Skip to Content
Report an accessibility problem
Engineering  |  URBAN-AG NEXUS

About the project & funding program

About NIFA NLGCA

“Non-Land-Grant institutions with schools of agriculture can also receive NIFA funding. This grant program allows them to carry out educational, research, and outreach activities that address priority concerns of national, regional, State, and local interest. Like their Land-Grant counterparts this funding can be used to promote food security, food safety and improve production agriculture. Faculty can used the funding to develop curricula and enhance agricultural related programs at their institution.” – USDA NIFA

Read more about the NLGCA Program here: https://nifa.usda.gov/program/capacity-building-grants-non-land-grant-colleges-agriculture-program

Summary of Grant

Urban land areas have been expanding globally at a very rapid rate, even faster than population growth. As they expand into previously agricultural areas, they have the potential to constrain food supply systems and diminish food security. This puts increasing pressure on remaining agricultural lands to produce the same or more biomass on less land for a larger population, yet there is little scientific evaluation of how the growth of urban centers will affect regional agriculture. Left unaddressed, this inherent trade-off between urban and agricultural land resources could lead to a decreased resilience in and around urban areas, especially those already vulnerable to environmental risks.In rapidly urbanizing areas such as Phoenix and other Southwestern cities, the trade-offs between urban and agricultural resource needs are exacerbated by limited resource availability, especially for water. Therefore, more research is needed to create synergies between urban and agricultural resource demands, rather than competition. Some promising areas of opportunity at this competing resource-demand nexus include the use of excess stormwater and treated municipal wastewater for agricultural production, use of biosolids from urban wastewater treatment, compost from urban food waste as agricultural fertilizer, and manure from agricultural operations for urban agriculture nutrient, water, and soil health needs.Given that agriculture is a vital part of the Southwest’s economy, and encroachment of agriculture by urban expansion, in addition to concerns of decreasing water supply, has the potential to severely impact livelihoods and food security in the region,the overall goal of this grant will be to improve Arizona State University’s (ASUs) capacity to perform agricultural research and education to address challenges and identify emerging opportunities at the urban-agriculture nexus in the desert Southwest.

The goals and activities of this project directly address Goal 6 of the USDA’s Research, Education and Economics action plan by helping to recruit, cultivate, and develop the next generation of scientists, engineers, and leaders in agriculture through the development of the new undergraduate course and the multiple opportunities provided to students to gain leadership and mentoring experience. This project is also in line with USDA’s Strategic Plan, Goal 1, that aims to assist rural communities to create prosperity, through outreach and education efforts. This project supports multiple subgoals of Goal 1 of the NIFA Strategic Plan as our goal to connect urban and agricultural stakeholders will ultimately help advance food security in the region (subgoal 1.1.) and our educational objectives will support a diverse workforce in sustainable agriculture(subgoal 1.6). Furthermore, our research objectives directly support subgoal 1.3 through the improved evaluation of reclaimed resources in arid environment agricultural production.We will achieve our project goals and objectives by expanding ASU’s capability to perform agricultural research and education, and by engaging local urban and agricultural communities around the topic of addressing challenges and identifying emerging opportunities at the urban-agriculture nexus in the desert Southwest. To enhance ASU’s agricultural education capacity, we will develop an undergraduate-level experiential learning course jointly with Mesa Community College. This course will consist of hands-on research projects related to urban-agriculture nexus, including field, lab, and data analysis training for the students. To increase ASU’s ability to perform agricultural research, we are partnering with the USDA Arid Lands Agricultural Research Center to mentor two masters level projects focused on understanding risks and benefits of using urban resources (biosolids, wastewater, composts, etc.) in arid land agricultural production. To engage the urban and agricultural communities, we will host kick-off and summative workshops, create a student-led webinar series, and create a stakeholder advisory group to inform and assess project activities. If the goals of the project are met, we hope to create a long-term culture of agricultural education and research interest at ASU as well as to foster new connections and collaborations to create synergistic opportunities at the urban-agriculture nexus.

Read more on NIFA’s webpage: https://cris.nifa.usda.gov/cgi-bin/starfinder/0?path=fastlink1.txt&id=anon&pass=&search=R=80893&format=WEBLINK