8 Sustainable Urban Design Strategies - Agricultural Urbanism

The heart of any city is where the majority of its population lives. Contrarily, outskirts are where the majority of the food for the city's residents is grown. This (literal) gap between the produce and its users has made the latter lose value and appreciation for their food and for the farmers who grow them.

One way to counter the further spread of this problem is agricultural urbanism. As the name suggests, it is the amalgamation of agriculture with urban or city planning. 

Green urban design strategies for incorporating agriculture in the urban areas or cities

There is only one goal for agricultural urbanism- merging food production with its consumer's cities. Apart from the areas where food is grown, spaces like farmer's markets, shared gardens, restaurants, shops, and open plazas where produce is sold will also be accommodated. 

8 Sustainable Urban Design Strategies

There are many ways to integrate agriculture into the present cityscape. Given below are a few practical strategies that all cities have the ability to implement to create a greener envelope.

  1. Green Roofs and Walls
  2. Greenhouses
  3. Backyard Gardens
  4. Roof Gardens
  5. Shared Gardens
  6. Vertical Gardening
  7. Street Landscapes
  8. Urban Animal Husbandry

1. Green Roofs and Walls

This method involves growing plants on the walls or roofs of houses. The plants use the soil present on the walls and roofs to grow. It is a good way to reduce rainwater runoff and seepage. 

Cafe with a Green Wall by Antonio Maciá A&D
Cafe with a Green Wall by Antonio Maciá A&D

2. Greenhouses

Greenhouses require a certain minimum area for their construction. They allow cultivators to comfortably grow crops year-round since it regulates the internal temperature and environment.

Greenhouses architecture
Bicentennial Conservatory, Australia

3. Backyard Gardens

This type of farming can be done among the members of the family itself. It is a small-scale initiative that does not require any additional labor or other expenses. Food can be grown and stored in the house itself. 

Backyard gardens residence
Tierwelthaus House by Feldman Architecture

4. Roof Gardens

Most cities today are so cramped that most houses don't even have backyard spaces. This is where roof gardens come in- not only can food be produced, but it also keeps the building cool by reducing the amount of heat that is absorbed. 

Roof garden architecture
Red Roof, Vietnam by TAA Design

5. Shared Gardens

In this type of farming, members of a group of households share the land and effort that is needed for growing food. This leads to a sense of community and also can increase yields by sharing each other's knowledge, resources and experiences. 

Shared garden architecture
R-Urban, Paris Shared Gardens

6. Vertical Gardening

When there is limited space for growing plants, this method is very effective. Vertical gardening spaces also act as screens that purify the air from dust and pollutants around the building. 

vertical garden architecture
Santalaia – Bogotá, Columbia

7. Street Landscapes

This method involves planting greenery wherever possible in the street areas. The community around must look after its growth and survival. It not only purifies the air around and gives produce but also beautifies the cityscape. 

Street furniture with garden open space design

8. Urban Animal Husbandry

Animal husbandry is rearing animals for food or other goods. Although there are limited options while considering the urban environment and climate, raising local species should be no problem. Cattles, bees, fishes, and several species native to the region not only give us produce but also enhance the ecosystem. 

urban animal husbandry

There are many benefits to switching to this type of urban planning. One of the obvious reasons is to reduce starvation among the impoverished and vulnerable sections of the community by making healthy food available at affordable rates. 

Benefits of Sustainable Urban Design (Agricultural Urbanism)

1. Retains streetscape but adds ecology

  • Agricultural urbanism is a type of urban planning wherein food systems are developed and taken care of across the city without compromising on its expansion and growth. 
  • Rather, the city evolves along with the ecology while also producing food for its residents. 

2. Self-sustaining

  • Urban agriculture promotes the self-sustenance of the city dwellers by integrating agriculture and city planning and maximizing both of their productivity. 
  • It encourages a cycle of production and consumption without the help of external factors. 

3. Brings food back into the city

  • Usually, food is grown on the outskirts and transported after harvest into the city. This method has severed the connection between food and its consumers. 
  • Urban agriculture positively integrates and reconnects the people living in the city and the food they consume every day. 
  • This way, the people will learn to appreciate the work that goes behind the food that earlier somehow appeared on their tables. 

