Smart Cities Cannot Survive Without Smart Agriculture
A city that regards itself as a Smart City or striving to be one, has historically been
measured on four pillars: its Social Infrastructure, Physical Infrastructure, Institutional
Infrastructure (including governance) and economic infrastructure.
But over time, the influences and impacts on cities have changed and require a very
different strategy to survive economically, environmentally, educationally,
“The cities of the future – and the cities of the present that will be relevant in the future-
will be smart. Full of sensors, data, and analysis that help the traffic flow, civic leaders
lead, and citizens fully realize all the benefits of working and living in their city.” Ben
Pring, Managing Director, Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work (Econsult Solutions,
Inc. Smart Cities 2025 study).
Some cities striving to survive by becoming “smart cities” have focused on essentials
such as water, power, economic balance, housing, transportation, environment…and
increasingly adding agriculture to the essential foundation.
Inside the human life of cities, every citizen buys their food at neighborhood markets
and grocery chain stores, and those who do not buy their own food may be fortunate
enough to benefit from other sources. But we seldom think, as we pick up butter, coffee,
chicken, potatoes, cabbage, milk, or any other staple, are we concerned about where it
came from…until there is a shortage, or the shelves are empty.
Farming, both rural and urban, are essential to this supply chain. It is being challenged.
Successful farming is no longer simple, nor can it be assumed to be sustainable due to
climate change and to some degree urbanization. Farmers, ranchers and forest
landowners increasingly grapple also with market disruptions, assist producers,
logistics, changing restrictions on pesticides, fertilizers, and perhaps the greatest is
Despite the problems, agricultures contribution to U.S. GDP has increased regularly
from 17.6% in 2018-19($1.109 trillion) to 20.2% in 2020-21.- (USDA Economic Research
However, the number of farms in 2020 was estimated at 2,019,000, a decline of -4,000
from 2019. The year before the decline was -5,800 and the year before that was -12,800.
(The Van Trump Report) That decline began dramatically in the 1940s when the number
of farms was 6 million vs today’s numbers.
Coincidentally, the Urban resident population in the U.S. has increased steadily. Just in
the period from 1960 to 2020 it has gone up from 69.9% to 82.6%. (A definition of urban
area is the region surrounding a city.)
Where does the land for the new housing for the urban population come from? Primarily farms.
Vast housing and community development since the end of WWII has contributed and
continues to contribute to the reduction of tillable land.
As a result, The Food and Agriculture Organization findings indicate that the world is not
going to meet most of the food and agriculture-related targets by 2030.
What are some predictable solutions to this squeeze on food supplies, and in particular
the densely populated cities?
Cities are faced with dependence on farm sustainability and ability to supply demand.
Or are they?
The International Vertical Farming and Urban Agriculture organization is building a
potential alternative method.
Sky Greens vertical farming in Singapore grows vegetables in towers that are up to 9
meters tall and are the equivalent of 3.65 hectares or 9 acres. It began selling a variety
of vegetables commercially in May 2012.
Can that be a solution? Can cities replace the country farm production for essential
foods by integrating faming into cities using creative, new ways?