Edible Cities

Assessing urban greening strategies as systemic solutions for social challenges of urbanization. Development of a conceptual evaluation framework and experimenting with using the example of edible cities in Germany.

Cities are faced with an increasing complexity of urban development. Systemic solutions are therefore required which unfold with little implementation effort a substantial effect for environment and humans. In the wake of current social challenges such as climate change, the estrangement of the human being from nature due to urbanization and criticism of the food industry, the concept of the "edible city" is gaining in importance for urban planning and research. Edible cities use for instance public urban green spaces for the cost-free provision of food and for urban gardening for their citizens but can include as well permaculture fields and urban vegetable gardens. However, for analyzing the contribution of edible cities to the development of systemic solutions for challenges of urbanization it lacks comprehensive evaluation frameworks.

Based on the concepts of nature-based solutions, human-nature connection and place attachment this DFG-project developed an evaluation framework to assess the implementation and impact efficiency of edible cities in the context of sustainability transformation. The evaluation framework was specified and validated in selected case studies in Germany (Andernach, Haar, Munich).

Interviews and surveys show that edible cities can be seen as a nature-based solution that can support social-spatial and socio-ecological transformation, in particular making cities more attractive and supporting human-nature and food connection. In terms of implementing and mainstreaming, interviews suggest that a mix of motivated bottom-up initiatives and top-down authorities is crucial for its embedding. Furthermore, frontrunner cities such as Andernach can act as a stimulus for followers to spread the idea of edible cities.

A comparison of standardized surveys between residents of the edible city of Andernach and vegetable gardeners of Munich show that benefits of urban food production are higher in the Munich case. A reason might be that most residents of the edible city Andernach are not actively involved and rarely use the food provided by the edible city. In contrast, the vegetable gardeners in Munich use their garden more intensively. To increase the benefits derived from edible cities, this project suggests civic information and participation activities such as city walking tours or garden-partnerships. Future research can assess the effectiveness of such activities.

Following research papers have been published so far: 

  • Artmann, M.; Sartison, K. (2021): Implementation and Impacts of Edible Cities. A Nature-Based Solution for Societal Challenges of Urbanization? Pnd, 1, 231-247. doi: 10.18154/RWTH-2021-01696 (In German with English abstract)
  • Artmann, M.; Sartison, K.; Ives, C.D. (2021): Urban gardening as a means for fostering embodied urban human–food connection? A case study on urban vegetable gardens in Germany. Sustainability Science.
  • Artmann, M; Sartison, K. (2020): Edible city – a new approach for upscaling local food supply? The case of Andernach, Germany. In: Breuste, J.; Artmann, M.; Ioja, C.; Qureshi, S. (Eds.) : Making Green Cities. Concepts, challenges and practice. Cham : Springer International Publishing, 2020, pp. 129-140. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-37716-8_4
  • Artmann, M., Sartison, K., Vávra, J. (2020): The role of edible cities supporting sustainability transformation – A conceptual multi-dimensional framework tested on a case study in Germany. Journal of Cleaner Production 255, 120220. doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2020.120220
  • Sartison, S., Artmann, M. (2020): Edible cities – an innovative nature-based solution? Impacts, drivers and constraints of implementation based on the example of Germany. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening 49, 126604. doi: 10.1016/j.ufug.2020.126604
  • Artmann, M., Sartison, K. (2018): The role of urban agriculture as a nature-based solution: a review for developing a systemic assessment framework. In: Sustainability 10(6), 1937. doi: 10.3390/su10061937  


Follow-up project 2020-2022

In cities a mosaic of different types of urban food production can be found (e.g., community gardens, vertical farming, community supported agriculture). However, knowledge about the advantages and disadvantages of these is fragmented and a systematic comparison of these is lacking. Therefore, we evaluated in a continuation project the sustainability of different forms of urban food production based on an Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) and on the example of vertical farming and community supported agriculture. In a standardized online survey, scientific experts from Europe selected relevant (sub)criteria for sustainable urban agriculture, whose importance was weighted in a second online survey by German non-governmental organizations, practitioners and city administrations. The results showed that experts attributed the highest weights to the ecological dimension and the sub-criteria of microclimate and hydrology regulation, species diversity and circular economy, followed by the social (education, community building and civic participation) and economic dimensions (food quality/safety, food affordability, local value chains). The exemplary evaluation based on the AHP and a literature analysis showed that community supported agriculture can be classified as the more sustainable form of urban agriculture in all three dimensions compared to vertical agriculture. By focusing on social justice and solidarity, community supported agriculture mainly contributes to social sustainability. Future research should explore hybrid forms of community supported vertical agriculture that combines goals of social justice, food quality, and ecological food self-sufficiency.

Scientific papers:

  • John, H., & Artmann, M. (2024). Introducing an integrative evaluation framework for assessing the sustainability of different types of urban agriculture. International Journal of Urban Sustainable Development, 16 (1), 35-52. doi.org/10.1080/19463138.2024.2317795
  • Artmann, M.; Specht, K.; Vávra, J., Rommel, M. (2021): Introduction to the Special Issue "A Systemic Perspective on Urban Food Supply: Assessing Different Types of Urban Agriculture". Sustainability, 13(7), 3798. doi.org/10.3390/su13073798.
  • Sanyé-Mengual, E.; Specht, K.; Vávra, J.; Artmann, M.; Orsini; F.; Gianquinto, G. (2020): Ecosystem Services of Urban Agriculture: Perceptions of Project Leaders, Stakeholders and the General Public. Sustainability, 12(24), 10446. doi.org/10.3390/su122410446.

Published data and methods:

  • Kasper, B.; John, H. (2023): Introducing a procedure to perform the Analytic Hierarchy Process with own survey data obtained from SoSci Survey platform using R-package ahpsurvey (v0.3pre). Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7777220  
  • Kasper, B.; John, H. (2023): Github repository: edible_Cities_AHP_Survey (v0.5pre). Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7774935  
  • John, H.; Artmann, M. (2023): Survey data of an integrative evaluation framework for assessing the sustainability of different types of urban agriculture [Data set]. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7764136

The Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development is jointly funded by the federal government and the federal states.

FS Sachsen

This measure is co-financed by tax funds on the basis of the budget approved by the Saxon State Parliament.