Skip to main content
European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results
Content archived on 2024-06-18

Towards sustainable modes of urban and peri-urban food provisioning

Final Report Summary - SUPURBFOOD (Towards sustainable modes of urban and peri-urban food provisioning)

Executive Summary:
City regions have to deal with a large variety of sustainability, health and social equity challenges, such as climate change (e.g. storm water containment, urban heat stress), collection, recycling and disposal of waste, maintenance and use of public space, preservation of biodiversity, and diet-related ill-health (obesity, malnutrition, hunger). Many of these challenges are fully or partially related to systems of urban and peri-urban food provisioning.

Short food supply chains can play a role in addressing some of these urban challenges, for instance by reducing GHG emissions in food production and distribution and by providing organic and seasonal fresh food products. However, to really improve the sustainability of the city-region food system other flows of goods and services need to be shortened and connected as well. This refers to the closing of nutrient, water, and carbon cycles but also to the joint delivery of food and other goods and services through agricultural production (e.g. medicinal plants, flowers, biodiversity, tourism, education and care), often referred to as multifunctional land use or multifunctional agriculture.

At present short food supply chains, closing of nutrient, water & carbon cycles and multifunctional land use are usually treated separately in research, policies and advocacy. SUPURBFOOD has sought to treat these themes in a more integrated manner by learning from best practices (in particular from the global South) and by developing, experimenting with and evaluating new practices and approaches developed by and in collaboration with SMEs.

The project has therefore analysed the ways in which different European city regions deal with the re-use and recycling of nutrients, water, and urban waste, with short food supply chains, and with the multifunctional use of urban and peri-urban spaces. The city regions are Rotterdam (the Netherlands), Bristol (United Kingdom), Vigo (Spain), Ghent (Belgium), Rome (Italy), Zürich (Switzerland) and Riga (Latvia). This has been complemented with a review of cases from city-regions in the global South about the re-use of urban waste and wastewater, short food supply chains and multifunctional urban- and peri-urban agriculture. The project has facilitated SMEs to further innovate in food production and delivery, nutrient, waste and water management, and multifunctional use of space.

By doing so, SUPURBFOOD has been able to generate insights about how city regions could look like if they chose to further relocalise their food system, connect flows and close loops and diversify the use of public and private space. Recommendations for policymakers and practitioners have been generated through a process of dialogue, sharing of experiences, exchanging of best practices and joint learning between SMEs, researchers and policymakers from city regions in Europe as well as the global South.

Project Context and Objectives:
Cities have long grown beyond the productive capacity of their rural hinterlands and this poses enormous challenges for urban food security and the sustainability of urban food provisioning systems. Living and eating in cities is nowadays inextricably linked to globalized chains of food production, processing and distribution. This globalized food system has brought many benefits to the urban population, in particular in industrialized economies: food is usually constantly available at relatively low prices and many food products have a year round supply.

However, these benefits have also come at a cost: fossil fuel dependency, contribution to GHG emissions, environmental pollution by pesticides and chemical fertilizer, reduction of agro-biodiversity, loss of organoleptic quality, climate change, increased amounts of waste (food and food packaging), diet-related ill-health (obesity and malnutrition), loss of land for food production to other uses (urban sprawl, infrastructure, biofuels), soil degradation and erosion and shortage of agricultural labour. These are the fundamental issues that need to be addressed in an integral manner to create a food provisioning system capable of sustainably feeding a growing and rapidly urbanizing world population.

In the past two to three decades some of these fundamental issues have been addressed by means of the following development paths:
1. Organic and integrated farming systems to reduce the environmental impact of primary production. These systems have reduced the environmental impact at farm level in environmental terms (less or no pesticides and chemical fertilizer) while sometimes also enhancing sustainability in economic (more value added for niche market products) and social terms (better working conditions, more job satisfaction).
2. Alternative food networks and/or short food supply chains to shorten the distance between producer and consumer. In many cases farmers – individually or collectively – have been the initiators of these networks. Increasing control over the food chain and retaining more value added at farm level have been the driving forces behind the creation and development of short food supply chains. More recently, we can witness an increase in new food networks initiated by “concerned” citizens interested to obtain healthy food directly from the source in order to gain more control over food quality and production practices. These alternative food networks – whether farmer or citizen induced – have helped in reconnecting producers and consumers, preserving (or even increasing) agro-biodiversity by re-introducing and valorising traditional plant varieties and animal breeds, and improving the environmental performance of the food supply chain by reducing food miles and, in many cases, by producing according to organic or low external input methods.
3. Multifunctional agriculture as a means to address the economic vulnerability of conventional specialised agriculture by broadening the economic basis of the farm enterprise as well as a means to reconnect agriculture and society and enhance societal support for agriculture. Moreover, through the development of multifunctional agriculture new socio-economic networks have emerged which contribute to the socio-economic viability of the region.

These three interlinked development paths have, politically as well as scientifically, been addressed, analysed and promoted from a rural development perspective. This is rooted in the historical process of urbanization, which led to define certain issues as essentially urban and other issues as essentially rural. Food and agriculture are generally considered to be typical rural issues and this has strongly contributed to food being a stranger to the field of urban policy and planning.

However, in recent years a growing number of cities has become very active in the field of food and agriculture. Municipal authorities and city councils appear as new actors in the food policy arena together with new urban social movements. Key reasons why food policy is increasingly seen as an urban issue is the fact that many social, ethical and environmental challenges of cities are food-related and understood as such by urban policymakers: e.g. hunger, food nutrition and insecurity, access to and affordability of culturally appropriate food, obesity, carbon footprint, energy consumption, water contamination, loss of farmland and rural decline. Nowadays it is increasingly recognised that food is more central to many urban problems than urban planners and designers realised in the past.

This growing recognition has also spurred the attention for the development of urban and peri-urban agriculture. In the past, much of the political and scientific attention focused on the often quite tenuous relations between urban development and farming close to and inside cities, as these two activities were thought to compete for the same space. More recently, there is growing interest however in analysing urban agriculture and city development in terms of mutually beneficial relationships. The short distance between urban farms and urban residents within one region allows for positive interactions between farmers’ needs and urban citizens’ demands: locally grown freshly available food, authentic experiences, proximity to farms and farmers, protection of farm land in and around cities (also for leisure purposes), public procurement of regional produce, facilitating farmers markets, etc. From an urban development perspective, urban and peri-uban farming constitute an integral part of the metropolitan landscape and can add to a city’s capacity to satisfy the basic needs of its citizens. Furthermore local authorities understand that multifunctional urban and peri-urban green open spaces have a critical role to play in the environmental management of the city: storm water storage/infiltration and run off reduction, lowering the ‘urban heat island’ effect and reduction of cooling costs, natural cleaning of wastewater, climate change mitigation/adaptation, recycling of nutrients from urban wastes, etc. ... .

The growing interest in and importance of ‘rural’ issues (e.g. agriculture, food, biodiversity, environment) in urban policies, planning and development points to resurgence of interest in the city-region: the ways in which a core city and its peri-urban and rural hinterland are linked by functional ties. The notion of the core city can also be replaced by multiple cores making the city-region a polycentric geographical unit, in which case the concept of metropolitan region is often used. A focus on functional ties implies that the boundaries and the size of the city region can fluctuate in time and differ according to the functional relations that one focuses on.

Hence, understanding the dynamics of city-regions requires a description and analysis in time of the functions that link a core (or multiple cores) to its peri-urban and rural hinterland. Departing from the notion that territories of city-regions are not just simple geographically or physically bounded locations, but entities bound together by common interests and functional ties, implies that important issues of governance need to be addressed as the city region transgresses administrative boundaries and is confronted with the challenge of interlinking and aligning policies that were once considered to be confined to either the urban or the rural domain. Hence, a city-region perspective has, three implications for development policies:
1. A shift from sectoral to territorial policies. This implies that policies depend on and are adapted to the economic, social, and institutional conditions of every territory. A consequence of this is that the conventional approach to development, i.e. the reproduction of development models, has to be substituted by custom-made approaches in which a thorough diagnosis of the conditions and needs of each city-region is the starting point. Best practices will have to be thoroughly re-tailored to local conditions before implementation.
2. A need for greater coordination and improved governance. Two things are important here. Firstly, the vertical shift in governance from nation state to smaller territorial units does not imply that national or supranational administrations have become superfluous. Hence, the vertical coordination of all institutional actors involved in the development process is required. Secondly, the shift in horizontal governance from the government towards the private and civic sectors demands coordination between the public, private and civic sectors.
3. More attention for bottom-up and participatory approaches. Many city-regional development strategies count on and, in some cases, are even initiated by local civic groups, such as local economic, social, and/or cultural associations. By virtue of their smaller geographical area of operation, city-region development strategies can often afford to promote the formation of partnerships among local stakeholders, who play a key role in the design and implementation of the strategy.

In the growing body of literature on city-regions food and agriculture are generally not considered to constitute functional ties in the urban-rural continuum. However, as a significant share of agricultural activities in Europe takes place in highly urbanized settings and as these agricultural activities are increasingly becoming more multifunctional, new (or renewed) ties between urban dwellers and farmers are constructed. Furthermore there is a growing trend among the urban population to consume fresh and local products, to demand short chain food delivery and to request more transparency on the origin of food products. Hence, citizens are becoming more and more interested in city-region food networks and are increasingly calling for support to urban and peri-urban farmers to safeguard or even increase the availability of and accessibility to food. In addition to new (or renewed) ties emerging between urban food consumers and urban and rural food producers, food and agriculture are, as mentioned before, also appearing on the city-region agenda due to their direct and indirect links with domains that municipal and regional authorities are partially or fully responsible for: e.g. environmental management, waste management, spatial planning, education, public health, social welfare, and employment. As such food and agriculture are embedded in a variety of functional ties that shape city-regions.

Concomitantly the project has focussed its attention on a number of European city-regions to improve the scientific understanding of the dynamics of food provisioning (production, processing, distribution, marketing, consumption and waste) and to develop solutions, that are to be taken up by SMEs, for creating sustainable modes of urban and peri-urban food provisioning. The seven city-regions selected for SUPURBFOOD are:
1. City-region Rotterdam (The Netherlands)
2. Metropolitan Area Rome (Italy)
3. City-region Ghent (Belgium)
4. Metropolitan Area Vigo (Spain)
5. City-region Bristol (United Kingdom)
6. City-region Zürich (Switzerland)
7. Greater Riga Region (Latvia)

The overall aim of this project is:

To improve the sustainability of agriculture and food delivery in city-regions in Europe as well as in the global South by developing together with SMEs innovative approaches to: a) short food supply chain delivery; b) water, nutrient and waste management and recycling; and c) multifunctional land use in city-regions.

The specific objectives of the this project are:
1. To describe and analyse agri-food dynamics, policies and governance arrangements in different European city regions.
2. To enrich the knowledge base for the design of the case studies in European city regions by documenting and analysing experiences gained in developing countries with i) short food chain delivery, ii) water, nutrient and waste management and recycling and iii) multifunctional land use in urban and peri-urban areas.
3. To generate new knowledge on and develop new approaches to the management and recycling of water, nutrients and urban waste in urban and peri-urban agriculture.
4. To generate new knowledge on and develop new approaches to (the logistics of) short chain delivery of food for urban and peri-urban areas.
5. To generate new knowledge on and develop new approaches to the multifunctional use of land in urban and peri-urban areas.
6. To synthesize the results and the lessons learnt across the case studies in the different research themes with regard to social innovation and institutional interaction as the basis for evidence-based recommendations for policy measures and other support actions/tools for different city regions in Europe and in developing countries.
7. To organize the exchange of knowledge, sharing of experience and collaborative learning between different stakeholder groups (SMEs, policymakers, CSOs, NGOs, researchers) in different European city regions as well as between stakeholder groups in Europe and the global South and to disseminate the findings of this project to a wider audience comprised of different stakeholder target groups.

Project Results:
Agri-food dynamics and governance in city-regions (WP2)

Place remains enormously important in discussions about city-region food systems. Basic considerations such as weather and climate have a profound effect on local food systems, as well as land use and the recycling of nutrients. Topography plays a similar role with not all cities having agricultural land available and this issue often combines with seasons that restrict unprotected growing opportunities. These differences condition the rest of the discussion, as there may not be common technical solutions to growing, land use or recycling.

Economic crisis
The economic crisis plays the same role in conditioning the rest of the analysis as climate and topography. In certain places the economic crisis facilitates and accelerates changes, in others it holds back. For many people, particularly young people, it has greatly increased their insecurity, this can be in the form of household food insecurity or increasing the importance of the informal economy of trade or through families. Interest in having access to land has grown both as a potential future career and for personal food security (self-provisioning), expressed in the uptake of allotments or small family plots as well as larger pieces of land. This may become a factor in the drive towards the re-localisation of food although it is generally confined to horticulture and to relatively small scale initiatives.
The economic crisis has also altered the metabolism of the city with regards to demand for land, with the pressures on land use changing as commercial building activities become less prominent and ‘brownfield’ sites have a need to be re-valorised before being developed. This has given some projects and initiatives a short term opportunity to use space pending the resolution of its future use. It also appears to have had more subtle impacts on the imagination of policy makers, business people and civic activists. The model of economic development to be used in a city region has been questioned, as growth can no longer be assumed and the vulnerability of the local economy to external shocks is all too apparent. These ‘exogenous pressures’ on the city region, particularly as it relates to food production and consumption, create challenges for mainstream and alternative / short food provisioning systems but concomitantly ‘open up’ opportunities and spaces for new innovations to emerge and take hold.

Food shopping cultures
Most of the food in the studied city-regions is bought and sold through the multiple retailers, regional, national or international supermarkets. Efforts are undertaking by a variety of actors who are looking to create a different form of relationship between the city and rural areas through creating different food supply chains. As part of that effort many of the groups are working on changing the culture of food shopping, an effort shared between the city regions. The aim is to make it an activity freighted with a range of meanings and responsibilities that transform it from being a simple act of household / individual food shopping to become more an expression of aspirations, solidarity and identity with the locality. Generally, in this perspective, food needs to be produced organically, ‘traditionally’ or in a manner that eschews intensive use of artificial inputs, as well as coming from an enterprise that has a wider social mission than profit alone.
To complement and support this effort to make shopping more meaningful a range of businesses have become allied with these new short food chains. The organisational form of these businesses varies between family enterprises, charities, social enterprises, co-operatives and community supported initiatives, as well as sole traders but they are joined in being concerned with more than profit. A diversity of provisioning models is evident across the seven city-regions. In scope these enterprises are concerned with growing food – mostly vegetables and some meat products, basic processing and retailing through a range of means, such as street markets, stalls, small shops and box schemes. Although there are others that focus on the re-distribution of food that would otherwise become waste products or providing services to these new short food chains. None of these enterprises is very large, mostly micro and small businesses, with the occasional medium sized business. In part this is because of a commitment to the virtues of smallness but also because of the scale of opportunities in these chains.
Although an act of consumption, the proponents of these short food chains localised to the city, want shopping to become an act of active citizenship, of taking one’s responsibilities seriously and being seen to be doing so, alongside voting for the City council or participating in the formal mechanism of representative democracy. A priority is given to personal action, to institute social, ethical and environmental change around food, and in some city-region contexts studied this is seen to extend to recycling. As this is more than is required of citizens presently, at times it is difficult for policy makers and local politicians to encompass the demands being placed of the system of government.
A complementary activity to the form of shopping described above is self-provisioning. This can be in the form of gardening or allotment holding, gathering of wild fruits, poultry and pig keeping, as well as bee keeping and the basic processing of foods – preserving, pickling and brewing . This extends into the exchange of such goods through barter, or informal trading in the form of swapping. Although some of the land used for these activities is private – such as large gardens - much of it is rented from the local state such as in allotments or communally owned. In some city regions this can include family links back to rural areas that provide a supply of food. The purposes of this self-provisioning can range from the recreational to providing a supply of food that underpins the household’s food security. Self-provisioning has been seen by some as anachronistic, and an inefficient way of supplying urban populations with food. More recently studies have shown that it can be more a more significant way of supplying food to urban populations, perhaps less efficient than meaningful.

Within the discussion of the shortening of food chains, multi-functional land use and nutrient recycling, the presence of the multinational supermarkets is seen as problematic. There is a spectrum of experience in the city region reports ranging from that in Bristol where the multiples are both dominant and controversial, through to Rome where corner shops and street markets remain vital suppliers to most households. Supermarkets, or rather, the long supply chains they embody, are questioned for a wide range of reasons - the environmental damage presumed to be caused by shipping food across the planet, the increasing concentration of production and processing in larger facilities, the lack of authenticity of food stuffs and impersonal shopping experience. It is often felt and observed in the city-regions surveyed that the supermarkets re-shape urban space to their own ends, and it is felt they are very successful in doing so. It is argued that long food chains lead to monocultural agricultural landscapes and the same processes of standardisation are brought to the cityscape. Asking these questions of the long supply chains and supermarkets does not mean that they are responsible for these processes as charged by their opponents or are incapable of adaptation or change. Rather the process of challenge is useful for creating better answers through dialogue and debate.

Local state
The powers of the local state vary widely between the city-regions, reflecting the culture and history of the various member states. There are city-regions based in federal states that reflect considerable linguistic and cultural differences, those with considerable powers devolved to local authorities and those in more centralised states. The city region policies are set by elected politicians, who are organised in political parties with published manifestoes. Therefore although the mechanisms of governance are quite varied, the mechanisms of representation are broadly similar. A common theme from all the city region reports is that the themes of shortening food chains, multifunctional land use and nutrient recycling is only recently evident in the programmes of political parties seeking or gaining power at a city level.
The areas that city councils or authorities can influence with regard to food are in the realms of the provision of food to institutions that they control – such as schools, day care centres, and facilities for their own staff. This is a common response in the city regions although this has required authorities to work within the appropriate EU Directives with varying degrees of success. It is through their role in spatial planning that most councils can play a role in shortening food chains with regards to retailing opportunities, mostly through trying to enable street markets in various forms. The control of supermarkets, as part of an attempt to foster or protect smaller retailers, is a far more controversial step, and at times beyond the powers of the local state.
The local state can act to enable the creation of the shorter food chains more positively through the provision of land and multifunctional land use. In the provision of land for food production the municipal authorities have greater opportunities. For example, some own farms, others have land that can be made available for growing, and all appear to be able to create or permit the provision of allotments for personal use. Requiring new developments to encompass multi-functional land use – the provision of food, flood prevention measures and recreational spaces appears to be less developed as a standardized requirement. In part this is because the planning processes for land use takes some time to adopt any new requirement but also that policy makers, planners and developers are not agreeing on its importance.
Similar problems of path dependency beset the recycling of nutrients, as the local state is required by EU Directive (and/or national law) to dispose of ‘waste’ effectively as well as recycling materials. Although there are some community based initiatives most of their work is undertaken by large, often multinational, specialist businesses. This introduces another set of actors in the city region who are creating the processing facilities in the cityscape that will determine some of the metabolism of the city into the future. These contracts bind the local state and the contractors to a particular technological solution – incineration or anaerobic digestion for tens of years in order to recoup the investments made. Therefore as in spatial planning there are considerable time lags in change, but also the scope for innovative policies is limited by decisions made by previous elected administrations.
The role of policy actors is formally constituted, and has a legal expression but other individuals, groups and organisations play an important role in these discussions, and thus in shaping the city-region food systems. A commonly reported frustration amongst the citizens in the city-regions is that policy makers do not understand or share the perspective that food is an important tool in creating a sustainable city. There is variation in this perspective. This suggests that even relatively successful examples are not meeting the aspirations of some of those citizens involved in the food agenda in particular. In part this is because food cuts across so many areas of policy and responsibility, it is simultaneously a question of health, the environment, culture, business and economics. This is sometimes reflected in it being part of a clash between those who view it as being part of the role of the state, although a range of private sector actors currently controls the task of co-ordinating a complex and dynamic aspect of life.

Small and medium enterprises
There is a plethora of businesses that have a set of goals in which profit is only one, and often not the most important, that tend to be smaller or family enterprises, and which have become part of the short food chains. Some of the enterprises have been set up deliberately as vehicles to promote action in the city region, promoting particularly the production and exchange of local foods. Nutrient management and water, which are generally based on large scale infrastructure, are managed by larger businesses, often multi-nationals, that operate in highly regulated markets. These larger businesses tend to operate within the city region under the auspices of their corporate social responsibility aspirations. This in part reflects the market where the client is the local council rather than the citizen who uses the service provided. Businesses are significant actors within the city region, their influence and actions would appear to be closely determined by the form of market within which they are operating.

Forces and flows
Within the city regions there is a range of forces and flows that are either helping in the development of shortening food chains, increasing the multi-functionality of land use and nutrient recycling or stopping their development. The sheer complexity of multiple layers of government, can often lead, at best, to stasis. This level of complexity makes it hard for citizens to navigate the layers of government, and means that strategic actions can be difficult to co-ordinate, despite recognition that more flexible multi-level modes of governance are needed.
The local applications of EU Directives have been reported as a common blockage: particularly those around the procurement of local food. Here, blockages are seen to be due more to the implementation of the Directives than the Directives themselves, implying that the capacity and capabilities of the local state vary widely. In terms of practice this can result in local officials implementing Directives rigidly, whilst others become experts and seek to understand the potential gains for the city region. This may also be a reflection of the size and remit of the local state.
As noted earlier there is considerable citizen action around issues of food in particular, and a wide range of businesses are exploring innovations in closing the cycles around nutrients, water and food. This is in contrast to a general lack of interest within the political parties holding power in the city region in these topics. Specific issues defined locally as problems have a high political saliency but as broad themes the metabolism of the city as expressed in food, nutrients and water does not engage political attention. That these themes lie generally beyond the statutory role of the state, or are seen to be of little electoral salience, reflects perhaps a disjuncture between the vision of local citizens and certain businesses who see their city region as being the platform for new civic projects and that of elected politicians.
In none of the city-regions it is possible to identify a mechanism that would appear to allow for rapid and systemic change. Closer analysis that there are three flows that are driving change in the city regions, which suggests arguments for the necessity for rapid change and in one case a mechanism for effecting change:
1. As discussed above, a faction of motivated citizens in the city regions makes arguments about the cycles of food, nutrients and water because they perceive that there are immanent threats caused by environmental degradation. These can be local and focused on the body, such as arguments for local food fighting obesity through exercise, or local and global simultaneously, that lowering the carbon footprint of refuse recycling will mitigate climate change. Depending on the environmental beliefs of these citizens environmental degradation will lead to rapid social change, be that through resource depletion (Peak Oil) or through the localised impacts of global changes. Others frame their arguments more locally in the threats caused by environmental degradation, for example flooding. Those arguing this case see the threats as requiring urgent attention from, and rapid action by, policy makers. That these changes are viewed as being irreversible and unpredictable only adds to this sense of urgency.
2. The next flow is that of food insecurity in that one of the effects of the economic crisis has been that individuals/households are finding that they do not have an adequate supply of food. Some of the interest in self-provisioning is motivated by improving familial food security. Projects that re-distribute food to the vulnerable that might otherwise be wasted are becoming important actors in food discussions in some of the city regions. Rising food prices meeting diminished household budgets and the retrenchment of public services under austerity measures has seen questions of food insecurity posed as a reason to consider the food system afresh. These arguments are emerging and not yet fully accommodated in the discussions within the city regions, rising in salience during the period of this research.
3. In all city-regions the impacts of one accelerator were noted, but did not specifically identify it as such - the EU Waste Directive. It might be unfashionable in many of the city regions but this EU Directive has been instrumental in re-defining how waste is treated and creating in most of them an infrastructure for processing it. It has been implemented in different ways and with a range of impacts but it demonstrates the effect of EU wide legislation. This was rarely contested and the most frequent criticism was that it had fostered a technocratic set of solutions to the issue, without civic involvement but mostly its role was unacknowledged.

