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SUFI provides an integrated hub that sustainably manages the urban energy-water-food nexus in an era of climate change.



SUFI is an effort to provide an integrated environment - facilities, services and practical knowledge - to more sustainably manage the urban energy-water-food nexus in an era of climate change. The SUFI improves the resilient capacities of urban communities by:

·         Mitigating the acceleration of climate change by reducing or eliminating the demand on energy, water and land use (and release of GHGs) associated with food production, especially as this demand increases with population growth and consumption.

·         Providing adaptive capacity to growing urban populations in areas where some of the effects of climate change may be irreversible (e.g. diminished access to water).

While the SUFI is an effort to increase urban environmental resilience in the face of climate change, it has many additional economic and social benefits that improve a community’s collective Triple Bottom Line. 

The foundation of the Hub is a vertical, aquaponics farm that grows and harvests fresh fruit and vegetables. In a Hub, we adopt technology and practices to minimize demands on energy, water and land; eliminate waste and wastewater; and potentially regenerate and restore blighted urban landscapes. The concept of a Hub is modular by design as the application of certain technologies and processes are inherently site specific.

The key components of the Hub are not new in that they leverage existing, proven technology, tools, practices and know-how related to urban agriculture, aquaculture, energy efficiency, renewable energy, the circular economy and green job creation. We combine all these elements, however, in an integrated model that delivers environmental, economic and social benefits. 

What actions do you propose?

The scope of this proposal focuses on establishing the first Hub in the Boston metro area. Major startup activities include:

·         Stakeholder engagement (local and national)

·         Fundraising and grant application

·         Site selection and permitting

·         Facility renovation and buildout

·         Farm design, construction and planting

·         Hiring and job training

Who will take these actions?

We propose to establish a for-profit, social enterprise in the form of a B Corp and/or benefit corporation to execute and safeguard the SUFI mission. Partner and stakeholder contributions will also be necessary to project success.

Where will these actions be taken?

We propose the first Hub site in the Boston metro area, preferably Somerville, MA. Site selection criteria include: an existing structure with access to public transportation, conducive to RE, with local government and community support (e.g. policies, targets). For subsequent Hub sites, we will consider other US cities with food security challenges and that meet site selection criteria described above.

Once established in the US, we will take our lessons learned to developing countries or regions that are especially vulnerable to negative climate change impacts according to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, ND-GAIN (e.g. SE Asia and Africa). 

What are other key benefits?

SUFI also provides several additional social and economic benefits:

·         Provides fresh, healthy food to urban residents, who often have limited access to fresh food, improving health and well-being.

·         Supports farm-to-table movement and sustainable food service industries.

·         May regenerate water for return to municipal systems and local water sheds.

·         Supports growth of local RE sector.

·         Promotes socio-economic development by creating 15-75 new jobs per Hub and providing job training for transferable skills.

What are the proposal’s costs?

The initial capital and first year’s operating costs of implementing the first Hub are highly dependent on site-specific parameters and financial terms (e.g. leases), but are estimated to be $25-45/ft2. We anticipate, however, that a major  portion of these costs can be offset in following ways:

-          Partnerships with corporations, public agencies, SRI investors and NGOs that have a stake in the energy-water nexus and/or have a particular interest in a Hub location (e.g. geographic proximity).

-          Grants and awards from state and local governments that encourage and recognize economic development and neighborhood revitalization.

-          Rebates, incentives and grants from state, local and Federal government to install RE (e.g. SRECs) or to make energy efficiency improvements (e.g. LED lighting).

Time line

1st Hub, Somerville, MA 18-24 months

Subsequent Hubs: TBD. Candidates include: Memphis, St. Louis, Newark, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Los Angeles. Starting after 1st Hub completed, 12-18 months each Hub, with 6-month stagger.

Related proposals


Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, ND-GAIN (ND-GAIN)