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Repurposing green space could help the UK to become ‘self sufficent’

Britain’s towns and cities have the potential to support an ‘urban agricultural revolution,’ according to a new study conducted by the University of Lancaster. 

The UK currently relies heavily on imports to meet its demand for fresh food, with more than a third of food coming from overseas. This can leave the nation exposed to disruptions in supply chains, such as those seen recently due to Brexit and Covid-19. 

Currently, just 1% of green space in the UK is taken up by allotments dedicated to food production. However, using Ordnance Survey maps the researchers found that if all urban green spaces were converted to food production and used efficiently, they would collectively have the capacity to support food output eight times that of the current UK fruit and vegetable production. 

aerial view of city buildings during daytime

The researchers also looked at 26 urban areas of differing sizes across the UK and found that they all had the potential to meet the fresh fruit and vegetable dietary needs of their local populations.

The researchers recognise that this is at the ‘extreme upper limit’ and that achievable outputs would be lower due to factors such as some green spaces not being desirable or available for conversion and the level of available skills and knowledge, resources and variable growing conditions.

Professor Jess Davies, Principal Investigator of the study said: ‘Britain is a densely populated country that is highly reliant on imported fresh fruit and vegetables, and meeting the dietary needs of a growing urban population in a sustainable manner is a significant challenge.

‘Finding ways in which Britain could increase food self-sufficiency is of increasing importance for securing our future food supply.

‘Urban agriculture and more people ‘growing their own’ could play an important role in reducing our reliance on imports, and bolster resilience against disruptions in supply, without converting areas of nature to agriculture, or further intensifying farming. But it was not clear what the extent of that role could be at a national scale, until now.’

 

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