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PhD fellowship "la Caixa INPHINIT" in Alternative urban agriculture


Research Field
Natural sciences
Funding Type
Career Stage
European Research Programme
Not funded by an EU programme




Group Leader: 

Prof. Xavier Gabarrell

Research Project / Research Group Description

The COVID-19 emergency has revealed the extreme fragility of conventional food systems to border closure and movement restrictions and added new concerns about the sustainability of the current agrobusiness model. At the same time, the pandemic has also put in evidence the potential of alternative urban agriculture experiences as a food security solution, especially for vegetables and perishable goods. The scalability and sustainability of urban agriculture, however, requires solving an important puzzle in terms of land, light and water availability, N2O and Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions, nutrient (N, P) demand, as well as logistics, and distribution requirements. On the one hand, there is a need to better understand the relationships between urban agriculture and material and energy flows of cities, the “urban metabolism”, i.e., to assess the impacts on the environment from urban food production activities. A barrier that has so far prevented further progress in said direction is the ever-increasing diversity of experiences, which range from conventional ground farming in brown fields and greenhouses, all the way to aeroponic vertical indoor farming. On the other hand, there is a dearth of knowledge on the organizational and governance models associated to current experiences and their scalability. A central conundrum in this regard is the extent to which different processes along the food chain shall benefit from centralized (scaling up) vs. community networks or market governance (scaling out). This project addresses those knowledge gaps through a comparative case study and modelling exercise of material and energy flow accounts across different organizational and governance scenarios in two European cities. The results of the project will not only contribute to the design of policies that support alternative urban food systems but also give visibility to the diversity of experiences that currently populate the urban agricultural field.

Job position description

To address the goals of the project we will work towards the following specific objectives:

1) developing an inventory and typology of urban agricultural experiences and food distribution experiences that integrates the agronomic and organizational perspectives;

2) collecting data via experiments and other sources to carry a metabolic analysis with a selection of each type of experiences;

3) collecting organizational and transaction cost data from the same selection of experiences, and integrate the gained insights into the metabolic model; and

4) developing participatory scenario workshops with members of urban agriculture experiences to unveil pathways to the scaling out and scaling up of urban agriculture.

The selection of the two cases will be co-decided with the student among an already established network of them. Although grounded in industrial ecology, this PhD position is highly interdisciplinary and will require that the student is willing to work also the interface of agriculture, conservation ecology and institutional economics. Thus, we expect students who are willing to think out of the box and trespass disciplinary boundaries. We offer a committed supervision by two senior researchers; a lively environment including seniors, postdocs and other PhD students from a diversity of discipline; and the premises of ICTA, a top ranked environmental science studies center.

What is funded

Salary is €34.800 gross, plus €3.564 per year for additional costs (conferences, courses, etc.). An additional prize of €7.500 is paid upon completion of the PhD.


3 years


The selection process is very competitive and candidates should have an excellent academic record.

The candidate will apply through “la Caixa” foundation. Deadline 4 February 2021 at 2 pm (Central European Time - CET).…


Eligible candidates must have resided or carried out their main activity in Spain for less than 12 months in the last 3 years, have a B2 English degree, and have a higher education degree that gives access to doctoral studies.


The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA-UAB) of the Autonomous University of Barcelona is a research centre accredited with the Spanish Seal of Excellence María de Maeztu in 2020, the perfect place to carry out your PhD project through an INPhINIT Incoming fellowship.

For more information, please contact Ms Silvia Martínez (silvia.martinez.sinibaldi AT


Organisation name
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Organisation Country
More Information

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