Saturday, September 15, 2012

Backyard Food Production Research Project

I have always been interested in food, from its production to consumption. Eating is something we all do on a daily basis and we have the tendency to take food for granted; i.e. it will always be there. Walk into any supermarket and the shelves are bursting at the seams with all manner of food from all over the world.

Studies and research have shown that the food on the shelves can only feed us city dwellers for three days before it runs out and it needs to be continually replenished. This means the food you tend to eat and purchase a week from today has to be produced from somewhere else and transported to your local supermarket. What does that mean to any disruption to that supply-chain system? Have we become over-dependent on the current food system?
How will a city like Melbourne feed itself in the near future? The current food system is a fragile one because it is too dependent on fossil fuel and other externalities beyond our immediate control. How can we make our food system more resilient in view of peak oil and climate change?

To explore this complex and wicked problem, I have decided to conduct research on food production in Melbourne. The aim of this research is to exactly measure and quantify food production capacity in urban backyards within 70 kilometers of Melbourne CBD, methods of production, motivations and drivers for engaging in food production in one’s backyard.

Therefore, the intention of the research project is to examine the following:
  • The food production capacity of urban backyard, and its potential;
  • The motivations and drivers for growing food in one’s backyard; 
  • The production methods and best practice of the more productive backyards investigated
For the purpose of this research urban backyard production covers only edible produce such as fruit, vegetable, egg, honey, milk, cheese, nuts, fish and other produce fit for human consumption. 

The project involves participants weighing their produce on a scale, each time something is picked/harvested from the backyard, and logging in the weight on a pre-prepared spreadsheet. The weighing process is for a period of 12-weeks, which does not have to be consecutive. This provides flexibility if people need to go away for a few days, provided no one else harvest the produce during their absence. There is also a short questionnaire to fill in about participants' food growing habits and practices and also their motivation for growing their own food.

I hope the overall result of the research would demonstrate the production capacity of fresh produce within a built up urban setting, which would help informed urban planners and designers on the need to include food growing space/activity as an important feature in urban developments at both strategic and statutory levels.

To participate in the research contact Zainil: z.zainuddin(at)

Stay tuned for the results of the study.
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