A group of SLU researchers from the department of economics has arranged a series of online workshops on the theme of Smart Urban Agriculture.
The workshops built on a report published by the group (Langendahl et al 2020), that outlines several fields of potential research, opportunities as well as challenges related to smart food production in cities. According to the report, the "smart" turn in urban agriculture refers to food produced indoors in closed and digitally augmented environments, such as vertical farms, plant factories and aquaponic systems. These farms can be found in cities across the globe, e.g. Stockholm, Bristol, New York, and Tokyo. Uptake of smart urban agriculture is, however contested. On the one hand, it is viewed by its proponents as a promising way to produce fresh food all year around, using less chemicals and requiring fewer food miles (c.f. Despommier, 2010). Critical voices, on the other hand, state that it is a marginal activity that requires energy intensive artificial lighting and produces food with low nutritious value (Albright & de Villiers, 2008; Langendahl et al., 2017; Bergstrand et al., 2020). Technological advances in architecture, digitalization and horticulture as well as social and economic developments may, however, create opportunities for smart urban agriculture to address these issues and become a more realistic food supply in cities.
The initiative has gathered a broad range SLU researchers and affiliates, to identify prospects for cross-disciplinary collaborations such as joint publications and applications. There is a list of interested people, and clear enthusiasm for further developing this emerging field. Particularly clear focus areas are transition to a bioeconomy, innovation and new business models related to urban food systems.