Imagine walking half a mile down your city block to your local urban farm. You purchase a bunch of kale, okra, and some japenos and chat with the local farmer about the best ways to incorporate the harvest into your dinner tonight. You walk back home, having purcahsed affordable, healthy food and expending no carbon emissions in the process. You know your farmer, engage with them regularly, and get to see the community thrive around a urban farmering project.

From reduced urban heat, local economic vitality, lower carbon emissions, and stronger community bonds - urban farms are great. The problem is, they are hard to get started. Planners and non-profits can spend months and waste precious finds scouring the city for a suitable lot. The urban farm you just imagined is currently just a vacant lot in central Los Angeles. But with the power of GIS, it can be much more. That's where Truss comes in.

What it does

Truss is the most comprehensive site selection technology for urban farms. Truss takes into consideration a wide variety of user-specified parameters ranging from socioeconomic characteristics, to public transit access and air quality. The user, often an urban planner or enviornmental non-profit can input the criteria for their ideal urban farm: perhaps they want to put a community garden in Inglewood, California to reduce urban heat and provide healthy affordable food to a food desert (area without nearby grocery stores). Truss will identify vacant lots in that area that fit the desired critiera while provideing diverse attribute for that particular parcel.

Firmly grounded in social and food justice, Truss hopes to make healthy, affordable food more accessible to all communities.

How we built it

All of us came to the project with an interest in social justice, agriculture, and planning. In building Truss, we were able to fit all of our interests and skills into one platform.

To build the GIS basis, we used ArcGIS Pro to run geoprocessing tools and assisgn attributes to each vacant lot in all of Los Angeles County. From there, our development team used JavaScript API to build successful query functions and a streamlined user interface.

Challenges we ran into

One of the biggest challenges in building Truss was first selecting and finding relevant data. We read up on proper urban farm sites, and found data to help identify such sites. This required sourcing data from the Living Atlas, Los Angeles County, CalEnviroScreen, and Los Angeles Department of Transportation, and more.

Determining proper querying techniques was also an interesting challenge. We wanted to give the user enough capabilities to find a site that suited their needs, but we also did not want to overwhelm the user. We were able to stike a good balance somewhere in the middle.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are really proud of begin able to incorporate all of our skills well into the project. Everyone had something new and fresh to contribute, and truly the project would not have been possible without each our our unique GIS and development backgrounds.

What's next for Truss: Finding spaces for good

Currently Truss is designed for Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the United States. Therefore, this analysis coverse a diverse area geographically, socially, and enviornmentally. However, we would like to expand Truss to other major mulcipalites in the United States. Truss is easily reproducable, meaning it would only require finding proerp tract and attribute data for Truss to help identify urban farm parcesl elsewhere.

We also have an exciting sunlight accessibility feature in the works! This query feature would allow the user to only select lots that receive adequate sunlight (and aren't blocked by tall buidings). This feature would be particularly useful in expanding to tall cities like New York and Chicago.

Share this project: