Ecological Laboratory for Urban Agriculture

Year: 2022-present

Team lead:
Zihao Zhang | Landscape Architecture, CCNY

Susan L. Epstein | Robotics, Hunter College
Christian Volkmann | Architecture, CCNY
Zhigang Zhu | Computer Vision, CCNY

This interdisciplinary research designs, tests, and evaluates innovative models for community-based,robot-assisted urban rooftop agriculture as part of a smart connected urban food garden and community. The Solar RoofPod and Harlem Garden for Urban Food at City College will become pilot laboratories for deep collaborations among experts in architectural and landscape design, artificial intelligence, robotics, and urban ecology. To ameliorate dysfunction in the urban food system and food insecurity in US cities, our proposed research seeks innovative solutions that integrate sensing networks, machine learning, and robot-assisted systems for a new type of urban agricultural practice. Outcomes will provide theoretical advancement in urban ecology, and smart cities research with a conceptual framework that posits intelligent machines as an integral part of society, urban ecosystems, and biophysical environments. This research has substantial potential impacts on increasing urban food security, biodiversity, and the ability to adapt to climate change. The project will also build collaborations with community partners and high schools, and thereby motivate the next generation of scientists and urban farmers through STEM curriculum development and community outreach.

This project was partly funded by a 2022 CUNY Interdisciplinary Research Grant, a CCNY College-wide Research Vision Award, and a 2023 PSC-CUNY Award.


Lab Assistants and Alums:

George McCracken | Landscape Architecture, CCNY
Casey Breen
| Landscape Architecture, CCNY
Gael Oriol | Landscape Architecture, CCNY
Sophia Xia | Computer Science, Hunter College
Albi Arapi | Computer Science (Computer Vision), CCNY
Donald Lushi | Computer Science (Computer Vision), CCNY
Kevin Lin | Computer Science, Hunter College
Rachel Ng | Computer Science, Hunter College
Ghazanfar Shahbaz | Computer Science, Hunter College
Katlin Labatt-Simon | Architecture, CCNY
Nicole Girdo| Architecture, CCNY
Aparna Ramanathan Ramesh | Architecture, CCNY
Griffin Pollak | Landscape Architecture, CCNY

Partners and Friends:
Ian Marvy | NYC-based Urban Agriculture Pioneer, Social Entrepreneur, Farmer and Educator
Margrethe Horlyck-Romanovsky | Assistant Professor, Health and Nutrition Sciences at Brooklyn College
Big Reuse
NYC Clean Soil Bank