Growing fresh fruits and vegetables in an urban landscape: A geospatial assessment of ground level and rooftop urban agriculture potential in Boston, authored by Matthew J. Eckelman, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Mithun Saha, explores how urban parcels can potentially be leveraged for developing a local urban food system by growing high yield food crops.

The authors developed a remote sensing and GIS-based modeling framework to locate and quantify available area for urban farming, including both rooftop and ground level areas in the city of Boston. Geoprocessing and spatial analysis tools were used to process geographic data layers for zoning, ownership, slope, soil quality, and adequate light availability. Surface slope (roof pitch) was determined for all buildings in the city through the creation of a digital surface map from remotely sensed LiDAR data. Potential parcels from ground level public and private vacant lots and underutilized residential and commercial areas were mapped using publicly available datasets. Approximately 922 ha of rooftop and 1,250 ha of ground level parcels have been identified, representing 7.4 percent and 10 percent of the total land area in Boston, respectively. Finally, food yield values for common urban agricultural crops were used to estimate the city’s food production potential from the identified parcels.

Despite Boston’s density, the mapped areas have potential to produce enough fresh fruits and vegetables for Boston’s population, while providing both environmental and economic co-benefits. The study outcome was compared with mapping and inventory results from other North American cities.

Read the full paper here.