High-tech urban agriculture in Amsterdam: An actor network analysis

Mohsen H. Farhangi*, Margherita E. Turvani, Arnold van der Valk, Gerrit J. Carsjens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The agriculture and horticulture sector in the Netherlands is one of the most productive in the world. Although the sector is one of the most advanced and intense agricultural production systems worldwide, it faces challenges, such as climate change and environmental and social unsustainability of industrial production. To overcome these challenges, alternative food production initiatives have emerged, especially in large cities such as Amsterdam. Some initiatives involve producing food in the urban environment, supported by new technologies and practices, so-called high-tech urban agriculture (HTUA). These initiatives make cultivation of plants inside and on top of buildings possible and increase green spaces in urban areas. The emerging agricultural technologies are creating new business environments that are shape d by technology developers (e.g., suppliers of horticultural light emitting diodes (LED) and control environment systems) and developers of alternative food production practices (e.g., HTUA start-ups). However, research shows that the uptake of these technological innovations in urban planning processes is problematic. Therefore, this research analyzes the barriers that local government planners and HTUA developers are facing in the embedding of HTUA in urban planning processes, using the city of Amsterdam as a case study. This study draws on actor-network theory (ANT) to analyze the interactions between planners, technologies, technology developers and developers of alternative food production practices. Several concepts of ANT are integrated into a multi-level perspective on sustainability transitions (MLP) to create a new theoretical framework that can explain how interactions between technologies and planning actors transform the incumbent social-technical regime. The configuration of interactions between social and material entities in technology development and adoption processes in Amsterdam is analyzed through the lens of this theoretical framework. The data in this study were gathered by tracing actors and their connections by using ethnographic research methods. In the course of the integration of new technologies into urban planning practices, gaps between technologies, technology developers, and planning actors have been identified. The results of this study show a lacking connection between planning actors and technology developers, although planning actors do interact with developers of alternative food production practices. These interactions are influenced by agency of artefacts such as visualizations of the future projects. The paper concludes that for the utilization of emerging technologies for sustainability transition of cities, the existing gap between technology developers and planning actors needs to be bridged through the integration of technology development visions in urban agendas and planning processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3955
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2020


  • Actor-network theory
  • High-tech urban agriculture
  • Multi-level perspective
  • Technology driven transition
  • Urban planning


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