The Precision Urban Agriculture Initiative (Urban Ag), led by Romy Chakraborty (an ecology scientist in the Climate and Ecosystem Sciences Division), brings a team of scientists together from the Earth and Environmental Sciences Area and the Energy Technologies Area to look at addressing the intersection of two problems—the environmental damage caused by conventional agriculture and the lack of healthy, affordable produce for low income urban populations.
By leveraging scientific resources and facilities, the team aims to build an understanding of the engineering and science to control complex environmental criteria like light, temperature, nutrient flow, humidity and CO2 with precision and maximum efficiency so that it would be possible to grow healthy produce that is directly accessible in local urban centers using less resources (such as water, fertilizer, and land) than conventional agriculture and no pesticides or herbicides.
Over the past year, the Urban Ag team regularly met to explore opportunities that would integrate some of the ongoing research at Berkeley Lab that could lead into developing affordable, deployable, energy- and water-efficient food production systems and technologies for low income urban populations. The team consulted with local businesses as well as with urban farmers throughout the U.S. to understand their needs and challenges in entering the space of urban farming. As a result, a few research themes developed and currently include performing life-cycle analyses, analyzing plant nutrient uptake, and identifying improvements and optimization in farming practices and technology uses (including lighting, hydroponics, aeroponics, etc.), management waste and reuse, and integration of composting strategies.
Urban Ag ties in with other on-going initiatives across the Lab where many of our EESA scientists are taking part, including, Microbes To Biomes, Predictive Agriculture, Urban Systems, Water-Energy, and the UC Global Food.
If you would like to learn more about the Urban Ag discussions please contact us.
Go here to meet the current Urban Ag team.
Lab’s Precision Urban Agriculture Initiative Tackles Food Deserts – Today at Berkeley Lab (October 22)