The city regions display a diversity of forms of governance from the direct democracy of Zurich, where citizens vote frequently on a range of topics, through to the very nationally centralised system in Bristol where the UK government takes many major decisions and citizens vote infrequently. The local state has greatest engagement with spatial planning issues, and in some cases legal responsibility for such decisions. This means that the implementation of the policies in particular instances is highly controversial and sometimes leads to protracted debate. Often there are priorities set by the national state, or processes of appeal that take those decisions from the local state. The implementation of the EU Waste Directive means that most municipal authorities have some control, usually through specifying and letting contracts, over waste recycling. The provision of food has not been within the powers of most municipal authorities. It is therefore a paradox that organised groups of citizens in all of the city-regions are asking for the local state to take on new responsibilities and adjust their currently limited capacities to address issues of food provision. The lack of involvement by the local state in food reflects perhaps a lag between societal agendas and governance structures but is also a democratic gap, as control of food is conducted by private enterprises. This imperative for action with regards to food provision is not solely from citizen groups, but also from technical advances in agriculture and architecture. Both these reflect discussions about greenhouse gas mitigation and questions of food security.

City-region food systems in the global South (WP3)

Lessons learnt from the global South about short food supply chains, multifunctional (peri-) urban agriculture and urban waste recovery and reuse are based on inventory of 67 cases and subsequent detailed analysis of 26 case studies. For the thematic area short food supply chain delivery an inventory of 21 experiences was made, while 8 cases were analysed in detail. For the thematic area of multifunctional (peri-) urban agriculture the inventory consisted of 16 experiences, while 7 in-depth case studies were documented. Finally, for the thematic area waste recovery and reuse an inventory was made of 30 experiences and 11 cases were subject to detailed case study analysis.

Food policy
The development of urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA) and urban food provisioning systems are increasingly considered an important part of sustainable and resilient urban development by local governments in the global South. Policies and plans developed often integrate a range of different policy domains and objectives (including waste management, food security, poverty alleviation, climate change adaptation) and cover both the production, distribution and consumption aspects of the city region food system.

Some of the local food policy efforts already have a longer history, as is the case for Rosario and Belo Horizonte, which have well-developed policy frameworks for the development and promotion of UPA and urban food provisioning systems that date back to the 1990s. Also programmes like the former Urban Harvest programme (CIP- CGIAR), the Food for the Cities implemented by FAO and projects implemented by the RUAF Foundation such as Cities Farming for the Future (2005-2010) and From Seed to Table (2009-2011) have been instrumental in the development of policy frameworks for the development of urban agriculture and urban food distribution systems in a several cities in the global South. This trend is also expressed by the 2013 Mayors Declaration that was adopted at the Resilient Cities Congress in Bonn (2 June 2013) of the International Association of Local Governments for Sustainability ICLEI. The Mayors Declaration (World Mayors Council on Climate Change, 2013) at several points makes explicit reference to the key role of food systems within overall resilient city development when stating that.

Poverty alleviation and food security
The fact that policy frameworks for UPA and urban food provisioning systems have developed relatively strongly, and in several cases earlier, than in cities in the global North is at least partly an expression of the important role that UPA plays in cities of the global South as a means for poverty alleviation and realising food security at household and city level. UPA has traditionally represented an essential livelihood strategy for poor urban family households, and this role in recent decades has only become more prominent in response to increasing urban poverty and food insecurity in many countries of the global South. Apart from urban agriculture and gardening for self- consumption within the family household, urban and peri-urban food production also to a growing extent has become a commercially interesting economic activity contributing to income and job creation and to food security at city region level. Figures differ per city and for the type of products; however, for perishable products this may rise to 60% or more.

The contribution of UPA in cities in the global South to poverty alleviation and food security builds on a number of complementary mechanisms. First, it results to dietary improvement, especially by including more fresh vegetables and contributing to more diversified diets. Second, UPA practiced for personal use in some cases contributes significantly to food security at the level of the family household. The amount poor urban households produce (for) themselves differs widely between areas, some examples are e.g. East Jakarta: 18 %, Kampala: 50 % and Harare 60 %. However, food producing households in general are more resistant to economic crisis and increases in food prices than non-producing households. Third, UPA can make a substantial contribution in terms of income generation when produce is sold at local markets. The cash savings that are realized by this for example are used for buying staple foods, thereby also contributing to improved food security. Data on monthly net income generated from peri-urban vegetable production in different cities in Africa and Asia, indicates that - even when generated income in many cases may be insufficient to fully provide a living for the total household - important amounts of complementary family income are generated. Finally, urban and peri-urban agriculture also plays a significant contribution to employment generation in urban areas in the global South. While figures are scarce and no comparable indicators are available, they show that contributions of agricultural production to urban employment can be substantial, ranging from 15-20% of households involved in farming or gardening to up to 35-40% in some African and Chinese cities.

Multiple functions of UPA
In addition to its contributions to food security and poverty alleviation outlined above, UPA results in a considerable range of complementary social, ecological and economic benefits for city regions. These multiple benefits, on their turn, are important factors for the further development and valorisation of UPA and urban food provisioning systems within the city region and provide an important basis for their social and economic viability. Examples of multiple functions of urban agriculture and urban food provisioning systems that were encountered in the cases and consulted literature include the following:
• Providing leisure, education and training opportunities.
• Management of green infrastructures at lower cost and more efficient compared to open green space.
• Strengthening of social cohesion, safety and neighbourhood improvement.
• Employment generation, enterprise development and regional economic spinoff effects.
• Reduction of energy consumption related to urban food consumption: less transport, less cooled storage, less packaging.
• Productive and safe reuse of urban wastewater enabling food production close to consumers and reducing pressure on fresh water resources.
• Reduction of impact of floods and landslides by keeping flood plains free from construction, facilitating water filtration and storage, and reducing erosion.
• Reuse of nutrients in waste, resulting in less environmental pollution and reduced energy demand for collection and disposal of waste.
• Contribution to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Linkages and synergies
The case study examples demonstrate that there are important and strongly developed synergies between the different thematic areas of urban agriculture and urban food provisioning in the global South. The development of synergies between these areas (short food chains; waste and water recycling and multifunctional agriculture) therefore appears to be an important mechanism for the development of UPA and regionalized urban food systems. Synergies can be identified between all of the three thematic fields of study. Linkages between multifunctional (peri-) urban agriculture and short food supply chains appear to be the strongest. With respect to the cases studied for the thematic area multifunctional (peri-) urban agriculture, in 5 out of 7 cases (71%) a combination is established with short chain provisioning of food products (Rosario, Antananarivo, Casablanca, Minhang agri-tourism and Xijingyu village tourism), with short food chains either being the driver for other multiple functions (building on direct linkages between producers and consumers to also involve consumers in other activities like recreation or education) or multiple functions being expanded also with the provisioning of food. Examples are multifunctional activities in the area of agri-tourism (China cases) or education (for example Casablanca) which offer specific possibilities to develop short chain marketing. Or on the other hand, short food supply chain cases marketing organic or agro-ecologically produced food while at the same time providing other multiple functions such as flood zone management and city greening (e.g. in Rosario). In concordance, the studied experiences for the thematic area short food supply chains in a considerable number of cases are characterised by multifunctional forms of production. Actually, in various cases the multifunctional nature of urban agricultural production systems, and their contribution to social and ecological benefits beyond food production, appears to be an important factor in differentiating product quality and attracting consumer demand.

The thematic area of waste and wastewater recycling also has important synergies with the other thematic areas. On the one hand, waste and waste water recycling when combined with agriculture in itself can be considered a specific form of multifunctional (peri-) urban agriculture since it is a form of closing nutrient and water cycles at local level contributing to ecological sustainability. On their turn, short food supply chains promoting organic and agro-ecological production offer large opportunities to integrate a waste recycling component, as these rely on non-chemical forms of nutrient management (organic waste, compost).

An important question that emerges with respect to the issue of synergies between the thematic areas is at what scale/level these are exactly found and constructed. This can be done at the level of the project, such as is the case with combining education, ecological production and short chain marketing in the example of Casablanca. There are other cases where synergies rather occur, and appear to be most effectively constructed at the level of the city or city region as a whole. This is illustrated by the cases of Belo Horizonte or Rosario where combinations between distinctive, agroecological production and short chain distribution are constructed through institutional arrangements at larger, city regional, scale. This difference also poses important questions about what are the most appropriate governance levels and forms of policy support to facilitate the construction of synergies.

(Re-) building linkages and networks within the city-region food system
The case studies, apart from underlining the importance of multi-functionality and synergies between the three thematic fields, suggests that the development of urban agriculture and urban food provisioning systems to a large extent builds upon the (re-)creation and strengthening of networks and linkages at city-regional level, many of which have previously been broken in earlier processes of economic globalisation and specialisation.

The relevant networks and linkages that are involved in this process of re-localisation and reconnection are various. Amongst others they include linkages and networks between food producers and consumers, (re-) localised processing and distribution
systems, (food) waste recovery and reuse, productive activities and ecological sustenance mechanisms, but also between market and non-market functions of (peri-) urban agriculture and food provisioning activities.

Envisioning a city regional food system in which different elements of the food production and consumption system constitute an integral part of wider city region development, requires another conceptualisation of how we look at food systems. While food systems are generally conceived as a linear sequence of different stages from production through distribution and consumption to waste, an integrated vision rather demands a circular vision of different aspects of the food system which are repeated in time and are (potentially) interconnected with different types of feedback loops, interaction and recovery and reuse cycles.

Business opportunities and business models
This synthesis done on the basis of 67 experiences and 26 in-depth case studies with UPA and urban food provisioning systems in the areas of multifunctional agriculture, short food supply chains and waste recovery/re-use demonstrates clearly that there are many interesting, localised, though often small-scale, experiences to learn from in the global South. The general, overall challenge that emerges from this study is how to upscale and apply these at the level of the city-region and how to expand and disseminate existing, promising experiences to localities elsewhere.