4. Promotes education and innovation

  • Agricultural urbanism promotes the growth and development of both city planning and agriculture in a positive way. 
  • It reconnects those who live in cities to all the methods involved in agriculture like growth, processing, packaging, distribution, sales, delivery, cooking, and not just its consumption– by integrating the food system visibly into every element of the city. 
  • This in turn creates a more vibrant and prosperous city. 

5. Increases job opportunities

  • One of the big problems in any city is unemployment. 
  • The amalgamation of agriculture into cities demands the production, development, processing, packaging, and marketing of these consumable products. 
  • This results in an increase in entrepreneurial activities, creating jobs, as well as reducing food costs, and improving quality through competition. 

6. Abolishes transportation costs

  • The current agriculture-city relationship uses a lot of energy and fuel in the form of transportation. 
  • The energy used to transport food is decreased down to almost zero when urban agriculture can provide cities with locally grown food. 

7. Reduces in pollution

  • The energy-efficient nature of agricultural urbanism reduces the city's carbon emissions by taking transportation out of the equation. 
  • The green areas and growth will also reduce carbon accumulation that is a rising problem in urban areas, where there are more buildings and roads than plants and trees.
  • They also act as screens for buildings by purifying the air and providing cool interiors. 

8. Increases economy

  • Households and small communities can use their houses or empty plots to contribute not only to their family's food requirements but also to the needs of their resident city in general. 
  • This allows them to generate larger incomes by selling to local grocers or to markets while also supplying their households with the proper nutritious and fresh products. 

9. Gives a sense of community

  • Agricultural urbanism can be seen as a means of improving the livelihood of people living in and around cities. 
  • When people cultivate and consume their own food in shared spaces, it gives them a sense of trust and ownership. It also increases the social interaction between different communities. 

10. Improves health

  • When one is making their own food or at least aware of the process leading up to it, they make sure it is grown without any chemical additives which artificially enhance the harvest. 
  • Needless to say, these additives are extremely harmful when consumed, and banning their usage naturally makes food more healthy. 

11. No need for middle-men

  • When produce is directly sold by the farmers to the consumers, there is a lesser chance for them to get cheated on. 
  • This also inevitably reduces the cost of the food itself, hence proving to be a win-win situation for both the producers and the consumers.

Niravu Organic Village - A Sustainable Initiative

Niravu is a quaint village located in the Kozhikode district of Kerala. It is known to be the first organic village initiated in the state. 

Agriculture at the Niravu Organic Village, Kerala
Agriculture at the Niravu Organic Village, Kerala

When seven residents were diagnosed with cancer caused by the toxic fertilizers, the villagers’ determination to go organic has sprouted into a self-sustaining ecosystem within the village.

Initiatives by the village

1. Organic Farming

One cent of the land of each of the 143 residing families are converted into native farmlands (30 out of the 63 acres)

2. Water Conservation

Well recharging technology, rain pits, and pavement of sloped lands using pebbles to surface water runoff.

3. Native Crops

Niravu created a bank for native seeds such as pulses, paddy, Vengeri brinjal, etc., that the residents can avail at all times.

4. Energy Conservation

The project ‘Urjasree’ promotes the use of LED bulbs and solar panels. And biogas is used as cooking fuel by families.

5. Waste Management

Project ‘Jaivasree’ ensures one biogas plant for every four households and manure is used for the purpose of farming. 

Results of the Initiative:

  • Improved quality of life for the residents.
  • Assured food security.
  • Overall improvement of the climate.
  • Income generation from the farms.
  • Reduced cost of living.
Niravu Organic Village, Kerala Produce
Niravu Organic Village, Kerala Produce

The sky's the limit for this village that embraces the endless opportunities they have. And their initiatives prove to us that a healthier way of living starts with a single change, beyond which it reciprocates into endless possibilities. 

Other articles you might be interested in:

8 Sustainable Urban Design Strategies - Agricultural Urbanism