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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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A Quantitative Study Assesses the Aggregate Benefits and Potential of Urban Agriculture Worldwide

February 14, 2018 |

Abstract

Though urban agriculture (UA), defined here as growing of crops in cities, is increasing in popularity and importance globally, little is known about the aggregate benefits of such natural capital in built-up areas. Here, we introduce a quantitative framework to assess global aggregate ecosystem services from existing vegetation in cities and an intensive UA adoption scenario based on data-driven estimates of urban morphology and vacant land. We analyzed global population, urban, meteorological, terrain, and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) datasets in Google Earth Engine to derive global scale estimates, aggregated by country, of services provided by UA. We estimate the value of four ecosystem services provided by existing vegetation in urban areas to be on the order of $33 billion annually. Read More

Harvard’s Bionic Leaf Could Feed the World

February 12, 2018 |

As the global population rises toward 10 billion, the planet is headed for a food shortage, with some estimates saying supply will have to double by 2050 to meet demand.

The continued advance of agricultural technology — genetic modification along with new crop varieties and land-management techniques — will cover some of the increased demand. But such technologies will require a dramatic increase in the production of agricultural fertilizers, an energy-intensive process fed by fossil fuels and reliant on a robust manufacturing infrastructure: factories connected to rail and road networks for distribution. Read More

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Announces Support for Women and Minorities in STEM

January 29, 2018 |

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2018 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced support for research, education, teaching, and extension projects that increase participation by women and underrepresented minorities from rural areas in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Funding is made through NIFA’s Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Fields (WAMS) Grant Program.

The WAMS program seeks to develop and implement robust collaborations that improve the economic health and viability of rural communities across the nation. Read More

Farming for a Small Planet

January 15, 2018 |

This piece was originally published on the Economics of Happiness Blog.

People yearn for alternatives to industrial agriculture, but they are worried. They see large-scale operations relying on corporate-supplied chemical inputs as the only high-productivity farming model. Another approach might be kinder to the environment and less risky for consumers, but, they assume, it would not be up to the task of providing all the food needed by our still-growing global population.

Contrary to such assumptions, there is ample evidence that an alternative approach—organic agriculture, or more broadly “agroecology”—is actually the only way to ensure that all people have access to sufficient, healthful food. Inefficiency and ecological destruction are built into the industrial model. But, beyond that, our ability to meet the world’s needs is only partially determined by what quantities are produced in fields, pastures, and waterways. Wider societal rules and norms ultimately shape whether any given quantity of food produced is actually used to meet humanity’s needs. In many ways, how we grow food determines who can eat and who cannot—no matter how much we produce. Solving our multiple food crises thus requires a systems approach in which citizens around the world remake our understanding and practice of democracy. Read More