A key element that emerges in all thematic areas is the importance to better understand and define business opportunities and business models. A considerable range of business opportunities can be identified in all of the thematic areas, even though it is not always clear yet to what extent this implies an economic viability in traditional business terms. Clear business models as well as entrepreneurial skills and capacities appear from the analysis to be important success factors. A better insight in options to create value or reduce costs is needed in all respects. However, it is also clear that SMEs cannot create successful business models alone; network creation is essential. The cases have shown a variety of business models and types: intermediate SMEs, producer-led SMEs, cooperative initiatives, franchise models, government-led businesses, etc. Cutting across these business types are different business aims: cost saving, cost recovery, revenue generation, profit maximisation, portfolio diversification, social enterprises, etc. These examples have shown that clear business models are important, but that they should always be attuned to the specific contextual setting and historical conditions which determine the success or failure of a case.
In all of the analysed cases, the important role of opportunities for support measures by local and regional public administrations for the development of UPA and re-localised urban food provisioning systems is highlighted.

Most of the cases see an important role for the public authorities and policy makers in the facilitation of SME development in short food supply chains, multifunctional agriculture and waste recycling. Clearly, in some situations policy plays a more prominent role than in others; this is also related to the phase of development and life cycle stage of cases. However there is a general agreement on the pivotal role of policy makers with respect to aspects such as:
• awareness raising and capacity building capacity on the potential societal benefits of urban and peri-urban agriculture amongst citizens, policy makers, consumers, etc.;
• enhancing information on, and access to, critical resources such as land, knowledge, etc.;
• better legal recognition of and support to UPA activities and practices;
• establishing close, longer-term network relations between UPA practitioners and policy makers to facilitate mutual learning and understanding;
• active creation of markets and infrastructure, and stimulation of public procurement;
• more integrated policy and spatial-planning approaches;
• more SME-sensitive regulations and support systems.

Importance of balanced mix of (market, public and civic) governance mechanisms
The development of initiatives for urban and peri-urban agriculture as well as short chain food provisioning initiatives are to a different degree driven by initiatives of market parties (including producers), government agencies and civil society. An analysis of the role and relative weight of different food governance mechanisms based on market governance, public governance and civil society organisation therefore appears to be an important tool to analyse success factors.

On the basis of the analysed set of case studies it can be said that generally initiatives which build on a balanced and complementary mix of governance mechanisms (e.g. through public-private partnerships, multi-stakeholder platforms and an increased role for SMEs) appear to be relatively successful and more resilient. In general, a clear vision on urban and peir-urban agriculture (in all its aspects of and linkages to multi-functionality, shorts food supply chains and resource recovery) within integrated policy-frameworks, for example established in the form of a well-defined Urban Food Policy or Strategy document, could be the starting point. Sustainable food policies urgently need a more effective and more transparent system of multi-level governance if it is to gain political traction. Food Policy Councils or multi-stakeholder platforms can give voice and profile to the multi-functionality of food and urban agriculture. The issues of disintegrated policy fields, limiting regulatory frameworks and contradictory governance systems are mentioned as important hampering factors.

Designing more experimental space within regulatory frameworks would boost developments and assist in dealing with conflicts involving differentiating sustainability and land-use claims. In turn, such experimental space can also stimulate the creation of new coalitions that can better deal with the diverse issues to which UPA gives rise. Clearly, extra financial budgets for UPA and more creative use of available public funding is also necessary to further explore UPA benefits and potentials.

Need to define clear exit strategy for policy and external support
Notwithstanding the important role of policy, there is a danger of a too strong, one-sided, dependence on external funding and policy support, which can make urban agriculture and food provisioning initiatives excessively vulnerable in the case of government change or imposed budget cuts. It is therefore important that policy support is well-defined and focused, policy implementation activities to the extent possible are taken over by market-based organisation forms (in a gradual phasing-out strategy), and that a clear exit-strategy for externally funded policy support is formulated. This all keeping in mind that certain government support functions (e.g. food security of vulnerable social categories, sanitation) correspond to the core activities of public administrations and never can be fully transferred to markets. Social aims then prevail and cannot be replaced by market goals.

In some of the cases intermediate SMEs (of which Harvest of Hope, Cape Town or
Schaduf in Cairo are examples that were analysed in this study) may take over a “business role”, functioning themselves as a business and breaking even/making profit, while supporting specific social groups of beneficiaries that deliver products to the business. This is especially a relevant option in situations where direct beneficiaries involved in UPA have (initial) insufficient capacities and education levels themselves and where these can also not be easily remediated e.g. by training or capacitation activities.

10 11
Connecting flows and closing loops (WP4)

Waste as a Resource: Sustainability Perspectives
For centuries, the focus of waste management has been reducing or removing waste. The recognition that waste is a misplaced resource has changed the perspective of waste management towards sustainable resource management. Three sustainability perspectives are relevant to closing the nutrient, water and urban waste cycles: urban metabolism, circular economy and the ‘blue economy’. These perspectives embody different but cross-cutting technological and social-economic principles with increasing emphasis on creating value from resources that are currently viewed as waste streams.

Diversity of initiatives
At present, the aim of closing the cycles of nutrient, water, and urban waste has been identified as having many potential synergies. In pursuit of this aim, a wide range of public and private sector initiatives have been instigated. These initiatives are based on a legitimate diversity of understandings of, and beliefs about, the dynamics between these themes. And they have developed through the actions of a wide range of actors in a diversity of policy contexts.

Possibilities and challenges
In the last decade more efforts have been made in cities to better recycle waste, nutrients and water. The analysis of the case studies in the three city regions was mainly focussed on urban biogenic wastes and peri-urban biogenic waste management. It showed that, depending on the regional context, the approaches and organisational/business models can be quite different. The national and regional policies (e.g. waste, land use, water protection and energy laws and regulations) can have a significant influence.

The initiatives in three city-regions (Rotterdam, Vigo and Zurich) have identified a wide range of technical and market possibilities, but were also confronted with a variety of technical, organisational, market, and institutional challenges. Reflections on their experiences and consultation with related stakeholders have resulted in lessons learnt and new opportunities for future developments.

Challenges in achieving sustainability
Generally, it is recognized that (biogenic) waste is not only something to get rid of, but has an economic value as resource for different usages. Therefore more and more cost-efficiency considerations, both for public administrations as well as for market actors, get more important. This has led to larger centralised waste plants (with energy use) in the cities (e.g. like in Zurich, Vigo, and Rotterdam).
At the same time, smaller decentralised waste operations have been established in the peri-urban and rural areas. Often these are farmer groups, companies or organisations making compost from green waste from municipalities, horticulturists or from common land areas. This compost has often different qualities and usages. These usages are not only recycling biogenic waste but also creating co-benefits for the society like maintaining soil fertility and organic matter, landscape diversity and recreational quality or even reducing the risks of fire (like in Vigo). But in some cases biogenic wastes have directly been used to produce food (producing mushrooms on coffee waste substrate as in Rotterdam).
Further progress regarding efficient and sustainable biogenic waste management is hindered by regulatory constraints and difficulties in accessing finance. Furthermore, when such systems are realised, it is difficult to measure their precise sustainability performance due to the technical and organisational complexity. A waste targeted hierarchy, as used by the European Union Waste Directive, can give some orientation. However, we need to verify these general assumptions with regard to their costs and benefits in particular in local contexts.

Challenges in obtaining institutional approval
Laws and regulations still define some waste streams as waste in the sense of garbage to be disposed of. Ingredients that can be or have been up-scaled are not always officially recognised in their new role as valuable resources (i.e. kitchen wastes not recognised as animal feed). This means substantial adjustments are needed in the respective regulations to enable initiatives following the philosophy of a blue economy.

Challenges in obtaining social acceptance
As most initiatives concern practices that are alternatives to mainstream practices, they have to overcome many challenges to obtain social acceptance. An important issue influencing social acceptance is the choice of organisation and scale of the technical processes. Both large-scale centralised and small-scale decentralised processes face challenges in obtaining social acceptance, sometimes due to lack of awareness, other times due to resistance to environmental or behavioural changes. For example, separate garbage collection for large-scale waste processing facilities requires behavioural change of large group of consumers. It is a great challenge to organise such behavioural change on a large scale. In decentralised processes where small-scale local solutions are applied, such behavioural change might be easier to realise as people who produce the waste also process it and benefit from its recycling. However, the technical knowledge and competence required by such processes pose challenges as well to the functioning of such processes. Considering the different advantages and disadvantages of centralised and decentralised processes, the two systems are complementary in obtaining social acceptance of closing the waste cycles.
Another issue negatively influencing the social acceptance is the possible nuisance (odour, noise, etc.) related to collecting and processing of organic waste. This is more relevant if decentralised waste processing takes place in residential environment rather than on industrial sites.
The challenge becomes more complicated when food production is involved. We are only beginning to see business cases where the closing of nutrient cycles is used a positive attribute to market the food that has been produced. Food is a multi-attribute product, which means general principles from industrial ecology may not apply to food when it is grown with inputs previous classified as waste. There are sanitary and legal issues here, but also issues of culture and taste. For example, when coffee waste is used to grow mushrooms, it is readily accepted by consumers. Insects grown on food waste, however, discourage the appetite of consumers not used to eating insects. New ways of valorising wastes must therefore take into account positive or negative cultural influences.

Challenges in business modelling
Different types of business models for waste management exist in different countries, but power relations and ownership arrangements differ, resulting in different access to resources. Such differences explain the difference in the realisation of business models.
In closing the waste and nutrient cycles, business model development of different initiatives is a dynamic process in different stages. While some initiatives have established their business model, other initiatives are still developing and testing different processes of the business models. For examples insect growing for producing proteins for human consumption or feeding of animals is still in experimental stages, composting is fairly well established.
Particularly, it is difficult to establish business models at the higher levels of the EU waste hierarchy.
For business models that are functional on a smaller scale (e.g. with decentralised technology), it remains a challenge to scale up the operations. Two main reasons are: 1) organisational complexity and investment increase exponentially when more and more waste streams are involved in the circular economy; 2) The locally limited supply and fluctuation (due to e.g. seasonality) of wastes and co-products imposes constraints on the choice of scale. More adapted systems are needed where multiple uses of waste might compensate the higher costs (e.g. high quality compost and energy to be used locally).

Development pathways: regime versus bottom-up initiatives
The multi-level transition theory has been used as a common framework to describe, analyse and understand success and failure of initiatives at different levels and with different scales. Despite potential advantages of decentralised solutions in closing the cycles, current regime in general still favours large-scale centralised specialised waste processing rather than community-based, decentralised multipurpose waste processing. This is not only due to economic considerations such as the economies of scale, but also due to practical requirements such as safety and robustness.
Although there are good reasons for centralised regime to open up for decentralised solutions, there are also obstacles. Examples of obstacles are licensing the proper locations, funding, and certain rules and regulations, sanitary rules, food safety regulations, and fertilizer definitions.
To conclude, societal transformation is needed to close the urban waste, nutrient, and water cycles. The jury is still out whether this would result from alternative networks competing with and eventually prevailing over conventional institutions. The current situation shows that alternative networks can be complementary or in competition with the conventional system. Large-scale centralised systems will likely co-exist with small-scale decentralised systems. It is likely that their innovations will eventually be adopted and incorporated by established players. The competition between different systems will always be present. Such competition stimulates innovation. In order to succeed, SMEs have to be more inventive and service-oriented in producing benefits for the society. Examples of such benefits are positive environmental externalities like improved soil quality, local services, and reduced ‘waste’-miles in local waste-management processes.

