Rising Gardens: Scaling Sustainability with Urban Farming Innovations

The concept of “Scaling Sustainability with Urban Farming Innovations” seeks to tackle the issues of food security, environmental sustainability, and urbanization by employing inventive urban farming techniques. The primary objective of this effort is to employ urban places that are currently not being fully exploited or are being neglected for the purpose of cultivating crops, raising livestock, and producing food in a manner that is both sustainable and environmentally conscious (Specht et al., 2014).

Vertical Farming refers to the practice of cultivating crops indoors using hydroponic or aeroponic systems, making use of vertical space in urban contexts (Al-Kodmany 2020). In comparison to traditional agriculture, this strategy maximizes area efficiency while using less water. Rooftop gardens are a method of converting the rooftops of buildings into environmentally friendly areas where vegetables, fruits, and herbs can be cultivated. Rooftop gardens can help reduce the urban heat island effect, enhance air quality, and supply fresh vegetables to local people (Thapa et al., 2020). The combination of aquaculture, specifically fish farming, with hydroponic farming establishes a mutually beneficial system wherein fish waste serves as a source of nutrients for plant growth, while plants play a crucial role in filtering and purifying the water for the fish. According to Knowler et al. (2020), the implementation of aquaponics systems in urban environments enables the sustained production of fish and vegetables. Community gardens involve the creation of community-managed gardens in vacant lots or public places, providing citizens with the opportunity to engage in food cultivation, resource sharing, and the enhancement of community cohesion. Community gardens encourage food sovereignty, education, and social solidarity (Firth et al. 2011). Green walls refer to the practice of creating vertical gardens on the exteriors or walls of buildings, using hydroponic or soil-based techniques. Almusaed et al. (2011) have reported that the incorporation of green walls in urban environments has been associated with favourable outcomes in terms of air quality, reduction in energy consumption, and enhancement of visual appeal. In the context of urban areas, microfarming pertains to the integration of small-scale agricultural techniques, including but not limited to backyard gardens, balcony farms, and container gardening. Micro Farming allows individuals to grow their own food, reducing the distance that food travels and promoting local food resilience, as stated by Morel and Léger (2016). Agroforestry refers to the practice of incorporating trees and perennial crops into urban environments, resulting in the establishment of versatile green spaces that offer several advantages such as sustenance, shade, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration. The implementation of agroforestry practices has the potential to bolster urban resilience in the face of climate change and boost the overall quality of life within urban areas (Nair et al., 2021). The utilization of smart farming technologies, including Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, automation, and data analytics, is employed to enhance resource utilization, monitor the well-being of crops, and maximize agricultural productivity within urban farming systems. Smart farming technologies facilitate the use of precision agriculture methods specifically designed to address the distinct difficulties encountered in urban settings (Idoje et al., 2021).

Role of Urban Farming to Assist Food Security:

While urban areas offer opportunities like business and employment to mankind, these are the most preferable places to live and around 55% of the world population lives in big cities (Frangoul, 2020), which will increase up to 68% by 2050(Kennard, 2020). To supply fresh and plenty of food to urban populations, urban farming is a promising approach to address food-crisis. It is believed that cultivating fresh food such as fruits and vegetables as well as animal products within the city area can improve local food security especially for underserved groups of the community (Altieri, 2019). Urban farming also improves fresh foods availability, increasing the accessibility of food within the range of populations, giving enough nutrients for the people who are practicing urban farming (Golnaz Rezai, 2015). In terms of sustainability, urban farming is more sustainable as compared to conventional farming methods. It promotes the usage of organic materials such as organic waste, recyclable materials as tools and uses less water than conventional agriculture.  This also will have an impact in terms of environment, ecological, social as well as economy (Cahyaa, 2015).


