City food bowls are increasingly at risk. What's next?
Our project has previously highlighted risks from urban sprawl, climate change, water scarcity and high levels of food waste.
Melbourne’s food-bowl currently supplies 41% of the city’s total food needs. But growing population and less land means this could fall to 18% by 2050.
Australia’s other city food-bowls face similar pressures. For example, between 2000 and 2005, Brisbane’s land available for vegetable crops reduced by 28%, and Sydney may lose 90% of its vegetable-growing land by 2031 if its current growth rate continues.
These losses can be minimised by setting strong limits on urban sprawl, using existing residential areas (infill) and encouraging higher-density living.
However, accommodating a future Melbourne population of 7 million (even at much higher density) will still likely mean we lose some farmland.
The Deloitte modelling estimated this will lead to a loss of agricultural output from Melbourne’s food-bowl of between A$32 million and A$111 million each year.
Australia’s city food-bowls could play a vital role in a more sustainable and resilient food supply. If we look after our food-bowls, these areas will strengthen cities against the disruptions in food supplies that are likely to become more common thanks to climate change.
The New Urban Agenda adopted in October 2016 at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, or Habitat III, emphasises the need for cities to “strengthen food system planning”. It recognises that dependence on distant sources of food and other resources can create sustainability challenges and vulnerabilities to supply disruptions.
Resilient city food systems will need to draw on food from multiple sources – global, national and local – to be able to withstand and recover from supply disruptions due to chronic stresses, such as drought, and acute shocks, such as storms and floods.
In this future vision, highly perishable foods continue to grow close to the city. City waste streams are harnessed to counter decreasing supplies of water and conventional fertilisers, and increased investment in delivery of recycled water creates “drought-proof” areas of food production close to city water treatment plants.