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BLOG POST: How to regulate urban agriculture - A forsaken but major ecosystem service

Blog post   •   Jun 17, 2016 14:35 UTC

BLOG POST: Historically agriculture and food production played a great role in evolution of humankind. I'm Sepehr Mousavi, Sustainability Strategist at Plantagon and Chair to Swedish Standards Institute ‘Sustainable Urban Food Production’ committee. Welcome to follow my posts here where I write on urban agriculture and sustainable food production.

Food, being one of the four main ecosystem services, has always been a reason for our cities to be shaped close to reservoirs of fresh water and on fertile lands so we could be provided with food supply by the mother nature’s benevolence through practice of farming. Gaze upon at all today’s mega human settlements and major cities or our primarily formed civilizations such as Babel and Mesopotamia, Egypt and Nile with its most fertile plains or Antique China with Yellow and Yangtze rivers.

However during the process of development and urbanization, our human settlements and especially during the ‘industrialization era’ farmland has been pushed away to rural areas and created our food value-chains around trade, globalization and highly dependent on fossil-fuel transportation of it. A trend which its flaws, deficiencies and unsustainability has put our AgriFood system on a very slippery slope!

Urban Agriculture though never vanished completely into thin air and has been a part of the picture occasionally as a matter of household food security for disadvantaged urban and migrating rural population in the southern hemisphere, supply provider for sieged cities during the world wars, under the peak oil era or even as a hobby for rich in the more advantaged countries.

Urban and peri-urban Agriculture has been a means for increasing resiliency to extending urban sprawls and a domestic economy booster in many developing countries but due to its complications always pinpointed as a major governance problem. Lack of basic infrastructure to support urban food systems, policy adjustment questions, resource inefficiency, runoffs and pollution, food safety and distribution issues all hand-in-hand add to complexity of the subject as a governance setback for many local governments.

An issue that needs to be addressed immensely and an area that needs to be accurately regulated; aside from framework development, innovative and small-tech solutions could leapfrog the gap for many developing countries towards sustainability, resiliency, development and ultimately food security.

In the northern hemisphere though inclusion of integrated and innovative urban agriculture in city planning has been an important challenge. As now building up our ecosystem services around industrial ecology and by restoration of pushed-away farmland in urban areas; urban agriculture and controlled-environment local food systems are becoming a new industry that could feed our cities smartly by regeneration of food from waste loops of the very same city!

A barrier for advancement of Urban Agriculture in both cases though and as mentioned before, has been lack of proper framework; as the new area is not well-regulated and with lots of knowledge gaps in between hosting platforms, policy makers, cities and their silos and also private sector.

One driver of development of such systems to overcome the barriers could be regulating the area by help of standardization, standardization which could be defined as the process of development of guidelines and implementation of technical, managerial, governance, social, safety and environmental frameworks and standards.

To address this issue and as a part of Plantagon’s responsibility as leader of an industry, Plantagon International Association back in 2014 initiated a project and assisted with establishment of a technical committee on Swedish Standards Institute (SIS) platform under title of ‘Sustainable Urban Food Production’.

SIS TK592, consisting of a number Swedish actors active within the area and representing the public, academia and private sectors, has been the world’s first and still the only committee of standardization that works with regulating urban agriculture and its vicinities with Plantagon as its chair.

We have developed the world’s first terminology standard on urban food production that unifies the technical language used and demanded in the area to be the platform for the next standards to follow (The standard is under remittance and up for publishing within a short period of time).

The next in pipeline we have a guideline designed for cities, municipalities and local governments as promoters and policy-makers for urban food systems, a guide for real-estate owners, construction companies and project developers as hosting platforms and implementing parties of urban agriculture and finally development of a certification scheme for the food being produced under such frameworks and in such system to ensure quality and safety of it for our end users – being the citizens of the very same cities!

Plantagon together with our network have been a driving force in global transformation of urban agriculture since 2008. We at Plantagon Companization strongly believe that the growth of Urban Agriculture and promotion of local food systems requires universal cross-functional cooperation, collaboration and exchange of ideas – Share your views with us to push an industry forward!

Sepehr Mousavi

Sustainability Strategist, Plantagon
Chair to Swedish Standards Institute ‘Sustainable Urban Food Production’ committee

The ideas and thoughts presented in this blog are my personal views and need not subscribe entirely to Plantagon.

Please watch out for up-coming blog post by:

  • Joakim Rytterborn, Research & Development Manager, Plantagon
  • Shrikant Ramakrishnan, Global Business Development Director, Plantagon

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