Growing fruit and vegetables in city gardens and other urban green spaces could provide 15 per cent of the local population with their ‘five a day’, according to new research.

In a study published in Nature Food, academics from the Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield investigated the potential for urban horticulture by mapping green spaces and grey spaces across the city.

The study also investigated the potential for soil-free farming on flat roofs using methods such as hydroponics, where plants are grown in a nutrient solution, and aquaponics, a system combining fish and plants. These techniques could allow year-round cultivation with minimal lighting requirements, using greenhouses powered by renewable energy and heat captured from buildings, with rainwater harvesting for irrigation.

With just 16 per cent of fruit and 53 per cent of vegetables sold in the UK grown domestically, such a move could significantly improve the nation’s food security.

Dr Jill Edmondson, Environmental Scientist at the University of Sheffield and lead author of the study, said: “At the moment, the UK is utterly dependent on complex international supply chains for the vast majority of our fruit and half of our veg – but our research suggests there is more than enough space to grow what we need on our doorsteps. 

“Even farming a small percentage of available land could transform the health of urban populations, enhance a city’s environment and help build a more resilient food system.”

Tags: