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Resource-efficient urban agriculture for multiple benefits – contribution to the EU-China Urbanisation Partnership


The proposals should develop innovative integrated urban farming systems that use resources (e.g. space, energy, water, nutrients) more efficiently and re-use or recycle heat, water, CO2, waste or by-products from urban sources (e.g. industry, households) for horticultural production (e.g. fruits, vegetables, herbs, sprouts, mushrooms, algae, ornamental trees and plants). The production and use of renewable energies (e.g. solar/wind energy, biogas) in these farming systems will also be investigated. Activities should showcase several resource-efficient production systems in open or controlled environments, thereby providing a demonstration (at TRL 6-8) for the production of safe and high-quality products in different urban spaces (e.g. rooftop/vertical farming, individual/collective gardens, other unused spaces).

The work should be carried out at least in one European city and in one Chinese city. Breeding activities are not in the scope.

The work will support the development of innovative production systems both conventional and organic and their associated value chains in cooperation with relevant local actors and stakeholders, and according to business models that target economic and social benefits. Attention will be paid to land use issues in particular in relation to urban-rural interactions (e.g. urban sprawl dynamics). Evaluation methods of multi-functional urban agriculture should be used to assess the contribution of these systems and value chains to cities' food security, and their economic, environmental and social impacts on the urban communities. A cost-benefit analysis of urban farming production systems and associated value chains should compare these to other options (including peri-urban and rural agriculture). Policy recommendations and best-practices guides for sustainable urban farming systems should be produced and knowledge platforms promoted.

Proposals should fall under the concept of the 'multi-actor approach'[[See definition of the 'multi-actor approach' in the introduction to this Work Programme part.]] targeting all relevant actors such as researchers/technology providers, public authorities, and private actors (e.g. restaurants, retailers, urban farmers, real estate businesses) and promote the engagement of urban communities. SME participation is encouraged.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 7 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts. Contributions for Chinese participants will come in addition and will be made available by China.

With increasing urbanisation, massive daily flows of agricultural products, water and energy coming from rural/remote areas to cities generate high amounts of heat, CO2, waste water and other waste. In certain contexts, urban agriculture has been shown to improve food security and to bring economic, environmental and social benefits to cities. Given the diversity of urban agricultural systems emerging worldwide, there is a need to demonstrate and assess how technological and social innovation in urban agriculture can help overcome the shortcomings of urban food systems while providing cities with other ecosystem services (e.g. mitigating climate change, closing nutrient cycles) and improving the resilience of urban areas.

Applicants will gauge the expected impact of the project as regards:

  • the creation of shorter supply chains for safe, high-quality food and other horticultural products that reduce European and Chinese cities' ecological footprint by limiting losses and energy in transport and contribute to their food security;
  • resource-efficient low-carbon urban farming systems that:
    • consume low amounts of water, energy, fertilisers, pesticides and space;
    • use waste heat, CO2, waste and rain water and other waste or by-products from urban source, contributing to the development of the circular economy;
    • minimise environmental impacts;
  • improved knowledge of various business models for urban farming, including a thorough understanding of their potential for development, performance and impact on urban food systems in economic, environmental and social terms, and success factors or reasons for failures; and
  • increased cooperation at international level, in particular involving exchanges of knowledge and best practices between the EU and China.

In the longer term, the results should contribute to a more sustainable and resilient urban development, in particular via the provision of ecosystem services (e.g. reduced air pollution, better water retention thus limiting floods, biodiversity, carbon sinks, recreation, greener urban landscapes), social cohesion and jobs creation.