Urban Agriculture – Dream, Reality or Fashion?

Gilberto Silber Schmidt

Research at Embrapa Swine and Poultry



Urban Agriculture (UAG) it is an activity practiced in the interior or in the periphery of the Urban areas, where a great diversity of food products is cultivated, produced, created, processed and distributed, using human resources, materials and, products and services available around the urban area.

In the early days, UAG began to be designed in small areas, mainly for production for own consumption, which were often accompanied by small sales of surplus, to neighbors and local markets. This practice started to be perpetrated in backyards, terraces, courtyards, or in urban gardens – community spaces or public and (or) non-urbanized private spaces, many of which are still responsible for meeting the demand of Urban Centers, especially in relation to horticultural products.

What are the main factors that are driving UAG growth? In some regions, such as Asia and Europe, the main factor has been competition, which has been restricting the availability of agricultural areas, between the Rural and Urban areas.

How to explain that countries like Brazil, where there is no agriculture area restriction, this type of activity has been growing? Other aspects, such as sustainability; socioeconomic, cultural and ideological factors, fashion, health, practicality, leisure, among others, seem to be the engines of this movement. From a theoretical point of view it is possible to discuss each factor in detail, however, in practice one must be fully aware of the existence of interaction between the factors and, therefore, difficult to segment.

Regardless of its dimensions and purposes, UAG has already become a reality in most Asian countries, probably due to the restriction of cultivated areas and the need for “Food Security”, and they have been growed rapidly in large cities. Studies show that around 800 million urban households produce vegetables, fruits or flowers, in backyards, roofs or even balcony pots across the planet.

In the Asian continent, the perspective is that this model of agriculture will be a trend in large centers in the 21st century, where people have been looking for new values for their lifestyle, emphasizing issues related to health, leisure and the environment and, in many cases, building more sustainable communities.

The urban model of production has assumed different names and forms, depending on different factors and location. In New York (USA) hanging gardens are the big trends and today they reach around 600 buildings. In Montreal (Canada) there are about 9,000 “Urban Gardens”, while in the United Kingdom it reaches 300,000.

In Germany, the movement known as “Little Garden”, planted the seed of UAG and now a days there are about 1 (um) millions of investments spread across the country, creating new business opportunities for conventional agricultural industries. In the USA, agricultural tools, with an elegant and practical design, were created to reinvent agriculture as a form of leisure; consequently, a new type of market appears, with specific demands for agricultural inputs, mainly in relation to seeds / seedlings, organic fertilizers,  and natural products for pest and disease control.

In Brazil, several initiatives have been successful, such as the project established by the Non-Governmental Organization (ONG) “Cidades Sem Fome” (2004), coordinated by the German businessman Hans D. Temp (https:www.//pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organiza%C3%A7%C3% A3o_Cidades_sem_Fome), in Suzano (SP), which consists of solving unoccupied land problems, where garbage and debris were deposited. In these places, community gardens were created, where the most diverse types of vegetables and organic vegetables are growing. Other successful examples can be consulted through the website (https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agricultura_urbana).

The simple model, which uses the areas available inside or around Urban centers, is already a reality and has provided, in addition to the better use of available areas, usually in the form of local productive arrangements, enabling the generation of employment, income and, adding values to products for local markets..

Agricultural production in homes and apartments is another model that has been growing quickly. Pleasure, practicality and health have apparently been guiding this activity. The expectation is that in the near future the production of food in this type of space will take the place of flowers and foliage in houses and apartments.

What are the limits of the UAG? The restriction on expanding the food production capacity, to meet the demand resulting from population growth, as a result of the reduction of the agricultural area due to competition with the urban environment, could be encouraging countries with a high geographical density to bet on this new model as an instrument to guarantee the “Food Security”, as well as expanding the sustainability of the agricultural process.

Although questionable in relation to several aspects, the development of a sustainable model of production, which can meet the needs of the area for food production, arises through a futuristic concept of converting skyscrapers into virtualized “Productive Units”, which could be considered to have an impact on reducing global warming, improving the urban environment and, at the same time, producing food. It seems to be a dream, but that in some countries, like South Korea, it should become a reality in the medium term time.

In this context, several concepts of sustainability are designed in order to make the system as close what defined as “Zero Energy”, that is, the maximum use of natural resources to feed the system. This futuristic concept has been built and analyzed on all aspects related, in addition to productive issues, with the system’s sustainability.

What are the paths being taken? The use of “circular design” allows maximizing the efficiency of using natural light to maintain the ambient lighting, while the rotating solar panels can provide energy for the heating and cooling of the environment and to keep the electrical-dependent system running.

 The use of glass panels on the external structures of the building facilitates the entry of light and can function as a rainwater collecting system. The varnishing of the glass, externally, with lithium oxide allows the capture of polluting agents, contributing to reduce the environmental impact. In addition, the system allows the collection and subsequent storage of rainwater that slides through the structure, which will be used for consumption and (or) irrigation. The filtration and sterilization of sewage system water allows the use of liquid waste for irrigation of the production system, while solid waste, added to the other organic waste generated in the system, can be used in the biodigestion process for the production of biofuels and organic fertilizers.

Looks it like a dream? No. It is need to imagine the future ways of the agriculture, where environmental, cultural, eating habits, sustainability, area restrictions, etc., will be decisive for determining the paths to be followed.


