NSF IGERT PhD Fellow Steve
Fisher is researching a sector of urban infrastructure – the food system. The
world’s urban population surpassed the non-urban population for the first time
in 2009. This marks what has been a steady global shift of providing more food
to places it is not grown. Because food accounts for over 10 percent of the
carbon footprint for the typical American city, this study adopts a
social-ecological-infrastructural systems framework, a large component of which
is recognizing urban activities and sectors belonging to infrastructure inside
and outside the urban boundary. This is a key way to examine the embodied,
life-cycle properties of the food we eat in cities.
This study develops a
product life cycle assessment (LCA) of a basket of vegetables (product) grown
under two different formats. The first format is characterized by large-scale,
commercial growers that supply the typical supermarket. The second format is
characterized by small-scale growers (less than 1 acre) that use higher
land-use intensity and less mechanized practices. This second format is
typically used by backyard gardeners, operators of neighborhood supported
agriculture (NSA) and operators of some community supported agriculture (CSA)
businesses. Published data is used for the large-scale format; primary,
case-study data is used for the small-scale format.
Results of scenarios of
land use change and vegetable production for both distant farmland and urban
settings found that shifts resulting from urban vegetable production are
favorable in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and soil organic
carbon. Surprisingly, urban vegetable production is not categorically favorable
for each metric; several key parameters can shift the balance in favor or out
of favor for either growing format, and these parameters are distinctly
bottom-up. The results indicate that state and local policy could remove
hurdles to urban agricultural production with these data supporting claims that
benefits outweigh costs.
In 2009, he presented the
poster “The Potential of Urban Ecosystem Services Performed at Brownfield Sites
as Alternatives to Commercial / Residential Real Estate” at the Conference for
Sustainability IGERTs 2 (C4SI2). In 2010, Steve presented “The Sustainability
of Urban Agriculture Presented Spatially on an Urban and Regional Scale” at the
Representing Reality conference, University of Buffalo. Also in 2010, he was
co-author on “Sustainability Assessment of Alternate Urban Food Production
Regime” at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Annual Meeting.
In 2011, Steve presented “Life Cycle Assessment Supporting Policy Regarding
Urban Agriculture” at the International Society for Industrial Ecology international
Presentation [PDF] download
Fisher, S. and Karunanithi,
Urban agriculture characterized by life cycle assessment and land use
change. International Conference on
Sustainable Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers. 6-8 November.
(submitted 7 March 2014).
Reiner, M., Fisher, S., and
Sperling, J. 2014. Master Planning, Public Health, and the Role
of Infrastructure Evaluation and Sustainability Assessment Considerations in Retrofitting
Two Capital Cities for Sustainable Development. International Conference on Sustainable
Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers. 6-8 November.
(submitted 7 March 2014).
Fisher, Stephen W. and
Karunanithi, Arunprakash. 2013. Unrecognized variation in nitrous oxide
emissions reported for a global dryland staple crop. Journal of Environmental
Management (submitted 21 Jan 14).
Brett, John., et al. 2013.
A Methodology for Determining the Production Potential of Sustainable Urban Agriculture.
Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development (under review).