Geospatial Analysis to Optimally Site Urban Agriculture

EPA Grant Number: F13F41271
Title: Geospatial Analysis to Optimally Site Urban Agriculture
Investigators: Parece, Tammy Erlene
Institution: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: September 1, 2014 through September 1, 2016
Project Amount: $84,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Geography


This project poses several questions: (1) Can a geospatial model be developed that can analyze all environmental aspects of an urban environment and identify those locales that provide the optimal environmental benefits from urban agriculture? (2) Can a geospatial model be developed that identifies the correlations between food deserts, health issues, lack of green spaces and economic disparities in an urban area, so that urban agricultural green spaces can be sited to alleviate such issues? (3) Will the geospatial models developed in the first two objectives intersect to identify locales that provide optimal locations for urban agriculture to meet environmental, health, economic and social needs for the population?


This project comprises several phases: (1) investigation of spatial patterns of the urban terrain, hydrology and microclimates that create variability in crop-production potential and ability to alleviate environmental degradation; (2) investigation of the spatial dimensions of Roanoke’s urban population to create a geospatial model that identifies the hierarchy of locations for urban agricultural production that best contribute economic, social and health benefits for low-income neighborhoods; and (3) investigation of spatial patterns defined by environmental, social, health and economic geospatial analyses from Objectives 1 and 2, above. The spatial covariation of these patterns will be analyzed to optimize locales for urban agriculture’s contributions in providing specific ecosystem services and, thereby, alleviating environmental, social, health and economic issues prevalent in urban environments.

Expected Results:

The outcome from the thematic overlay of each characteristic will be a hierarchy of urban parcels for the study site. This hierarchy will identify locations that best meet the goals of urban agriculture as a green space for providing food production. Some parcels will meet the needs of all themes; some will meet only the social themes; some, only the environmental; some will provide varying levels between the themes; and some locales will not provide any benefits. Developing a geospatial model that assimilates both the environmental and social spatial dimensions of urban agriculture will help identify locales that best contribute to generating ecosystems services and, thus, sustainability of urban environments.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

Through development of these three geospatial models, this research will develop analytical strategies, applicable within any urban area, to identify locations providing the best opportunities for successful agricultural production. Successful agricultural production will help alleviate environmental degradation and reduce food insecurity, along with related economic, social and health issues among at-risk urban populations. Ultimately, the project will identify the spatial dimensions of degraded areas in which urban agriculture will assist in restoring ecosystem services to guide various food production activities. The results can be generalized to other urban locations and help contribute to efficient use of urban land and space, improving all three pillars of worldwide sustainability—economic, environmental and social.

Supplemental Keywords:

food security, geospatial technologies, urban agriculture

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2015
  • Final