Urban farming faces various problems that limit its effectiveness and sustainability. Securing suitable farmland among competing urban uses remains a serious challenge, worsened by high real estate prices and limited available area. Additional hurdles, such as limited access to water, soil, and sunlight, necessitate effective resource management measures. Regulatory challenges, such as interpreting zoning rules and acquiring permissions, can be time-consuming and costly. Community acceptability is critical yet difficult to achieve, as resolving noise, odor, and aesthetic problems is critical for developing healthy relationships with neighbors. Another important problem is achieving economic viability, which requires urban farms to earn enough cash to pay their operational costs. Climate and environmental concerns, such as extreme weather and water scarcity, exacerbate urban farming operations. Urban farmers, especially those from underprivileged areas, face restricted access to resources, knowledge, and markets. To overcome these problems, the government, businesses, community organizations, and citizens must work together to establish an environment conducive to sustainable urban agriculture.

Overcoming the Challenges:

Modern urban farming must increase resource efficiency to boost crop yield and quality in order to offset the high expenses. Additionally, an intelligent automated controlling system must be installed to increase labor and energy efficiency (Kalantari et al., 2018).

Furthermore, the system’s complexity necessitates collaboration and well-designed activities and processes. Second, there is a contradiction surrounding energy-intensive use, including light, temperature, and humidity, which must be controlled (Kozai et al.,2015). Kozai et al. (2015) suggested several ways to reduce electricity costs in vertical farming (urban agriculture) by

  1. a new cheap and energy-efficient LED lighting usage
  2. installing a well-designed light system to match spectral characteristics with plant type and physiology for greatly increased yield
  3. using renewable energy (e.g. solar energy wind-based or geothermal based energy), waste heat, which would reduce energy expenses and increase energy use efficiency (Avgoustaki & Xydis 2020; Kozai et al.,2015).

Third, this business model is only applicable for a restricted variety of crops (Nin et al., 2018). Vertical farming provides for the development of a wide variety of vegetables, including leafy greens, herbs, medicinal plants, fruiting crops, root vegetables, and cereals. Currently, leafy vegetables and microgreens are the most common crops grown commercially in vertical farming. However, in addition to the crops mentioned above, vertical farming can also grow functional foods from medicinal plants and micronutrient fortification in food crops that have high value and profit. For instance, previous studies found that several cereal crops and tuber crops could grow well in vertical cultivation with controlled environmental conditions including the strawberry (Wortman et al.,2016) potato (Čížek & Komárková,2022), bean (Stoochnoff et al.,2022), and wheat (Asseng et al.,2020). Further advanced technologies are needed to facilitate the growing of various crops vertically.

Perspectives on urban farming

Urban farming fosters a lively conversation within the vivid tapestry of urban life. Studies highlight its importance in reducing food insecurity, promoting sustainability, and strengthening community relationships. However, critics express concern about issues such as land scarcity, resource management, regulatory difficulties, and financial feasibility. Across this spectrum of perspectives, urban farming emerges as a transformative force that connects cultural, economic, and geographical contexts. We can realize its full potential by engaging in continual discourse and collaboration to create inclusive, resilient, and prosperous urban environments.



