Using unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with multispectral sensors to monitor the impacts of urban agriculture on local ecosystems


The Ohio State University at Mansfield is launching an urban sustainable food-system project that will increase area residents’ access to fruits, vegetables and other specialty crops while supporting the local economy. The project, developed and managed by Associate Professor of Environmental History Kip Curtis, is supported by a $2 million matching grant from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR). The Mansfield Microfarm Project will provide both training and microfarm kits to roughly a dozen initial producers, and help them farm cooperatively and bundle their produce for marketability. The microfarms will create a system that, when fully operating, will produce and sell enough fresh produce to become a fully sustainable economic driver in the Mansfield-area economy.

As part of the research team, Lipschitz will be developing the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor short and longterm changes in agricultural production and plant diversity. Multispectral sensors will measure a variety of vegetation indices in order to evaluate ecosystem service provision at the micro-farm scale. Building on model results, Lipschitz develop visualizations including maps, drawings, and diagrams that will help increase the general public’s interest in and understanding of urban agroecosystems.

The FFAR grant provides one-to-one matching funding to develop and study a pilot community-based sustainable food production and aggregation system in Mansfield. The match was made possible in large part through partnerships with the North End Community Improvement Collaborative, Mind and Body Align and Braintree Business Solutions, and the support of the Fran and Warren Rupp Donor Advised Fund of the Richland County Foundation. The FFAR funding is also matched in part by donations from the new Sustainability Institute at Ohio State, as well as in-kind support from researchers in Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Fisher College of Business, Knowlton School of Architecture, Department of History, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and College of Social Work.