Technology-driven transition in urban food production practices: A case study of Shanghai

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The continuing decline of arable land per person and global human population growth are raising concerns about food security. Recent advances in horticultural technology (i.e., growing using light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, hydroponics, vertical farming, and controlled environments) have changed the ways in which vegetables can be produced and supplied. The emerging technology makes it possible to produce more food using fewer resources, independent of the weather and the need for land. They allow bringing agricultural practices inside urban built up spaces and making horticultural production an integrated part of the daily life of urban residents. However, the process and consequences of this technology-driven transition on urban planning and development are hardly understood. This paper uses the theory of multi-level perspective (MLP) on sustainability transitions and actor-network theory (ANT) to explore this technology-driven transition and its adoption in urban planning and development. The high-tech horticulture zone development in Shanghai was used as a case study. The results show the importance of both social (i.e., policymakers and planners) and material (i.e., technologies and policy documents) actants in the transition of the sociotechnical regime. Furthermore, the transition toward sustainable urban horticulture practices requires the simultaneous preparation of supportive and compatible spatial development, agricultural and sustainable development policies, and adequate policy implementation and evaluation tools to increase the competitive strength of innovative practices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6070
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


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


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