Small-scale farmer responses to an urban rooftop farming and online marketplace enterprise in Montréal, Canada

There is growing interest in the role of new urban agriculture models to increase local food production capacity in cities of the Global North. Urban rooftop greenhouses and hydroponics are examples of such models receiving increasing attention as a technological approach to year-round local food production in cities. "Yet, little research has addressed the unintended consequences of new modes of urban farming and food distribution, such as increased competition with existing peri-urban and rural farmers," a group of Canadian researchers realised. "We examine how small-scale farmers perceive and have responded to a recently established rooftop greenhouse and online marketplace enterprise in Montréal, Canada."

Drawing on interviews with key informants and small-scale farmers, they find that peri-urban and rural producers have been affected in three key ways that represent tensions, adaptations, and synergies arising from this new urban agriculture and food distribution enterprise.

"First, many farmers are concerned about increased competition and value conflation with the ideals of community supported agriculture (CSA) and organic farming. Second, some farmers have adapted by developing novel marketing strategies and working with local bridge organizations to collectively market their produce to urban consumers. Third, a few farmers have decided to wholesale their produce to this new enterprise, allowing them to specialize production and avoid marketing their produce directly to urban consumers."

The study suggests that the emergence of a new form of alternative food network in Montréal has created both positive and negative disruptions for existing small-scale producers. "Advocates for the expansion of new urban food production and distribution models should therefore give greater consideration to the effects on other actors in the local food system." 

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