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Title: Improving Urban Agriculture and Nutrition in the Anthropocene: A Comparison of Crop Quality in Organic and Vertical Farms
Authors: Akiti, Korlekuor
Advisors: Rubenstein, Daniel I
Gauthier, Paul P
Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Certificate Program: Global Health and Health Policy Program
Class Year: 2019
Abstract: Increasing urbanization and malnutrition will require reimagining food systems in cities to address global environmental and health crises. One accepted approach involves transitioning soil systems toward healthier and more sustainable practices, such as organic farming, and transporting these crops into cities. An alternative that has been proposed is vertical farming, which capitalizes on unused space within cities to grow crops in stacked layers in controlled indoor environments. While various advantages and disadvantages of these two approaches have been discussed, it remains unknown how the quality of crops grown in these systems compare. This study characterized the palatability and nutritional quality of crops grown in organic soil and hydroponic vertical farms. Mineral and metabolite analyses via mass spectrometry techniques revealed that the soil and hydroponic crops were similarly nutritious with regards to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines. Choice tests demonstrated that the hydroponic crops were significantly less attractive than their soil counterparts but were still accepted by consumers overall. The findings support the idea that taste is complex and suggest that there may be an unequal weighting of the appearance, flavor, and texture of crops as participants determine their overall preference. In addition, other factors may be key. This study concluded that both organic soil and hydroponic vertical farming can meet the nutritional requirements of urban populations, and that consumer satisfaction with crop appearance is at present a critical choice differentiator. If hydroponic vertical farming can improve the visual quality of its crops to entice consumers, both approaches examined have the potential to aid in addressing the environmental and human health concerns surrounding urban food production.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 1992-2022
Global Health and Health Policy Program, 2017-2022

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