Increasing food yields from urban and peri-urban farms through deployment of small-scale agricultural technologies

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2021: $25,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2022
Host Institution Award ID: G310-21-W8613
Grant Recipient: Sustainable Systems Research Foundation
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
David Blume
Whiskey Hill Farm/Blume Distillation

Information Products


  • Fruits: other
  • Vegetables: greens (lettuces), other


  • Crop Production: water management
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Production Systems: hydroponics

    Proposal summary:

    Problem & research question: A key objective of this project is to increase urban farm productivity, now limited by a dearth of verified, widely replicable research on the utility of small agricultural technologies for increasing food production on small farms. There exists limited research that systematically investigates whether small-scale peri-urban and urban food production can be expanded and improved enough to become a significant source of local food supplies. There is also limited research yielding replicable data and systematic analyses to determine whether a network of technologically-enhanced small farms can increase productivity to make a difference for local food provision and businesses.

    Research: Field research and training will take place at Whiskey Hill Farms in Watsonville, California to deploy and quantify the efficacy of several modular and scalable technologies for local food production through small scale hydroponic systems, real-time predictive irrigation sensors and controls, and web-based knowledge exchange. It will provide education and training in these technologies to participating farmers and develop a curriculum for application of small-scale technologies. This is a collaboration with the Sustainable Systems Research Foundation in Santa Cruz.

    Project significance & outcomes: Profitability and sustainability of small farms can be increased by using available space more efficiently through hydroponic crops, more efficient irrigation controls and information exchange with other regional famers, brokers, restaurants and customers. This project makes low-cost, small-scale agricultural technologies available to smaller farms and gardens whose operators, working alone, might not be able to afford more expensive improvements to increase production and profits. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Collaborate with local farmers and organizations to: disseminate successful new food production technologies and practices, train students in skills and knowledge required to successfully create, manage and succeed in running an urban/peri-urban farm, and promote and develop urban farms & gardens
    2. Increase local food security, justice and resilience by working with low-income and minority communities to develop new and existing farms and gardens that produce food for neighborhoods and local
    3. Conduct longitudinal research on and demonstration of small-scale techniques and technologies designed to conserve natural resources, protect soils and biodiversity, increase farm productivity
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.