  1. Al-Kodmany, K., 2020. The vertical farm: Exploring applications for peri-urban areas. Smart Village Technology: Concepts and Developments, pp.203-232.
  2. Almusaed, A. and Almusaed, A., 2011. Green Walls. Biophilic and Bioclimatic Architecture: Analytical Therapy for the Next Generation of Passive Sustainable Architecture, pp.205-216.
  3. Altieri, M. (2019). How Urban Agriculture Can Improve Food Security. Civil Eats.
  4. Asseng, S., Guarin, J. R., Raman, M., Monje, O., Kiss, G., Despommier, D. D., Meggers, F. M., & Gauthier, P. P. G. (2020). Wheat yield potential in controlled-environment vertical farms. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117(32), 19131–19135.
  5. Avgoustaki, D. D., & Xydis, G. (2020b). Indoor vertical farming in the urban nexus context: Business growth and resource savings. Sustainability (Switzerland), 12(5), 1–18.
  6. Cahyaa, D. L. (2015). Analysis of urban agriculture sustainability in Metropolitan Jakarta (case study: urban agriculturein Duri Kosambi). Jakarta: ScienceDirect
  7. Čížek, M., & Komárková, Z. (2022). Comparison of aeroponics and conventional system of production of potato mini-tubers in the conditions of the Czech Republic. Plant, Soil and Environment, 68(8), 366–374.
  8. Firth, C., Maye, D. and Pearson, D., 2011. Developing “community” in community gardens. Local Environment, 16(6), pp.555-568.
  9. Frangoul, A. (2020). Food Security is a Global Problem. Here How Urban Farming Could Help. CNBC.
  10. Golnaz Rezai,  M.  N.  (2015). Urban Agriculture:  A Way Forward to Food and Nutrition Security.  Science Direct, 39-45.
  11. Idoje G, Dagiuklas T, Iqbal M. Survey for smart farming technologies: Challenges and issues. Computers & Electrical Engineering. 2021 June 1;92:107104.
  12. Kalantari, F., Tahir, O. M., Joni, R. A., & Fatemi, E. (2018). Opportunities and challenges in sustainability of vertical farming: A review. Journal of Landscape Ecology (Czech Republic), 11(1), 35–60.
  13. Kennard, N.  J. (2020, May 13).  Urban Agriculture: Opportunities and Challenges for Sustainable Development. Chapter January 2020
  14. Knowler, D., Chopin, T., Martínez‐Espiñeira, R., Neori, A., Nobre, A., Noce, A. and Reid, G., 2020. The economics of integrated multi‐trophic aquaculture: where are we now and where do we need to go? Reviews in Aquaculture, 12(3), pp.1579-1594.
  15. Kozai, T., Niu, G., & Takagaki, M. (2015). Plant factory: An indoor vertical farming system for efficient quality food production. Elsevier Science.
  16. Morel, K. and Léger, F., 2016. A conceptual framework for alternative farmers’ strategic choices: the case of French organic market gardening microfarms. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 40(5), pp.466-492.
  17. Nair, P.R., Kumar, B.M. and Nair, V.D., 2021. An introduction to agroforestry: four decades of scientific developments (pp. 3-20). Cham: Springer.
  18. Nin, S., Petrucci, W. A., Giordani, E., & Marinelli, C. (2018). Soilless systems as an alternative to wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca L.) traditional open-field cultivation in marginal lands of the Tuscan Apennines to enhance crop yield and producers’ income. Journal of Horticultural Science and Biotechnology, 93(3), 323–335.
  19. Specht, K., Siebert, R., Hartmann, I., Freisinger, U.B., Sawicka, M., Werner, A., Thomaier, S., Henckel, D., Walk, H. and Dierich, A., 2014. Urban agriculture of the future: an overview of sustainability aspects of food production in and on buildings. Agriculture and human values, 31, pp.33-51.
  20. Stoochnoff, J., Johnston, M., Hoogenboom, J., Graham, T., & Dixon, M. (2022). Intracanopy lighting strategies to improve green bush bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) compatibility with vertical farming. Frontiers in Agronomy, 4(July), 1–16.
  21. Thapa, S., Nainabasti, A., Acharya, S., Rai, N. and Bhandari, R., 2020. Rooftop gardening as a need for sustainable urban farming: a case of Kathmandu, Nepal. International Journal of Applied Sciences and Biotechnology, 8(2), pp.241-246.
  22. Wortman, S. E., Douglass, M. S., & Kindhart, J. D. (2016). Cultivar, growing media, and nutrient source influence strawberry yield in a vertical, hydroponic, high tunnel System. HortTechnology, 26(4), 466–473.



About the Authors

Muhammad Aamir Khan is a 2024 Plantae Fellow, and is on a quest to create a healthier and more sustainable future. You will often find him exploring the realm of plant genetics and cereal mysteries. You can find him on X: @MAKNature1998.

Tuyelee Das is a PhD student in the Department of Life Sciences, Presidency University, Kolkata, India, and a 2024 Plantae Fellow. She specializes in investigating the molecular mechanisms that govern plant growth in model organisms.Her scientific interests include plant secondary metabolites and medicinal plants. Her goal is to channel traditional medicinal plant knowledge into a scientific research framework. You can find her on X: @das_tuyelee.