Short chain delivery of food in urban and peri-urban areas (WP5)

This work package (WP) focused on the analysis from a sustainability perspective of the short food chains strategies, dynamics and impacts of selected SMEs and their suppliers. Furthermore, the study explored the relevance and forms of their relations with the partners and with the territory they are operating in. The starting point for doing this was to explore logistical strategies that make regional food delivery systems more sustainable while remaining economically viable, including addressing issues of scale. The purpose was to better understand and assess the sustainability of short food supply chains (SFSC) and identify practical ways in which SME's can assess their own business sustainability and related wider impacts – impacts on themselves, on their suppliers and on their customers. The premise for the work was that we can only really assess SFSC sustainability by taking a holistic approach to the whole of the short (and transparent) food supply chain in which the SMEs are involved.
WP5 activities have been conducted in close cooperation between the three research partners and the three SME partners: from specialised food retailers - Willem and Drees in the Netherlands and Pico Bio in Switzerland to a peri-urban farm with direct selling - Cooperativa Agricoltura Nuova, in Italy. Collaboration was also fostered with f3 local food consultants from UK, which provided its expertise in the design and implementation on tools for data collection within this WP.
Willem and Drees (W&D), is a grocery wholesaler specifically dedicated to short chain delivery. Its headquarters are in Cothen, a small town in the centre of the Netherlands. They collect local seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables that are delivered though different logistic arrangements to supermarkets, individual shops, wholesalers, restaurants and catering companies. They enlarged their geographical scope to the entire Netherlands, so there is not a specific urban area they are linked to.
Pico Bio is a food wholesaler sourcing goods from smaller producers and delivering it to the gastronomy in Zurich as well as to local shops and retailers. Pico Bio collaborates with 50 producers and 42 processors (mostly dairies and butchers). Its main delivery area is within a radius of 30 km radius around Zurich and their agglomeration. Seasonal vegetables and fruits are sourced within Switzerland, but with a main focus on few farms in the Zurich region.
The Cooperative Agricoltura Nuova (CAN) is a farm established in a green area in the southern outskirts of Rome, which produces fresh and processed food. A cooperation is also established with other producers (mainly from Lazio region but also beyond) to widen the range of produce, sold through a range of short-chain channels (direct selling, box schemes, on-farm restaurant). Besides, the farm delivers multifunctional services, providing spaces for leisure activities, locations for meetings and educational farming.

Logistics efficiency is regarded as a key aspect for the business in the three cases. Small or medium sized businesses aiming at focusing on social issues can hardly rely upon some traditional strategies to increase efficiency based on large scales and predictability of business-related events. On the contrary they have to cope with the risk of wasting time, efforts and resources for transport that is not perfectly managed to minimize empty runs or other inefficiencies. Both W&D and Pico Bio, both retailers for which logistics is to some extent the core itself of their activity, do pay attention on planning logistics at a medium (yearly) and short (weekly) terms, with logistics plans that contribute to shaping the whole activity and the business plan itself of the companies.
CAN has less capacity in this regard, as decisions are taken on a daily basis and less formally, because of the difficulty to manage this issue more formally, but also with the idea that planning "too much" would betray the "alternative" code of production and mutual trust within the farm.
In general terms attention to these issues is more due to the need to keep costs as low as possible, and less to ecological concerns, which are anyway considered.
Arrangements to minimize food miles (and in more general terms to minimize the distance travelled) can often be found through agreements with external players, or by hiring an external transport company (as in the CAN case) which can achieve some scale of economy and efficiency by working with various companies. As argued for the W&D case, "in local food chains you cannot survive if you do not collaborate" and collaboration among small players does make logistics more robust even for local-based players.
A similar cooperative attitude can be found in making some use of unsold food and to recycle other materials. Again this is a need which matches both ecological concerns and the need to reduce waste and costs.

Impact on the local economy
This section, as well as the next one, deals with the relationship of the SMEs with their local context. Any further comment must be preceded, then, by the consideration that the concept of "local" is different for the three respondents. W&D, in particular, considers "local" referring to the whole country. Pico Bio has a very different idea of the concept, as local is considered within 20 km from the company, and even the regional context is regarded as within 60 km. CAN’s understanding of the concept is, in distance terms, similar to Pico Bio, with the specification that they are dealing with an area dominated by the large metropolitan areas of Rome, which counts about 3 million inhabitants in itself.
This provided, all the SMEs rank highly the relevance of geographical localness for their business. Nevertheless this overall approach varies significantly according to the aspect of their business at stake. With regard to sourcing, they tend to rely upon local suppliers as much as possible, but whenever needed suppliers are found also in other regions or in other country, the focus being customers' satisfaction. Less relevance is given to localness in the employees selection and in relation to the customers.
Business profitability and customers’ satisfaction, but also social concerns tend to prevail over the mere geographical proximity. To give an example, Pico Bio tends to prefer sourcing from small-scale farmers in other regions vis-à-vis larger scale (and probably more efficient) suppliers in the Zurich area. It is explicitly argued that, being Zurich a rich area, there is a trade-off between reducing food miles and supporting weak farmers. In the CAN case, the fact of being in the outskirts of Rome means that quite often local players are also stronger and more powerful than players settled in the regional countryside or beyond. Supporting weak players and being independent from mainstream industrialized channels seem to play a much more central role in this kind of choice.
Again, the attention to the price level as a condition to make their products affordable for consumers is not perceived in terms of "helping the poor" or "supporting the local". All the SMEs try to produce and/or deliver affordable food for business-related reasons, and also with the aim of providing even not rich people with quality food, but localness does not play a role in this regard.

Relationship with local community
The different nature of the three SMEs influence the ways in which relationships with local communities are established, and even their relevance.
W&D and Pico Bio do not own a farm which can be a physical place where local communities can go and spend few hours. In this sense their actual social interaction with the community (more than the visibility in itself) is limited. Besides, both the SMEs have customers which are not end consumers. On the contrary, CAN have a farm open to visitors, in a nice green environment, where end consumers can go and spend some time, and where children and students are invited to experience the didactical farm opportunities.
Another difference is the geographical dimension of their activity. W&D in particular have a country-wide activity which makes it difficult for them to engage in close relations with a specific community.
These premises underlined, there certainly is a commitment to the establishment of relationships with local communities at different levels. Having regular communication with customers is felt to be an important aspect of their activity (more for W&D than for Pico Bio). The same can be said with regard to their suppliers. These latter relationships are anyway strictly internal to the supply chains. W&D reveals interest in an engagement with end consumers to communicate information about the food they consume. Social media and participation in public debates are the means though which these links are created, alongside the organization of special events.
Attention paid to cultural elements are higher for CAN, which emphasizes the artisanal ways of productions of its processed food, and the historical roots of some recipes in the ancient past of Rome.
Cooperation with local institutions and other public agencies is generally not high. Something more can be witnessed in relation to the research organizations (the participation to SUPURBFOOD is in itself an example of this engagement).
With regard to more business-related elements, like workers' selection and food prices fixation, and in analogy with what argued in the previous paragraph, relationships with local communities are not central in the decision making process. Business sustainability and respecting social values regardless of spatial dimensions are certainly a priority.

Lessons learnt
The main learning outcomes can be summarized as follows:
1. short food chain retailers play an important role for their suppliers, with which they share values and goals, yet not necessary fundamental for their survival. Yet farmers do not regard these retailers as merely one among their market channels: they are fond of keeping the relations alive as they appreciate aspects like personal trust, shared values, fair business relations;
2. economic factors are important for these SMEs, as well are the ecological ones, but the social value of their activity emerges as the most valuable factor and a lot of efforts is made by the partners in this concern;
3. urban and peri-urban contexts, with the concentration of committed consumers and other supportive actors can be a cradle for the development of high quality short food chains;
4. "short food supply chain" is an expression that should not only consider the mere number of steps or the geographical distance between producers and end consumers. It should also, and maybe mainly, consider transparent communication between farmers and consumers, as well as the possibility to have a certain degree of control on the chain through supporting small scale and locally or regionally rooted players;
5. a joint project between business and research partners is highly enriching for both, but a frequent check on the aims and objectives of the work, represented in this project by the updating of the dynamic learning agenda, is required;
6. relevant innovations are, for short food chain SMEs, not separable from the overall development pathways and from their uninterrupted process of adaptation to a changing environment. The design of the innovation to be explored must take this consideration into account.

Policy recommendations
Besides, some policy recommendations emerged, mainly aiming at giving short food chains the possibility to be more efficient, flexible and diversified despite their small scale, in a sector characterised by perishable products, exposure to climate events, and seasonality.
1. food safety norms, while respecting hygiene standards, could be adapted to make it less difficult for small scale businesses to optimize their daily activities minimizing time, transports costs and time and food losses. Norms on food and leftovers transports and norms on products shelf life are among the sensitive issues for short food chain actors.
2. with regard to farmers engaged in short chains, an adequate regulation is helpful to grant them the possibility to share resources and workforce (through forms of network contract) and products (facilitating barter exchanges).
3. norms facilitating access to public spaces for SFSCs-related activities in the municipalities can be crucial. Farmers' and street markets need spaces easily visible and accessible as well as endowed with adequate facilities and infrastructures.
4. access to public meals procurement in particular to school canteens, is a crucial factor for the development of short food chains and it is relevant for both farmers and retailers. Norms encouraging short chains access to these markets can greatly support their development.
A more general policy concern, mainly relevant for the municipal level, is related to the need for a stronger coordination between offices and departments in charge of the wide range of issues related to food production, food distribution, food poverty, and urban agriculture.

Multifunctional use of (peri-)urban space (WP6)

Urbanization processes cause significant challenges in terms of sustainable development of cities. Despite the many differences between European cities, the majority have to deal with social challenges related to ageing, household fragmentation, individualization and increasing income disparities. This in turn has deepened problems of social polarization and segregation, aggravating conditions in poor neighbourhoods in terms of education, employment, housing and basic services. Additionally, the majority of the European cities experience congestion, poor air quality and noise pollution. Processes of urban sprawl, finally, have put pressure on (peri-)urban ecosystems causing biodiversity losses and water management problems (water scarcity as well as flooding).
These challenges are usually approached in isolation, rather than as a connected set of issues associated with urban life. Examples of this are evident in land use conflicts, where different parties may disagree on the prioritization of commercial, environmental or social interests. This piecemeal approach to city development is particularly striking in relation to urban and peri-urban food production systems, which are often characterized by a scarcity of productive land, a predominance of SME-scale food businesses, and a cosmopolitan and dynamic population which depends on a reliable, affordable and safe food supply. The project results indicate that the opposite to a piece-meal approach is needed. Specifically, SUPURBFOOD suggests that through the facilitation of multifunctional urban food initiatives (MUFIs), many different functions can be combined, and that powerful synergies can be created so that each activity can perform better, and the city as a whole benefits.
There is a growing body of literature dealing with the potential of urban food initiatives to alleviate contemporary cities’ problems, which can be situated at the three dimensions of sustainability. Potential economic effects of urban food initiatives are the creation of jobs, stimulating innovation and the possibility to reduce food expenditures. In terms of social effects, urban food initiatives can improve access to fresh and healthy food. Health benefits can, however, also originate from the recreational aspect and physical activity associated with food production. Additionally, many initiatives depend on or originate from community involvement, enhancing as such a common social and cultural identity and enriching local communities and their social capital. Finally, the potential ecological effects of urban food initiatives can involve reducing urban heat island effects; mitigating stormwater impacts; lowering energy use by reducing the need for food transport; reducing urban waste streams through composting of urban organic waste; amenity provision; and promoting shifts in environmental consciousness. This list of potential beneficial effects is not exhaustive, but it does clearly show that there is more to food than just the nutritional value; food can frame “multilayered challenges” in a city and provides an integrative foundation to address social, environmental and economic problems, helping to create a just and sustainable city.
Through an in-depth investigation of three multifunctional urban food initiatives (MUFIs) in the UK, Latvia and Belgium, the project has explored how different activities are combined within MUFIs, and which problems can arise in the process. A specific focus has been the creation and strengthening of synergies, referring to an impact that is greater than the sum of the effects produced by the same activities taking place in isolation from each other; first between the different activities performed within MUFIs, and secondly the spatial synergy between the MUFI and the (peri-)urban environment in which it operates.

