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From the Field to the Factory: The Dynamics of Sustainable Urban Agriculture

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Agriculture".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 December 2024 | Viewed by 408

Special Issue Editors

International Agriculture University, 2 University Street, Kibray District, Tashkent 100140, Uzbekistan
Interests: ecological economics; community agriculture; shared and social values of ecosystem services
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
International Agriculture University, 2 University Street, Kibray District, Tashkent 100140, Uzbekistan
Interests: plant and soil microbiomes; molecular mechanisms underlying the interactions between plants and their microbial communities under various environmental conditions
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Today, half of all people on Earth live in urban settings; this will increase to two-thirds by 2050. Most of the food consumed by these people is imported into cities. This often involves unsustainable and hugely wasteful international logistics, which raises important questions about the social and environmental justice of our current approach to global food supply. Climate change, depleted soil and water health and global instability contribute further to this problem, challenging the future food security of many urban people. There are many who claim that this system is broken, and that it requires substitution by new forms of urban agriculture that are capable of promoting dynamic, local, equitable, healthy and sustainable food systems.

Food has been grown in urban areas for centuries, to the extent that people have used land close to home for growing food, often in association with others through allotments, urban gardens and, more recently, urban and city farms. This has fostered an enduring concept of urban agriculture as small-scale, civic in culture, close to people and connecting farmers with consumers—that is, being about subsistence, community and health. These essentially social movements are largely low-input/low-output systems that deploy regenerative practices and promote short supply chains, thus being inherently sustainable in terms of production, distribution and community engagement. This is agriculture literally rooted in the communities that it serves, typically with some blurring of the producer/consumer distinction. This approach is not without its critics, however, particularly concerning whether these food communities are accessible to all people (food justice) and whether they can really be scaled up to meet the needs of large urban populations (food security).  

As a result, new approaches to, and understandings of, urban agriculture are gaining traction. These are essentially the opposite of the existing civic approach, which involves market-driven, high-tech, industrialized and controlled-environment approaches to food production. These new approaches, often termed ‘vertical farming’, claim high production volumes and enhanced environmental sustainability, particularly where they are part of sustainable urban waste management systems. In theory, their supply chains are short, and they offer the ‘democracy’ of the market in place of the potential exclusivity of civil agriculture. These new approaches to urban agriculture are industrially, culturally, socially and economically distinct from the more traditional civic approaches. In many ways this represents a fundamental shift away from civic agriculture rooted in community to new forms of production that locate where it is most economically viable. Sustainability thus shifts from the social/cultural/environmental realm to the political and economic, potentially offering new ways of improving food security and reducing the uncertainties and environmental impacts of traditionally complex food supply chains, but in the process re-commoditizing food as a product of the market, albeit dressed up in a fancy new green veneer.  

This suggests that urban agriculture is at something of a crossroads: on the one hand it is seen as part of a dynamic and deeply sustainable counter-culture in which citizens develop and perform food systems that do not rely exclusively on money and markets; on the other, new potentially environmentally benign production technologies offer the opportunity to intensify food production close to where people live, without the need to compete for large tracts of scarce and expensive land, and without the need for complex and wasteful global logistics. This appears, superficially, to offer a pluralistic win–win scenario for urban populations because it improves the potential for both food security and food justice. However, a deeper analysis is required to ensure that this really is the case, and that the apparent gains are not offset by new and unforeseen externalities and challenges. 

Aims of the Special Issue

The main aim of the Special Issue is to examine the extent to which new urban food production, in field and factory, offers the potential for a more integrated and sustainable approach to food security and justice for those living in urban areas. This is central to the scope of Sustainability, in terms of addressing the environmental, cultural, economic, and social sustainability of human beings. The secondary aims of the Special Issue are to examine the challenges that the new urban agriculture offers for conventional understandings of agriculture as an academic discipline. This is very much in terms of its positioning as a ‘bridge’ between conventional agricultural science, new information and engineering technologies, and the social sciences relating to people’s motivations and consumption habits. We are particularly interested in work that challenges existing constructions of key terms such as ‘agriculture’ and ‘farmer’, in terms of their scientific, social and economic identities, and how these changing identities relate to wider debates about the sustainability of global agriculture and food supply.

Suggested Themes

  • The environmental and social sustainability of civic and community agriculture;
  • The relationship between sustainable and regenerative agriculture;
  • Bringing sustainability into food security and food justice;
  • New technologies to enhance the sustainability of urban agriculture;
  • Agriculture and sustainable circular urban economies;
  • New technologies and rethinking sustainable agriculture value chains;
  • Reconceptualizing sustainable agriculture and urban food growing;
  • The future of livestock in sustainable urban agriculture systems;
  • Educating the next generation of sustainable urban farmers.

In this Special Issue, original research articles and reviews are welcome. Research areas may include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • All aspects of the environmental, cultural, economic, and social sustainability of human beings;
  • Agriculture and agricultural education;
  • Bioscience and engineering;
  • Sustainable logistics and value chain analysis;
  • The application of IT to agriculture.

We look forward to receiving your contributions.

Prof. Dr. Neil Ravenscroft
Dr. Dilfuza Egamberdieva
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • sustainable urban agriculture
  • community-supported agriculture
  • urban agriculture
  • vertical agriculture
  • Agriculture 4.0
  • food security
  • food justice

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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