The presence of food insecurity within low income neighborhoods in urban areas is an ongoing challenge to these communities. The use of urban agriculture as a source of food production has allowed cities to deal with this by providing localized food production. Agricultural runoff leading to water contamination to surrounding hydrologically sensitive areas and aquatic species is also a concern with the introduction of urban farming (Mcdowell et al., 2001). Therefore, it is essential that urban agriculture development continue in cities, however, they must be sited away from hydrologically sensitive areas and near low income areas where they are most beneficial.
The suitability map and optimal sites for urban agriculture were identified through the output of the MCE model. The MCE process is ideal for land-use suitability and has been repeatedly applied to agricultural suitability analyses (Akinici et al.,2013; Agnew et al., 2006). The MCE model developed in this study incorporated five criterion; slope, aspect, soil, income, and distance to stream. Additionally two constraints were applied to vacant properties outside of the MCE, those were a limitation of at least two hectares in size to accommodate adequate food production (Patel & Macrae, 2012); properties with approved development status were also excluded from the analysis. These criterion and constraints targeted three main factors that influence urban agriculture. These three factors include agricultural feasibility, food insecurity and, environmental damage mitigation. The MCE model was then applied to the Hamilton CMA using ArcGIS. A raster layer for each criteria was created and then a weighted overlay was conducted in order create a suitability map. The criteria weights for the final suitability map were based on the outcome of the AHP pairwise compairison.
The analysis of this study displayed higher and lower areas of suitability for urban farming site determination within Hamilton. After comparing this suitability map to vacant urban properties two sites were identified to be most suitable for urban agriculture in Hamilton (Property A & Property B). Based on the suitability map, the downtown core of Hamilton was determined to be the best location for urban agriculture, this was the result of low median houshold income levels and low hydrological sensitivity as measured by distance to streams.
A major strength of this study as outlined in Objective 4 is that these three disparate factors were compared and the AHP process which was used to assign weights is within the acceptable threshold of consistency. As such, the use of a pairwise comparison allowed for limited bias in weight assignment. However human judgment in weight assignment cannot be completely discounted and as such continues to present a limitation to this study. There is an importance for alternative weighting schemes which could be used in diversifying the suitability analysis. Further limitations include time restrictions and corresponds to limitations of the amount of variables to be weighted in the MCE model.
Suggestions For Further Research
Applying the model to more urban areas could diversify the analysis of the success of the model. Further studies of urban agriculture siting could expand the scope of the criteria used in this study. Suggestions for expansion of the MCE model include factors relating to food deserts which is a serious issue relating to food insecurity in urban areas. Increased exploration into more complex indicators of hydrologically sensitive areas could improve this aspect of the analysis. Population density, and cost analysis and access to transportation are other factors that could add strength and increase accuracy to the model.