Short description of the MUFIs
The Bristol Community Farm (CF) in southwest England is “an organic, not for profit growing community” (The Community Farm, 2014) which occupies 22 acres (9 ha) of agricultural land, although only about a quarter of this area is cultivated. Members took over the farming, a seasonal fruit and vegetable retail delivery (veg-box) scheme and wholesale business, as a not-for-profit co-operatively owned organisation in April 2011. The initiative currently employs 15 people and delivers organic vegetables throughout the Bath and Bristol Area. The farm is owned by its 500 members who are able to vote at the annual general meeting. The Community Farm aims to a) transform farming through organic production on member-owned land and ‘healthy’ food distribution direct to members’ homes; b) grow vegetables and fruit in the most sustainable way; c) link a diverse membership to where their food is produced; d) contribute to the resilience of food security, the local economy, and to the development of a self-sustaining, low-carbon food and farming system; and e) increase knowledge of growing, giving hands-on experience and the chance to acquire new skills offered to people from all walks of life. The Community Farm creates opportunities to learn about food production by involving volunteers. It has a social role, by offering apprenticeships to members of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation programme, and is also committed to improving the environment, aiming to minimize carbon emissions, for example, and managing the land in line with organic principles.

RoomeR is a small enterprise owned by two brothers. They produce an alcoholic beverage based on the flowers of the elderberry tree (Sambucus nigra). The production of this aperitif started at a very small scale in grandmothers’ attic and the garage of the owners, but slowly developed into a well-established local business producing on average 50,000 liters per year in a little factory in the city centre of Ghent, Belgium. The business consciously made the decision not to produce elderflowers on a farm plot but rather to gather the flowers from trees located in different green areas in and around the city of Ghent. Yearly, the company collects on average 1200 kg of elderflowers. The initiative has a strong social commitment. They cooperate with a sheltered workplace for the bottling of RoomeR. Furthermore they often involve students in the development and production of new machines and they invite schools and other social groups on factory tours, explaining the story of Roomer. Moreover, they continuously aim to improve their environmental performance by recycling water, reducing packaging, using bike transport etc. RoomeR is an official regional product as well. They first supplied local restaurants, cafés and festivals and are now expanding towards supplying supermarkets, also outside the city.

The Kalnciema Quarter (KQ) in Riga, Latvia, is an ensemble of buildings representing 18th/19th century wooden architecture in which a weekly farmers’ market operates, alongside with many other non-food activities. The growers’-only market is the largest in Latvia now. Originally developed as an enterprise promoting renovation of wooden buildings, KQ has branched out significantly based on sustainable lifestyle values. KQ is a well-known public space in Riga, which has become a cultural and business centre that hosts festivals, lectures, concerts, cinema, exhibitions, design shops, a restaurant, an architect’s studio, etc. Due to its popularity and established base of customers (about 100 000 visitors per year), KQ can combine its profit making, social, and innovation-promotion goals. The ownership of the place combines several legal forms, both as SMEs and civic associations tailored to the many faces of the KQ. In most cases, the weekly markets (in December even twice a week – on Saturday and Sunday) have a specific theme, thus always offering new experiences. The market has developed its own contact list of farmers, has a stable circle of customers, and it has developed its own unofficial quality scheme for farmer selection (largely enforced by vendors’ mutual monitoring). To a large degree it has also reached its spatial limits. Meanwhile, KQ is open to other activities: various cultural, creative and educational events, about 20 new non-market events a month. For a number of years, KQ has been a popular place for interns, mostly students of culture management. The latest project, aiming to leave the physical constraints of the place, is the development and launch of an online platform for people related to markets (as visitors, vendors or managers) globally.

Creating synergies

The analysis of the three MUFIs clearly shows that through the combination of food with other activities, that may be culturally very different such as care and cultural activities, synergies at the level of the MUFI and the city itself can indeed be created. The Community Farm (CF), a CSA in Bristol, combines the organic production and sales of food and vegetables with a volunteering operation, education and care in the framework of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation programme. The extra activities taken up allow the CF to better cope with peaks in the demand for field labour and save on labour costs. At the same time, however, there are clear societal benefits in the form of social reintegration of people, education on healthy and nutritious food, and social and health benefits for the group of volunteers who enjoy working together in nature. RoomeR combines the production of an alcoholic aperitif, on the basis of elderflowers foraged by locals on (mostly) public land in the Ghent city region, with an environmental mission, focusing on recycling and landscape care, and a social mission, cooperating with a sheltered workshop for manual bottling, local schools for internships, businesses, organisations, etc. This way of working allows them to save on costs for buying land, machinery and consultancy, and at the same time the local anchoring guarantees a loyal community of customers. Being multifunctional has also given them access to an interest free loan. Next to the environmental benefits linked to their way of working, it also adds value to an otherwise wasted product, provides meaningful employment for people who cannot find a place in the regular labour circuit, and adds to community building. Finally, Kalnciema Quarter (KQ), located on a site in Riga famous for its wooden 18/19th century architecture, combines a local food and crafts market with culture and leisure activities. Here the concept of internal synergies is very clear as the quarter, although it was visually very attractive, only started to flourish once the food market was established. The cultural events then attracted even more, and also a wider variety of customers. In terms of external synergies KQ contributes to community building by bringing together a diverse group of local people, it creates awareness about healthy food and nutrition and also provides an opportunity for local farmers and craftspeople to earn an extra income.

The three cases demonstrate that being located in a dense and complex city environment creates specific opportunities to be multifunctional, “layer value” and create synergies. It is the dense human capital present in city regions, who often have specific needs such as connecting more with nature, that allowed the CF and RoomeR to easily find extra labour at peak moments. It also allowed the CF to find the necessary financial support for the CSA and RoomeR to save on technical and marketing costs through the various cooperations with local schools and universities. RoomeR moreover benefits from the dense city environment as it allows them to distribute their products through bike transport, thereby increasing sustainability, and to link to an already well-established city tourism as a certified regional product. Finally, the dense cultural capital present in the city allows KQ to create an interesting cultural programme, complementing the food market, at a relatively low cost.

The important role of networking in the creation of synergies around food is evident in the three cases. All of them have built a complex and dynamic network with a wide range of actors: other local businesses, social organisations, consumers, schools, cultural organisations, individual artists or other local people, etc. Although the dense city environment has created more opportunities for them to easily link to a variety of actors, managing this extensive network demands a lot of time, efforts and skills as it requires managers to speak different “languages” and be confronted with a variety of regulations in different fields (e.g. food safety, environmental regulations, regulations regarding the use of volunteers, spatial planning, etc.). As a result of not fitting into one specific box, the MUFIs are constantly involved in a learning process, which, with limited staff, can be very time consuming. Managing multifunctionality thus requires good entrepreneuring skills, also because the different activities are interlinked and often compete for attention, funds and time. The complex decision-making MUFIs are faced with is well illustrated by the following quote from a manager of the CF: “The most important thing for the Community Farm of all, though, is to be multifunctional. It is most keen to achieve all of the objectives set and one shouldn’t necessarily take priority over another. BUT, there has to be a sustainable business that brings enough money in to make the whole thing work properly. At the moment there is a dependence on grant funding for a lot of the social remit work, but there is an aspiration to be able to fund this (cross subsidy) out of other commercial activity.” “The Community Farm is critically aware that in the end it must ‘balance the books’.”

Finally, the cases add to the growing evidence that MUFIs can be very valuable in dense city environments, as, with food as the central foundation, they allow fulfilling different functions simultaneously on one plot of land. At the same time, MUFIs tend to signal specific urban needs and function as arenas of social and political experimentation and innovation. Governments should support these MUFIs so that the multifunctional benefits are maximized. Government support in the cases studied, however, is mostly limited to “soft” measures like one-off subsidies, provision of advice or support in networking. However, in order to make a meaningful change, “hard” measures are needed such as structural changes in spatial planning or other regulations, to get MUFIs out of the “grey” zones of legislation, for example to allow urban foraging or gardening on brown field sites and live/work spaces in the city. Cities can also organize their activities as such to help create niches within which MUFIs can develop, for example through public food procurement contracts, market spaces or street food options for small and start-up enterprises, providing council-controlled space for growing food, or working with developers to identify suitable brownfield sites for short-term growing. All of these options will provide MUFIs with opportunities to develop business models with local financial overheads. Such a transition, however, does not happen without struggle. For example in Bristol, the MUFIs were for a long time civically minded. Recently, however, the city council of Bristol developed plans to develop a (low carbon) bus service on land that is currently used for food production and now citizens are protesting against the government. On the other hand in Ghent, they are now looking how the city government could adjust their land use policies in order to support sustainable local food production. They however struggle to integrate the conventional agricultural sector, active in the peri-urban area, in this new development. Finally, despite of the recent increase in interest from the municipality to support urban food developments, in Riga KQ is one of the pioneering companies in the realm of sustainable urban food provisioning and struggles to find support from the local state. In other words, urban food production mostly remains in the grey zone of not being incorporated into the strategic thinking of city planning or in policy makers’ conceptions of the functions of the city. Incorporating this strategic thinking about food is therefore an important and urgent challenge for cities.

Policy recommendations (WP7)

On the basis of the synthesis reports of WPs 2 and 3, the final reports of WPs 4, 5 and 6, the second city region reports, and the WP7 conceptual reports draft recommendations were developed. They have been presented at the 2nd international dissemination seminar, which took place in Bonn on June 10 2015. About 70 participants from all over the world participated in this seminar, mainly coming from city administrations.
The recommendations were tested through an online consultation of 262 experts. Of these experts 27% were from policy & administration, 27% from civil society organisations, 15% from small and medium enterprises, and 19% from research institutes. The remaining 11% were independent experts. The 262 consulted experts were active at different levels: 40% at the city-region level, 35% at the regional/provincial level, 19% at the national level and 6% at the EU level. The recommendations fed into a policy brief and a practitioner brief (WP8). In the online consultation, the experts were asked to rate each recommendation against the question “Do you think the recommendation addresses the related problem effectively?”. Response options ranged from 1 (not at all) to 5 (totally). In general, all recommendations achieved a score of more than 3 on the 5 point scale. In fact, only two recommendations were evaluated with a score less than 4.
A. Closing the cycles of nutrient, water, and urban waste
1. National governments should collaborate with the private sector and consumer organizations to reform policies and regulations related to quality grading standards of food to minimize food waste.
2. National governments should collaborate with the private sector and consumer organizations to develop policies and regulations related to expiration dates of food to minimize food waste.
3. City-regional and local governments should support grassroots, community, Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and other initiatives dealing with sustainable waste management and food waste reduction through targeted events, awareness raising campaigns, funding support and promoting examples of good practice.
4. Policy makers should co-finance innovative technologies in sorting and processing of biogenic waste (such as biogas units or improved composting facilities) to enhance compost quality and biogenic waste recycling.
5. Local governments, private sector companies (including housing management and corporations) and civil society organizations (CSOs) should allocate space for biogenic waste storage and recycling (such as small composting sites) in current and new housing units and projects.
All these recommendations were evaluated as effectively addressing the problem of closing nutrient cycles (an average rating above 4), while recommendation nr. 3 reached the highest level of agreement.

