Some people still criticize the urban agriculture movement as a cute idea with little potential to feed urban populations, or as an unnecessary intrusion on valuable city real estate. Part of the problem is there has never been solid data to back up the many benefits that food production brings to the urban ecosystem. Starting this summer, however, a new online tool is set to change that. New York City’s Design Trust for Public Space just launched an online data toolkit that tracks 19 metrics under four broad categories to give greater validity to the claims of urban farmers.

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The Design Trust for Public Space is a highly acclaimed urban design think tank that has worked behind-the-scenes to launch seminal projects like the High Line. The organization has been a major player in turning the Big Apple into a global hotspot for urban agriculture. In 2009 they created the Five Borough Farm, which is not an actual farm, but an advocacy platform that is carving space for food out of NYC’s social, political and economic fabric. In doing so, they’ve paved the way for the next generation of urban agriculture to get started. With the Design Trust behind it, urban ag v2 is sure to be hip, high-tech and politically savvy.

Related: Top 5 Urban Farms in NYC

The Design Trust has researched every imaginable facet of the urban agriculture organism in New York and has even produced a book with their findings. The biggest finding of all was the handicap caused by the dearth of production data – and that production needed to be looked at not just agriculturally, but also economically, environmentally and socially. The online data toolkit will enable farmers to self-report on subjects ranging from pounds of food produced and value of produce sold to the pounds of greenwaste diverted from the landfill and the number of children brought to their gardens on educational field trips. The data will then be available in a real-time, geographically-referenced portal for anyone to look at.

+ Design Trust for Public Space

Images via Design Trust and Five Borough Farm