To significantly advance our understanding of urban food systems, with a particular focus on evaluating and improving efficiencies in critical technical, social, and economic aspects of urban food production.


  • Develop a novel system to provide insight into the efficiencies and inefficiencies through all stages of the urban food process
  • Continue designing and building pilot-scale urban outdoor and indoor agriculture test facilities on the urban campus of Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Conduct social experiments to identify gaps in economic and social perceptions and, thus, assess the acceptability of novel technological innovations to food production for existing and prospective producers and consumers

For more information, contact Alvin Lee.


  • 2015: “R&D for Growth: Towards a Center for Sustainable and Efficient Urban Agriculture.” PI: Brent Stephens (CAEE), Co-PI: Rodger Cooley (ARCH)

Javad Abbasian (ChBE): Process design, water

Paul Anderson (CAEE): Water

Hamid Arastoopour (ChBE/MMAE): Outdoor urban agriculture, irrigation systems, education and outreach

Weslynne Ashton (SSB): Economic aspects of urban agriculture and outreach

Robert Carlson (INTM): Data collection and analysis

Frank Flury (ARCH): Sustainable built environment

Nasrin Khalili (SSB): Biochar application in urban agriculture

Alvin Lee (INTM): Food safety

Sohail Murad (ChBE): Education, data analysis

Mohammad Shahidehpour (ECE): Microgrid, renewable energy and control

Matthew Shapiro (PS): Social aspects of urban agriculture

Brent Stephens (CAEE): Hydroponic and aquaponic urban agriculture

Fouad Teymour (ChBE): Kinetic hydroponic systems

Liad Wagman (SSB): Economic aspects of urban agriculture

Selected Current Projects

PI: Nasrin Khalili (SSB)

This technology-oriented research investigates the impact of feedstock quality and availability (agricultural waste, municipal sludge) on the design of biochar pyrolysis units’ capital and operating costs, and the importance of using biochars in promoting sustainable agricultural practices in both urban and rural areas. This study specifically examines different strategic plans for making use of biochar as a standard operating procedure in sustainable farming through data analysis and assessment of the degree of change expected in agricultural yields, soil water retention, and carbon adsorption capacity post applications. While performing an analysis of the economic and social costs and benefits of using biochar in sustainable farming, we also investigate the market potential for the use of biochar in different economies.

Instructor: Hamid Arastoopour (ChBE/MMAE)

The overall objective of these Interprofessional Project (IPRO) Program projects was to renovate the present outdoor UFarmIIT by designing and constructing state-of-the-art automated facilities that includes a hoop house on the campus of Illinois Tech to explore innovative solutions to UFarmIIT based on a sustainability strategy for water (e.g., construction of rain collection systems and use of an efficient irrigation technology), energy (e.g., using solar energy and battery storage), initial analysis of carbon and water footprints, and greenhouse gas emissions. The IPRO team installed completely automated remote monitoring and control systems via embedded moisture sensor networks and a remote irrigation system for the four beds of UFarmIIT. They also conducted a literature survey on urban farming including an analysis of food safety issues; exploration of possible solutions for UFarmIIT wastes and their life cycle analysis; analysis of the energy and water and greenhouse gas footprints of UFarmIIT and other local urban food systems; and potential contaminants in solids and collected rainwater in urban areas.