B. Short food supply chains (SFSC)
1. EU, national and local policies should support independent, local specialist food retailers to sustain short food by providing/arranging (shown in order of mean preference from the respondents of the online consultation)
(i) incubation support;
(ii) connection with peers to support learning/co-operation;
(iii) initiation space and access to basic processing facilities – presses, cutting rooms, kitchens, etc., which could be fixed or mobile;
(iv) specialist advice relating to business and finance models;
(v) provision of loans, so that the money comes with advice and a stakeholder mentality by provider.
(vi) access to marketing advice and brand development guidance;
2. Local governments should support the development of innovative short food chains by (shown in order of mean preference from the respondents of the online consultation)
(i) integrating locally produced food into public procurement contracts, for example through ‘meet the buyer’ events;
(ii) supporting direct selling logistics for farmer groups;
(iii) providing space for marketing;
(iv) training and technical assistance;
(v) legal support;
(vi) financial support (especially at the developmental stage);
(vii) other:
In addition to these rankings, the respondents were asked to evaluate the following recommendations:
3. National and local governments should support farm-to-school programs and promote local public food procurement through public kitchens (schools, council offices, prisons, old peoples’ homes and those contracted to the local government) so that they serve local, healthy and seasonal food.
4. Local governments should support, improve and expand local food markets and food hubs, both physical (facilities, spaces, basic infrastructure) and on-line.
5. Local governments should have delegated responsibility for food provision planning in a similar and allied way to their responsibilities for spatial planning.
Recommendation nr. 3 was rated highest, whereas recommendation nr. 5 achieved a score of less than 4. Some comments suggest that it was difficult to understand what was specifically meant by this recommendation.

C. Developing multifunctional urban and peri-urban agriculture and land use
1. Local governments should support SMEs and CSOs in developing innovations and experimenting with new practices which deliver multifunctionality through food production by (shown in order of mean preference from the respondents of the online consultation).
(i) providing resources (e.g. land);
(ii) enabling temporary use of land;
(iii) organising training and technical assistance;
(iv) provision for supply of public kitchens;
(v) organisation of networking events for food producers;
(vi) providing legal support;
(vii) providing or facilitating financial support such as loans and pump-priming grants
(viii) encouraging machine sharing;

2. Local governments should protect and enable access to, and tenure of, land for food production in urban and peri-urban areas, e.g. by limiting building projects on agricultural urban and peri-urban land and renting public areas to farmers, including cooperatives.
3. National and local governments should develop regulations to make (commercial or non-commercial) food growing areas mandatory in new or renovated housing settlements and building projects, e.g. rooftop farming, community gardens, allotment gardens.
4. Local governments together with gardeners should develop new ways of managing urban and allotment gardens, aiming at wider societal functions in those gardens (e.g. community building, social inclusion, education, nature conservation?)
5. CSOs should enhance and facilitate cooperation between all types of urban food producers and gardeners at city-regional level in order to strengthen their collective influence on local legislation through a dialogue with policy makers and other involved stakeholders (incl. SMEs).
6. Local governments should set up an integrated food department to ensure greater coherence and alignment, increase efficiency of the policies and programs that have an impact on the food system (such as agricultural land use, green space management, food transport and marketing, waste management, environmental health and food standards etc.).
7. Municipal governments should work together to strengthen capacities, align urban food policies and influence relevant regulations (i.e. land use policies, biogenic waste recycling and short food chains) at national and European level.
Out of these recommendations on multifunctional land use, recommendation nr. 2 was evaluated best, while recommendation nr. 3 was the only one to achieve a score less than 4.
In sum, all recommendations suggested by the project were seen as helping the topic of sustainable urban food provisioning. Only slight differences could be observed between respondents of different countries, between different group types or between levels of work. Market actors seemed a bit more hesitant towards recommendations targeted at policy making, but it is difficult to understand the concrete reasons for this estimation on the basis of the survey undertaken.
None of the respondents was completely against any kind of support of sustainable urban food provisioning; there is a general agreement that city regions should play a role in making their food system more sustainable. These recommendations therefore were a sound basis for the practitioner and policy briefs that were developed in WP8.

Potential Impact:
SUPURBFOOD was inspired by the Integrated Sustainability Assessment (ISA) approach, which referred to a cyclical and participatory process of scoping, envisioning, experimenting, and learning through which a shared interpretation of sustainability was developed and applied and through which solutions to persistent problems were explored. This was done in three thematic fields – a) recycling and reuse of water, waste and nutrients, b) short food chain delivery, and c) multifunctional use of urban and peri-urban space – by researchers and SMEs together and also in consultation with policy makers and representatives of NGOs and CSOs, in particular at the municipal and regional level. SUPURBFOOD’s (potential) impact is therefore primarily to be found among SMEs and municipal and regional authorities and local NGOs and CSOs. First the realized and potential impacts for SMEs will be presented and discussed, supported by concrete cases studied in the project, and next the policy impacts will be discussed.


Entrepreneurial innovations for urban food provisioning and security

Many SMEs from around the world, both for-profit and non-profit, are pioneering innovative entrepreneurial efforts to address urban food security. Often these means that businesses considered predominantly as rural are coming to the city.

“We work with the food industry to minimise fit-for- purpose fresh, frozen and long‐life food going to waste, and send this food into organisations working with vulnerable communities. Thousands of tonnes of perfectly good in‐date food are wasted each year. At the same time, there are over 4 million people in the UK who cannot afford a healthy diet. FareShare SouthWest aims to address this imbalance by redistributing quality surplus food to groups working with vulnerable individuals” (

Their efforts will only be successful and replicable if a diversity of business strategies and models are applied and adapted to an urban context. Public policy should aim to encourage entrepreneurs to engage in these challenges through financial and public policy support to help develop a of sustainable urban food system. This will be through a suite of enterprise types ranging from charitable or community interest bodies to family businesses and share issuing companies.

Innovations along the food chain

Many SMEs are realising economic benefits such as jobs and revenue flows from resources not currently used. This brings ecological and quality of life benefits to residents whilst improving the cities environment. There are key opportunities for SMEs to explore innovative entrepreneurial strategies along the entire food chain. These include development of short supply chains; closing urban ‘waste’ loops and multifunctional use of urban and peri-urban land and food production.

Business opportunities can evolve around experimentation with and development of innovative technologies in sorting and processing of organic and green urban waste such as biogas units or improved composting facilities to produce compost quality through organic waste recycling. Rotterzwam is a business growing oyster mushrooms and shiitake on coffee waste in an abandoned indoor tropical waterpark close to the centre of Rotterdam (The Netherlands). The coffee grounds (which would otherwise be incinerated) are collected from local cafes by cargo bike. DeCo! Sustainable Farming in Tamale (Ghana) is a social enterprise that produces organic fertilizer and sells it to small farmers to generate revenue. The composting firm recycles inputs such as fruit and vegetable waste, neem tree leaves, processing waste, ,and animal manures. Businesses can be developed aiming to optimise residual food waste streams. FareShare in Bristol (UK) delivers food leftovers to over 70 organisations. The food they supply contributes to thousands of meals weekly for vulnerable people. This also enables recipient organisations to reinvest funds into improving other services such as housing advice, medical services and training. FareShare only has a few employees. Many of their volunteers are, or have been, vulnerable for whom training opportunities and support is provided.

Large numbers of businesses delivering multifunctionality through food production are being developed. Uit je Eigen Stad (From Your Own Town) in Rotterdam is a 2.3 hectare commercially operated farm at an abandoned rail yard in the port area. It includes open field and greenhouse vegetable growing, fish farming (aquaponics), mushroom growing, a farm shop and restaurant with conference facilities. Revenues are generated through the sale of produce and services and rental payments from the restaurant. An educational farm, located circa 15 km from Casablanca (Morocco) has, since 2008, targeted its activities towards a variety of audiences: children, women and farmers from the neighbouring villages, urban families, schools, universities and administrations through information sessions, open days, trainings and workshops on organic farming, healthy food production and consumption.

Short food supply chains offer many opportunities to realise economic and ecological benefits in the City. In Rome (Italy) and Zurich (Switzerland) different short food chains are being developed, including Agricultura Nuova, a Roman multifunctional peri-urban farm that offers on-farm sales as well as organic box schemes to customers. A specialised retailer Picobio in Zurich functions as an intermediary packing and delivering fresh and processed food from organic farmers to customers. An Italian farmers’ group Campagna Amica is organising farmers’ markets in several locations in the capital. The Harvest of Hope (HoH) initiative is another vegetable box scheme in Cape Town (South Africa) set up by local NGO “Abalimi Bezekhaya” as a social enterprise. Food produced in community gardens is sold in weekly boxes to schools and individuals.

New business models

SUPURBFOOD has shown that a wide variety of new business models for urban food provisioning can be distinguished. These models can be based on differentiation, diversification, lowering costs, sharing resources, participation, new technologies or a combination of these strategies. The specific nature and diversity of business strategies in urban food production need to be more flexible from business strategies in "rural" agriculture due to the particular features of urban and peri-urban contexts. These include land not being easily available and expensive when it is, being close to the customers, and the need to develop news networks of suppliers, customers, business partners and facilitators.

Urban short supply chains can offer distinctive services compared to conventional supply chains, including transparent and visible production locations. Willem&Drees, a Dutch grocery wholesaler offers shoppers in supermarkets, catering companies and via the Internet the opportunity to buy seasonal products from their own region. All products bear information on origin, the name and personal story of the farmer. Their differentiation approach is also about offering special (local) varieties.

While diversification is a pre-requisite for all small farmers, urban farmers can offer particular multifunctional services beside food production, such as recreation, landscape enhancement and conservation, fertiliser or energy production. Some urban SMEs, such as Kalnciema Quarter in Riga (Latvia) use their food focus to provide popular cultural, education and culinary activities that enliven the whole neighbourhood, attract tourists and generate income opportunities for producers and artisans.

The model for lowering costs involves the use of underutilized urban resources, such as; temporarily vacant land and buildings, urban waste and wastewater; a new work force including volunteers and the socially excluded. RoomeR in Ghent (Belgium) produces an alcoholic beverage using elderflowers gathered from trees located in public and private areas in and around the city, reducing costs for land and tree production. Another strategy is use of Participatory Guarantee Schemes, as applied in Quito (Ecuador) to reduce costs of certification,. “Zolle” company in Rome, for example, distributes products from small and medium-sized organic farms to consumers with cycle couriers carrying out the final delivery.

Another cost-reduction strategy is sharing of resources or of ownership, such as in Community Supported Agriculture. In Vigo (Spain), around 30% of the land area is community managed by the SME Association of the Commons of Vigo through which they also share equipment and jointly decide on reinvestment of returns.

Urban farmers are capable of offering participation, because of proximity to their target audience. This model focuses on providing authentic and ‘memorable’ experiences by being part of the story/experience as well as buying a product. These include gastronomic experiences such as lunch on a rooftop farm. HotspotHutspot in Rotterdam offers low-cost healthy meals sourced from urban production and surplus from an organic wholesale market. At the same time they train children and young people how to cook and serve such meals.

A final business model is experimental urban food production based on initiatives that explicitly explore new technological innovation processes such as aquaponics systems or recycling of urban waste products. Experimenting with new technologies or products can be included in marketing. Machinen-Ring in Zurich is experimenting with the production of biogas from farm manure and city waste. Operated by farmers, it offers them an additional income source.

