Development of a sustainability self-assessment tool for urban agriculture stakeholders

A simplified life-cycle assessment tool will allow decision makers to assess the sustainability of urban agriculture projects and guide the design and management of these projects.

Context and challenges

Traditional food supply circuits in cities have significant repercussions on the environment due to agricultural production methods and transport, especially with regard to imported products. Urban agriculture, in addition to offering social benefits (social links, employment assistance, etc.), could mitigate these impacts by offering ultra-local circuits with more production methods that are often less intensive and even alternative. However, these potential benefits have barely been demonstrated and quantified so far. In addition, significant differences exist between the types of urban agriculture systems in terms of the pros and cons for the environment. The potential advantages and disadvantages for the environment are determined on the one hand by the precise technical systems and on the other hand by the specific performance of the conventional food supply chain that they might replace.

Erica Dorr on a rooftop vegetable garden
Erica on the site of one of the case studies: a commercial rooftop farm in Berkeley, California. There, she collects data on required inputs and food production, performs a life-cycle assessment, and uses the results to create an evaluation framework that will be applied to other urban farms.


The thesis aims to develop and test a methodological framework, and ultimately an operational tool, which could help decision-makers to assess the sustainability of urban agriculture projects and guide their design and management. Urban agriculture practitioners will also be able to use this tool to optimise the carbon footprint of their projects and compare them to conventional food supply chains, in particular, those involving imported products. The environmental dimension of sustainability is taken into account through the life-cycle assessment (LCA). However, LCA methods can be supplemented in the thesis by other methodologies, within the framework of research carried out by the INRA-SAD “Urban agriculture” team, which gives us a particular insight into the social impacts. The thesis will be based on the implementation of LCA in urban farms in the Paris region and in California, chosen to represent a diversity of technical systems and integration into the marketing circuits.

Christine Aubry
Senior Associate Researcher and Consultant Professor
Erica Dorr
PhD Student
Pilot site
Vegetable garden on the rooftop of AgroParisTech
AgroParisTech's experimental rooftop has been used since 2012 to design urban agriculture systems in rooftop boxes, using urban residues as components of technosols, with the aim of studying the services provided by
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Practitioner group
Bertrand Ney Rooftop at AgroParisTech
The benefits and costs related to green infrastructure in cities need to be better understood through assessment tools that measure environmental impacts, for example, carbon emissions due to the transport of substrates,
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Reconciling nature and the city, a highly artificial environment, is an art that is practised from the scale of the building to that of the suburban territory, including that of the neighbourhood.
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Ecodistrict in Paris
Fill 14
Life-cycle assessment is a method to assess the environmental impacts of buildings and infrastructures throughout their life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials through to their end-of-lifetime handling.
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