Urban Farming

Research Vision

How can urban farming become more integrated into city planning and development projects, and how does it benefit individuals, communities and cities?

The densification of cities and industrialization of food systems has widened both a physical and mental gap between what one sees on their plate, and where it comes from. The emergence of urban farming is not necessarily a new concept, yet has gradually made a comeback into the mainstream conversation as citizens become more aware about one's health and how it is linked to environment. Urban farming is not only a response to a practical need, but an emotional one as well, by rekindling the relationship between people and nature.

Losæter. Oslo, Norway. Photo by Monica Løvdahl.

Urban farming is tied up with various aspects of sustainability. On an individual level, it promotes health conscious decision making; about what one eats or buys - the quality of how it was grown or sourced, and changes the perspective of waste to resource. In Oslo, there is already an existing demand for garden spaces as allotment gardens around the city have long waiting lists.

On a community level urban farming can be used as a vital tool for fostering bonds between people from different ages and backgrounds through the communal activity of tending the local garden. Acting as an informal meeting place, urban gardens are an ideal place to share and exchange knowledge and experience. Within the community scale, urban farming can be an especially important learning tool for educating children about natural cycles in a participatory and engaged way.

When looking at the city level, urban farming encourages self-sustenance and reduces food miles - the distance it takes for a product to reach one's plate from the farm where it was grown. In the industrialized food system, food travels incredibly long distances via plane, boat, train and truck, not the mention the amount of intrinsic energy imbued into every food product from cultivation, harvest, packaging, transport and discarding. Urban farming vastly reduces the food miles between farm to table, ensuring food security at a local level, especially in the case of production shortages which were experienced during the pandemic. Further incorporating urban farms into city development can also increase local biodiversity by creating microclimates throughout the urban landscape. Creating habitat for people and other species can raise the overall well-being for both people and the planet, and can be realized in various ways.

Green Rooftops

Rooftops reflect the footprint of the cityscape. Often they are used as a space to place all of the technical functions of a building, yet have the potential to be transformed into spaces which create value within them. Establishing urban farms on rooftops is also beneficial to buildings by increasing water retention and regulating the heating and cooling of a building.

The smaller scale of a rooftop is ideal for a CSA model, or Community Supported Agriculture. This model brings the producer and consumer into direct contact by offering memberships to the local community, in which members come every week to pick up their share of the harvest during the growing season. It is also common to have a volunteer day in which anyone can come help out on the farm, further creating an atmosphere of inclusion.

Often, one will find that a permaculture approach is used for a small-scale farm. Permaculture uses a holistic approach to farming that aims to create closed loop systems between inputs and outputs so that no resources are wasted. This approach can be used for both rooftop and traditonal ground cultivation.

Østergro. Copenhagen, Denmark.

Seed saving at Østergro. Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo by Andrea Fjordside Pontoppidan.

Grospiseri restaurant at Østergro. Copenhagen, Denmark.

Raised garden beds at Østergro. Copenhagen, Denmark.


Hydroponics is a form of urban farming which requires a deeper technical knowledge about cultivation. Crops are grown indoors in a controlled environment using a soilless system which requires water and LED light. 90% less water is used through the use of a closed loop system and energy consumption for keeping the lights on can be sourced from wind and solar power. Crops are stacked vertically to take advantage of a greater area for crop production. By bringing the farm indoors and removing soil from the equation, space for production is maximized, using a small foorprint for a high density harvest. By growing in an artificial environment, crops can be cultivated on a year round basis.

Other types of urban farming within the hydroponic family include aquaponics and aeroponics, which all share a smiliar cultivation method yet with slight differences. Aquaponics incorporates aquatic species into the mix to exchange nutrient cycles between the crops and aquatic species. Whereas aeroponics uses a fine mist instead of a drip system to feed nutrients to crops.  

Often times these types of urban farms supply local restaurants and cafes, as well as individuals. This helps to reduce food miles, food waste and supports circular economies.

Seeding. Nabo Farm. Copenhagen, Denmark.

Grow out. Nabo Farm. Copenhagen, Denmark.

Harvest. Nabo Farm. Copenhagen, Denmark.

Enjoy. Nabo Farm. Copenhagen, Denmark.


Similar to hydroponics, mushroom farming can create maximum value within minimum space. The only difference, mushrooms don't need light to grow, as they get all the nutrients they need from digesting organic matter. The only inputs needed are water and energy for maintaining the temperture throughout the fruiting period.

The process begins with spawning mushroom 'seed', which is done by collecting wild fungi for their spores. These spores are then inoculated into substrate blocks which are stacked onto shelves in an indoor space. Substrate blocks are a condensed block made of locally sourced sawdust, an industrial byproduct of the building industry, and nutrient rich agricultural byproducts. Each species of fungus varies in grow out time, but in as little as two weeks 25 kilograms of mushrooms can be produced on just one shelf alone. Each block typically produces two flushes, or harvests, before the fungus has eaten away all of the vital nutrients from the block, meaning double the harvests per fruiting period. After the second flush, substrate blocks become not waste, but spent mushroom substrate (SMS), an organic material which can be repurposed into soil cover for frost protection and garden mulch to kick start the process of a nutrient rich compost.

When mushroom farming is explored at the local level, it has the potential to cultivate and proliferate endemic species, giving back to biodiversity in the area rather than promoting mushrooms grown in industrial monocultures. The small footprint and minimal inputs required for mushroom farming could easily be incorporated into the bases of buildings and rooms which have unclear functions, giving value to these unused spaces.

Foraging for spores. Funga Farm. Copenhagen, Denmark.

Inoculated substrate blocks. Funga Farm. Copenhagen, Denmark.

A flush of mushrooms. Funga Farm. Copenhagen, Denmark.

Packaged locally grown mushrooms. Funga Farm. Copenhagen, Denmark.



An approach to land management which adopts arrangements observed in flourishing natural ecosystems. It is based on a set of design principles derived from whole-systems thinking. The intention is to develop agricultural ecosystems which are sustainable and self-sufficient.

Food Forests

Low-maintenance, plant-based food production and agroforestry system based on woodland ecosystems. Incorporates fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines and perennial vegetables.


A food production system which cultivates plants without soil using water-based mineral nutrient solutions.


A food production system which couples aquaculture with hydroponics in which nutrient rich aquaculture water - waste produced by farmed fish and other aquatic species - is fed to hydroponically grown plants, which in turn purify the water. 


A food production system in which plants are grown in an air or mist environment without the use of soil. Plant roots hang suspended in the air while a water-based nutrient solution is delivered to them in the form of a fine mist.


A food production system for the cultivation of fungi which typically uses a sawdust block substrate for the mycelium to feed on and fruit mushrooms.

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