Study Compares Carbon Footprint of Urban and Conventional Agriculture

An international study led by the University of Michigan and published in Nature Cities compared the carbon footprints of food produced at low-tech urban agriculture sites to conventional crops at sites in five countries. On average, the urban crops had a carbon footprint six times as large as the conventional crops, although tomatoes grown in open air had a lower footprint than the ones grown in conventional greenhouses. For crops that are air-freighted, such as asparagus, the carbon footprint of urban crops was actually lower. “The exceptions revealed by our study suggest that urban agriculture practitioners can reduce their climate impacts by cultivating crops that are typically greenhouse-grown or air-freighted, in addition to making changes in site design and management,” said one of the study’s co-lead authors, Jason Hawes.