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A range of factors – existing urban layout, perceptions and attitudes towards the use of urban space, and the prevalent political climate – all operate at the city-specific level to influence the development of urban agriculture. In most countries in the Global North there is no independent category for urban agriculture in municipal zoning plans, as agriculture has historically been regarded as a rural activity by urban planners. Urban agriculture in Europe appears to fall between different policy areas, despite assurances from the European Commission that Member State rural development programmes can be used for the benefit of urban agriculture. To some, it may not be sufficiently agricultural in nature to secure support under Pillar I of the Common Agricultural Policy (as typified by more conventional agriculture). To others, it is not considered sufficiently rural to secure support under the above-mentioned rural development programmes. Looking to the future, the challenge for urban agriculture is how to achieve the necessary integration across all EU policy areas over the next programming period, post-2020 (McEldowney 2017). The urban agriculture sector in Europe is therefore characterized by bottom-up initiatives, which are informal and non- institutionalized. Although urban agriculture is beginning to be recognised at the institutional level in some countries, there is still a lack of public policy focusing directly on it. Urban agriculture is generally considered to be the responsibility of local governments, but since a formal framework is often missing, support at local government level has the tendency to be informal and fragmented. For example, The London Plan, which is the spatial development strategy for the Greater London area, simply states that the boroughs should identify potential sites that could be used for commercial food production in their development plans. With an appropriate policy framework, initiatives could become better grounded and secured. The inclusion of building-integrated agriculture in urban development policies or urban planning framework plans would boost its importance for urban development. For example, modifying zoning codes – by allowing food growing activities in certain categories, or adopting a formal urban agriculture land use zone –, recognizing urban agriculture as an economic development strategy, facilitating land access, and eliminating restrictions that stem from other policy fields, could all impact positively on the development of urban agriculture (Prové et al. 2016).

A few cities have taken the first steps to adapt local codes to promote urban agriculture. Paris has taken a very structured and proactive approach, which started with making an audit of all the underexploited or empty public buildings that could potentially accommodate urban farms. In 2016 city planning rules were changed to allow construction above the maximum height limitations by 7 metres if it is to build an agricultural greenhouse, and the Mayor of Paris launched the Parisculteurs initiative that aims to cover 100 hectares of rooftops and walls in Paris with greenery by 2020, of which one third will be specifically set aside for urban farming. Public and private owners of real estate were asked to come forward with suitable spaces which could be used for this initiative, and architects and designers then submitted site-specific proposals. One of the winners of the first round of the competition was the Green'elle project, which proposed the city’s first rooftop aquaponic farm. Planning permission was awarded in 2018, and when operational the 3000 m2 greenhouse will have an annual production capacity of 30 tons of fruit and vegetables and 3 tons of trout. The products will be sold to local residents through a Community Supported Agriculture vegetable box scheme, and to markets, and restaurants and wholesalers. Another winner was La Caverne, a vertical farm which grows mushrooms, endive and microgreens in an underground car park. HRVST dans le Métro was one of the winners of the second round. Located in a disused underground metro turning loop beneath Parc Monceau, the 5000 m2 vertical farm will grow produce destined for high-end restaurants. A third round of the competition is underway in 2019. Another initiative launched by the Mayor of Paris is Reinventir Paris, a call for innovative urban development projects to reveal the full potential of Paris’s underground spaces. While broader in scope than the Parisculteurs initiative, with teams being invited to propose projects that are simultaneously architectural, economic, cultural and social, one of the winners of the first round was FlabFarm, a 450 m2 insect microfarm and restaurant located in a two-storey basement which is due to open in 2021.

Over recent years, New York City has become an epicentre for urban agriculture. Prior to 2012 zoning laws in New York City viewed rooftop greenhouses as additional occupiable space that counted toward a building’s calculable Floor Area Ratio (FAR), and were therefore not permitted on buildings already at or near the maximum FAR allowance. That changed in 2012 when the Department of City Planning passed a Zone Green Text Amendment that encouraged the construction of new buildings and retrofitting of existing ones to make them more energy efficient and sustainable, including renovations that encourage urban agriculture. Among the provisions in the amendment benefitting controlled-environment agriculture were allowing a rooftop greenhouse to be considered a ‘permitted obstruction’, exempting it from a zoning district’s FAR so long as it was on a building without residences, used primarily for plant cultivation, less than 7.6 metres high, mostly transparent, and set back from the perimeter wall by 1.8 metres if it exceeded the district’s building height (Goodman & Minner 2019).

A number of public officials have also proactively supported the development of urban agriculture For example, in 2015 the Mayor of New York City introduced a Local Law to amend the New York City Charter to create an urban agriculture advisory board, and in 2017 the Borough President of Brooklyn introduced legislation calling for the New York City Department of City Planning to create a comprehensive urban agriculture plan to capitalize on the urban farming movement and use it to address community and youth empowerment, economic development, and healthcare. Although the plan has not advanced, an interim Local Law has resulted in the creation of an official New York City urban agriculture website that serves as a landing page for interested farmers. Nevertheless, in terms of controlled-environment agriculture, the focus of the local authorities has been on providing funding for hydroponic farming in schools, rather than the development of commercial agriculture. A recent study found that, compared with 131 facilities in public schools, there only 8 commercial CEA farms in the city: six rooftop greenhouses (five hydroponic and one aquaponic), one plant factory and one container farm (Goodman & Minner 2019).

While commercial CEA has led to the creation of a small number of urban green jobs, it may not provide sufficient benefits to warrant public sector support. The produce grown by commercial CEA farms in New York City contributes minimally to the estimated 1,848,842,500 kilos of fruits and vegetables consumed annually by its residents. There is also little evidence that CEA produce grown in New York City is addressing food insecurity and access issues that affect nearly three million New

Yorkers, especially those in low-income communities. This may be because locally grown CEA produce is too expensive, or not available in enough neighbourhood grocery stores, or for reasons not yet identified. The produce grown in commercial CEA farms in New York City also tends to be of only moderate nutritional value: the high start-up costs mean that the urban farmers need to recover these costs by growing high value crops for wealthy consumers, such as lettuce and basil, rather than nutritional produce priced for low-income residents, such as spinach and kale. The produce therefore contributes only minimally to the goal of elected officials supportive of urban agriculture to increase New Yorkers’ consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables, especially those at risk of obesity, diabetes, and related chronic health diseases (Goodman & Minner 2019).

While the findings of this study are specific to New York City, they have implications for the adoption of CEA in other urban centres. Municipal support for such ventures will only be gained if the purported benefits – the environmental, economic and social potential – of projects located on publicly-owned rooftops and land can be demonstrated.

Copyright © Partners of the [email protected] Project. [email protected] is an Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership in Higher Education (2017-2020) led by the University of Greenwich, in collaboration with the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (Switzerland), the Technical University of Madrid (Spain), the University of Ljubljana and the Biotechnical Centre Naklo (Slovenia).

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