Biotecnologia Animal e a Saúde Humana

Gilberto Silber Schmidt1

1Pesquisador Embrapa Suínos e Aves



Os organismos vivos, quando submetidos à pressão de seleção natural ou artificial, apresentam alta capacidade de evoluir, atributo este que vêm sendo explorado com a finalidade de melhorar a capacidade produtiva e reprodutiva das espécies domesticadas. Os métodos convencionais (genética quantitativa e de populações) envolvidos no processo de melhoramento genético não têm, necessariamente, como base o conhecimento do gene e (ou) seu mecanismo de funcionamento envolvido na expressão da característica de interesse, portanto, pode resultar no favorecimento da expressão de genes com efeito secundários, que podem ter efeitos negativos para o setor produtivo, para o consumidor ou para o meio ambiente.

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Pesticide Study Sparks Backlash

By Kai Kupferschmidt

Science – When Ralf Reski read the latest paper from controversial French biologist Gilles-Eric Séralini, he quickly decided he wanted nothing to do with it. Séralini’s report in BioMed Research International describes how pesticides kill cultured human cells, with the hair-raising conclusion that pesticides may be vastly more toxic than assumed by regulatory authorities. Some scientists are criticizing the findings as neither surprising nor significant—but they have touched off a firestorm, with environmental groups calling for changes in how pesticides are regulated. That was too much for Reski. Within hours of reading the paper last week, the plant scientist at the University of Freiburg in Germany resigned as an editor of the journal and asked for his name to be removed from its website. “I do not want to be connected to a journal that provides [Séralini] a forum for such kind of agitation,” he wrote in his resignation e-mail to the publisher, Hindawi Publishing Corporation.

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H7N9 kills 2 more, causing new infections in China

39CHANGSHA – A 59-year-old man having close contact with live poultry died on Monday morning of the H7N9 flu virus, the first of its kind in central China’s Hunan province, local authority said.
A separate statement issued by the health department of Guangdong province on Monday said a patient surnamed Xie died of the virus on Sunday in Foshan after treatment failed.
With the new cases, H7N9 has so far killed 25 people in China since January, and the number of human infections has been 113, with Zhejiang and Guangdong being mostly affected.
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New Programme to Support Animal Welfare at Slaughter

The Pig Site – Funded through the bilateral agreement for implementation of Growing Forward 2, this programme will help businesses comply with the requirements relating to the restraining of animals during slaughter, in order to eliminate the suffering of these animals while taking into consideration the concerns of Canadians regarding animal welfare.

The programme will be allocated a budget of C$450,000 spread over three years, from 2013 to 2016.

“Canada has a strong record supporting the use of best practices in the slaughter industry. We are pleased to partner with Quebec to further promote the development of practices that take animal welfare into account,” said Federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Gerry Ritz
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Brazilian researchers develop technique for mass breeding of stingless bees

Agência FAPESP – Stingless bees, such as the jataí (Tetragonisca angustula) and the uruçu (Melipona scutellaris), are well known as important pollinators for several crops such as eggplant, strawberries, tomato and coffee.
One of the main limitations on their use for this purpose, however, is the difficulty of producing colonies in sufficient quantities to meet the demands of farmers, as the majority of these species have small numbers of queens.
However, a new technique that could help overcome this limitation was developed by a group of researchers who reared the queens of one of these species in vitro: Scaptotrigona depilis, commonly known in Brazil as mandaguari…>>Continue Reading<<
Source and Photo: FAPESP, January 29th, 2014
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Meat Products in the European Union 2013-2023

34The Pig Site – The EU meat sector is expected to be supported by strong demand on the world market driven by favourable economic conditions. In Europe, prospects of improved economic growth should leave consumers with more disposable income allowing for a higher consumption of meat products.

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Agriculture can be an ally to biodiversity conservation

7By Karina Toledo

Agência FAPESP – In addition to producing food, services and energy, agricultural pastures have a secondary but equally important role, a role that should be strengthened: the conservation of biological diversity.

Professor Luciano Martins Verdade, of the Center for Nuclear Energy in Agriculture at Universidade de São Paulo (CENA/USP), discussed this topic during the last meeting of the 2013 BIOTA-FAPESP Education Conference Cycle, organized by the FAPESP Research Program for the Characterization, Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity (BIOTA-FAPESP). Held on November 21, 2013 at FAPESP’s headquarters, the theme was “Biodiversity in Urban and Rural Anthropic Environments.” >>Continue Reading<<

Source and Photo: FAPESP, January 22nd, 2014
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Computer modeling helps to improve the quality and microbiological safety of food

8By Elton Alisson

Agência FAPESP – The foodstuff industries of several countries have utilized a new tool to improve the microbiological safety and quality of their products. Predictive microbiology is a software-based system that uses mathematical models and statistics to predict the behavior of microorganisms in fresh and processed food.

The new method is based on the principle that the ability of bacteria and fungi to multiply in food depends on the properties of the product, such as its composition, acidity, humidity, salt levels and antimicrobials present, in addition to the temperature conditions, relative humidity and atmosphere in which it is maintained. In this manner, the effect of each of these factors can be calculated mathematically using different predictive models… >>Continue Reading<<

Source and Photo: FAPESP, January 22nd, 2014
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The challenges to biofuel expansion

9By Elton Alisson

Agência FAPESP – Recent resolutions by several countries, including the United States, to increase utilization of renewable fuels through 2021 – in addition to the general need to increase energy production and distribution worldwide – should boost global expansion of the biofuels industry in the coming years.

However, the sector must overcome myriad challenges to meet the greater global demand for bioenergy. These challenges include increasing cultivation of the agricultural crops that are utilized to generate biofuels without affecting food production; adapting to the impact of global climate change in agriculture; and competing on unequal footing with fossil fuels, which are strongly subsidized by innumerous countries, including Brazil… >>Continue Reading<<

Source and Photo: FAPESP, January 22nd, 2014
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