of food and non-food products”. It has been suggested that urban farming may be a solution to some of our problems. The environmental impacts of urbanisation have become a growing concern across Australia and the world. It is predicted that by 2050 the functional capacity of cities will need to support over 70% of the world’s population increasing the environmental impacts of urbanised centres. In Australia, the spread of urbanisation is most apparent within the suburbs as Australian cities are noted as the most sub-urbanised cities in the world, with almost 89% of the Australian population living in urban areas and most of these in low-density living.
These vast urban sprawl networks are placing greater pressure on the environment with various impacts associated with urbanisation. Current studies indicate that rapid urbanisation is an increasing global environmental issue which has been compounded by the impacts of government policies and regulations, city planning strategies and economic global reliance on urban centralisation.
The rapid growth of urban centres is found to impact the degradation and fragmentation of rural and natural landscapes, including the loss of biodiversity and the ecosystem functions which they support. It also increases stormwater pollution and water management problems, including flooding and nutrient run-off. It increases air and soil pollution such as toxic heavy metal accumulation and increases the impacts of the urban heat island effect, which includes the production and consumption of energy which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and impacts of climate change.
It is imperative that cities of the future are designed to decrease or eliminate these impacts and incorporate more sustainable solutions. Urban Farming has been proposed as a viable solution to these increasing pressures of urbanisation, often exceeding that of other green spaces.
There are so many types of urban farming one for every situation within a city including, community, privatised or commercial urban farming, as well as the variation on systems such as rooftop, hydroponic, inground, or no-dig. This gives ample opportunities across a wide variety of contexts to be able to integrate numerous systems that could benefit varying aspects of the environment. There are even companies like Future Wild who specialise in establishing and maintaining these spaces for their clients.
Each type of farm works in a variety of ways, but each can be found to use the same broad techniques and benefit the environment in the following ways:
- Planting variations of vegetation types, including crop rotations, increases biodiversity which benefits local fauna and increases floral diversity. The integration of local and native bushfoods and flora adds another level of environmental benefits, as these create habitat for native wildlife and increase the dispersal of native flora within local networks.
- Raising of animals (eg chickens) increases biodiversity, as well as increases soil nutrients, and reduces waste, therefore decreasing greenhouse gases.
- Planting of vegetation, including trees, shrubs, and herbs, increases shade which also decreases the Urban Heat Island effect. It also increases biodiversity, increases local fauna habitat and food sources, and mitigates air pollution.
- Implementation of composting systems which reduces waste and decreases greenhouse gas emissions, increases soil nutrients and microbial activity and increases biodiversity
- Water management techniques including the use of rainwater tanks and greywater reuse reduces stormwater runoff and effects of flooding, increases groundwater saturation, and decreases inputs from external sources such as town water.
With the overall green space of domestic house gardens, especially those in low-density living exceeding 25% of total land mass in cities , it is imperative that we focus on integrating urban farming practices within our suburban areas as a way of mitigating our impacts on not only our local environments but to increase the probability of achieving and maintaining sustainable cities into the future.
If you are looking to integrate more urban farming practices within the design of your property, get in contact with us today and we can help you.