In 2016, the City Council of Phoenix, Arizona adopted eight Environmental Sustainability goals for 2050 that lay out the desired long term requirements in order to become a Sustainable Desert City. Recently, a group of researchers from Arizona State University assessed how urban agriculture can help Phoenix, a desert city of 1.6 million people, meet those sustainability goals.
Using public records and high-resolution satellite imagery, researchers analyzed the potential benefits of growing crops in three types of urban areas in Phoenix: vacant lots, rooftops, and building facades. The study, which was supported by the National Science Foundation and the USDA, estimated that there are 28 square miles (or 5.4% of city space) available for urban agriculture. The data-driven analysis found that 71% of the available areas for urban agriculture would come from existing buildings as opposed to vacant lots.
All this available space for urban agriculture in Phoenix could supply the city with nearly 183,000 tons of fresh produce annually, which would allow for the delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables to all of the city’s existing food deserts. In fact, the city’s own urban-agriculture output could meet 90% of the fresh produce demand that currently exists in Phoenix.
In addition to producing food, rooftop agriculture could also reduce the energy use in buildings by 3% per building per year, and displace more than 55,000 tons of CO2 annually. The use of vacant lots could increase the total Phoenix green space by 17%, and reduce the number of areas lacking green space by 60%.
This study demonstrates the many different ways that urban agriculture can benefit a city.
Photo, posted May 10, 2011, courtesy of Stephen Zank via Flickr.