Need for new support measures

The specific nature of business strategies in urban food systems has implications for effective support measures for entrepreneurship. Scaling up of these initiatives is often hampered by over strict implementation of regulations developed for larger scale processes that stifle local bottom-up initiatives.

Support should therefore focus on enabling affordable access to land, infrastructure, training and technical assistance, incubation funding and policy support, innovative project design and network creation to establish appropriate linkages with relevant public, private and civic societal actors. This should involve an investigation into how funding and support provided under the Common Agricultural Policy can be re-tasked to also support Urban Agriculture.

Food growing areas, such as rooftop growing, community gardens, allotment gardens, should be made mandatory in new or renovated housing settlements and building projects.

City governments can enable access to or temporary use of public or private land and actively protect agricultural and open land for food production. In order for example to take advantage of the potential of a productive city landscape and to allow commercialization of foraged products as done in Ghent, current land use regulations will need to be adapted and potential pollution will need to be investigated and controlled. Public tenders to manage such resources could be developed as done in Oud-Turnhout (Belgium) for harvesting of Gale flower buds used in beer production. New zoning regulations can change destination of industrial or business areas in multifunctional agricultural zones as done in Polder Schieveen in Rotterdam.

Networking can increase collective influence on local legislation through a dialogue with policy makers and other involved stakeholders (including consumers). The development of network agreements or contracts (as supported in Italy under Law 33/2209) would also facilitate farms engaged in short supply chains to achieve more efficient coordination and aggregation of supply, as well as to share their workforce according to changing production and distribution needs.

Initiatives may also benefit from improved credit access as specialty produce and experimental technologies have a higher risk profile in finance. Financial compensation can be provided for provision of social or landscape services as done by Grün Stadt Zürich. Nine city-owned farms are rented out to families, while one is run under the management of the city department. Organic farming practices and environmental conservation measures aiming at fostering biodiversity need to be carried out. The department supports the farms with investment funds for i.e. stable constructions or farm shops, as well as with technical advice.

Public investment in food transport and storage, marketing and waste management and provision will stimulate urban food system enterprises development. Technical and business training, such as customer relations and marketing need to be provided for existing and new entrepreneurs. Providing multi-year public grants for innovative businesses, such as currently being discussed in Riga, will allow SMEs grow and explore opportunities for further innovation.


Supporting sustainable modes of urban food provisioning implies that food is to be understood as an integral part of the urban agenda. Growing urbanisation and food insecurity, rising food prices, climate change impacts and resource depletion, have all triggered cities around the world to develop policy and programmes for more sustainable and resilient urban food provisioning. In addition, alarming increases in diet-related ill-health require cities to ensure access to sufficient, affordable, healthy and safe food to their population. Food is also increasingly seen as a driver for other sustainability policies related to health, transport, land use, social and economic development, waste management and climate resilience.

“We cannot build a sustainable city if it feeds itself in an unsustainable way. This could create health problems, societal problems or a wasteland beyond our borders. Ghent launched its local food policy in 2013, in order to create more visible, shorter supply chains; support sustainable food production and consumption; increase social added value of food projects and avoid, limit and reuse food waste” (Tine Heyse, Deputy Mayor City of Ghent, July 2015)

The findings of SUPURBFOOD constitute a call for municipal authorities to work together, to strengthen their capacities and to influence relevant regulations (land use policies, food waste, waste recycling and short food chains) at (inter)national level.

Reducing food waste

It is estimated that one-third of total food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted
each year. Indeed, data from the UK confirm this, with 4.1m tonnes of food thrown away each year. Over half is unused and almost 10% is in date. Part of the problem stems from high retail grading standards. In Zurich (Switzerland), up to 30% of produce which does not meet strict quality standards relating to appearance, weight, size, colour and shape is rejected. Latvian retail is responsible for 20 tons of food waste daily- these are products past their expiry date which have not been sold. National and local governments should collaborate with the private sector and consumer organisations to reform policies and regulations related to quality grading standards of food to minimise food waste. Food waste reduction can also be supported through targeted events, awareness raising campaigns, funding support and promoting examples of good practice. In Zurich , a supermarket chain, retail companies and processors have started a dialogue with the Federal Administration for the food law to allow a longer out of date period (shelf life) for those food products for which food safety issues are not a serious problem (e.g. cereals). In France, the National Parliament has set a target of reducing food waste volumes by half by the year 2025. Local authorities and NGOs raise awareness among households and school canteens on how much
food waste they produce and how to reduce this amount. In 2015, the Flemish government (Belgium) has signed a ‘Chain Roadmap Food Losses 2020’. This public-private action plan is amongst others targeted at businesses, for example through free ‘food waste consultancy’ for food companies. An internet platform provides ideas on how to reduce food packaging and information is provided to restaurants on best practices for “take-home meal left overs”.

Enhancing waste recycling and closing urban loops

Next to reducing food waste, there is a need to reconnect different urban flows to allow the recycling and reuse of food waste, urban organic waste and wastewater, energy and nutrients. By some estimates, urban areas consume up to 76% of the earth natural resources and produce 60% of its greenhouse gas emission and 50% of its waste. In cities like Strasbourg, Lille and Rennes (France) local actors organise events, where soups made from food that otherwise would be thrown away is served at festive events. The Flemish government supports projects to direct high-quality food waste to social redistribution projects. Many other cities, including Bristol and North East Somerset Council (UK) support household and community composting projects. Various Sri Lankan cities financially and legally support commercial waste recycling and composting businesses to help solve their waste management problems. In Kumasi (Ghana) faecal sludge and solid waste are co-composted through public-privatepartnership for fertiliser production. Rotterdam (The Netherlands) experiments in recovering water from urban sludge, cleaning it and reusing it in greenhouse production. It also purifies and transports CO2 emitted by port industries to the nearby greenhouses to stimulate crop growth and pilots green waste collection to shift from incineration to composting.

Shortening food chains

Short food chains are an important component of urban food systems. Short supply chains can support small scale farmers and grant them access to the market, have a direct positive impact on local economy, enhance consumer access to fresh food, boost rural-urban connectivity and foster local food cultures and biodiversity. Strengthening direct-producer linkages through short food supply chains can also bring about improved food governance and transparency in the food system. Local and national governments can support the development of innovative short food chains through public procurement (to schools, council offices, prisons, old peoples’ homes, hospitals) and providing space for local food processing markets and food hubs, both physical and online. Farmers’ and street markets need to be easily visible and accessible as well as endowed with adequate facilities. They can also support farm-to-school programs and public kitchens. The Latvian Parliament made it mandatory for public institutions to include local produce in their procurements. The municipality in Jelgava (Latvia) awarded co-funding to a cooperative group of farmers and artisans to operate a mobile local produce shop going to smaller local parishes. The city of Bristol promotes the development and strengthening of regional supply infrastructure - local wholesale markets, food processors, local abattoirs, dairies & farms. They also aim to increase numbers and geographical spread of shops from which people can buy a wide range
of fresh, seasonal, local and organic, regional and fairly traded food products. Beijing government supported Jinghe farm to develop an Internet platform that functions as an online market place and links producers and consumer cooperatives. The Rome and Zurich administration promote the direct marketing of farms in the city with a special website. Rotterdam hosts local food festivals since 2007. The city of Quito (Ecuador) has set up 14 producer markets where 1000 ton of locally organic produced food is marketed each year.

Protecting land for urban and peri-urban agriculture

Urban and peri-urban agriculture are another way to bring producers closer to consumers. Localised production can also begin to address the high energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions characteristic of our food system. Local governments should protect and enable access to, and tenure of, land for food production in urban and peri-urban areas, amongst others by limiting building projects on agricultural urban and peri-urban land and renting public areas to farmers. This highlights the need for territorial planning that takes agriculture into account. The city of Ghent (Belgium) provides subsidies for community gardens and links actors so that locations that are temporarily available can be used for food growing. The city of Cape Town (South Africa) adopted in 2013 a food gardens policy and enables land use for 93 gardens involving 3500 people. The city of Rosario (Argentina) looks to preserve their horticulture greenbelt by extending the peri-urban protection zone from 400-800 ha. The city region of Vigo (Spain) gives peri-urban mountain land to community management. The land cannot be sold or divided and supports multifunctional land uses including forestry and farming.

Creating synergies

Creating synergies between different public objectives is crucial in the design of resilient urban food systems to achieve multiple benefits from and uses of land and by using food as a medium to link different urban policy objectives. Local governments, gardeners and produces can facilitate the new ways of managing urban farms, aiming at wider societal functions (community building, social inclusion, education, nature conservation). In 2013, Rotterdam changed the zoning designation of a large piece of peri-urban land to a multifunctional area for education, food production, biodiversity and leisure. Cities like Beijing and Shanghai are developing agro-parks with similar functions. The city of Zurich promotes multifunctional land use on 10% of its town area. The city actively buys land to protect these spaces from construction and provides incentives for biodiversity preservation and organic farming. Other examples include the promotion of synergies for food production, flood risk reduction and climate-change mitigation. The protection of rice cultivation in the floodplains in Antananarivo (Madagascar) supports a staple crop for a large part of the urban population, mitigates floods during the rainy season and, contributes to income generation and job creation for farmers. Redesigning urban food systems in order to simultaneously address several urban policy domains requires the set-up of new organisational and multi-stakeholder structures that facilitate involvement of different government departments and jurisdictions in food planning. Such structures can ensure greater coherence and alignment and increase efficiency of the policies and programmes that have an impact on the food system (such as land use, green space management, food transport and marketing, waste management, environmental and health standards etc.). Bristol formed a Bristol Food Policy Council, modelling on precedents in North America, notably Toronto (Canada). With members drawn from a range of stakeholders including local food industry, City Council, universities and grass-root bodies it set out to develop a Good Food Plan with clear commitment and outcome indicators. Ghent and Rotterdam have set up similar multi-actor platforms and networks. Involving stakeholders from public, private and civic sphere helps such partnerships and plans to be less vulnerable to political change. The long-term active presence of food policy forums in Amman (Jordan) or Nairobi (Kenya) can be attributed hereto. The challenge now lies in developing comprehensive food policies and strategies in city regions where different municipalities have to work together. This also requires collaboration at subnational (provincial level). Such collaboration will however also strengthen local and city region prominence in national, European and international lobby and dialogue on sustainable urban food systems.


Project website
At the beginning of SUPURBFOOD a project website was designed and launched: The website contains background information about the project, the consortium partners and the city-regions that SUPURBFOOD focuses on. Every deliverable intended for public dissemination was made available on the website as soon as a deliverable was completed. Also other relevant background information and relevant links were made available on the website and regularly updated.

Stakeholder workshops in city-regions
Two stakeholder workshops were organised in each city region. The first one was planned to take place around month 8, and the second one around month 32. The city-region workshops brought together the national teams of researchers and SMEs, and government officials from the city region.

Although the first city-region workshops had been scheduled for the end of April 2013, calendar coordination of the different stakeholders involved enlarged this period. Finally, the city-region workshops were carried out over the period May-July 2013 with a different number of stakeholders involved ranging from 7 to 28 in the different regions. During the workshops every city-region research team (i) presented their findings (state of affairs in the city-region) to city-region invited stakeholders, and (ii) gathered new information for further exploration of opportunities and blockages to sustaining the agri-food system in the study area. The results of the meetings were reported in the National reports (the deliverables D2.2) and its comparative analysis was included in the Comparative report (deliverable D2.3).

The second city-region workshops were carried out from January to April 2015 in the different city-regions, with a different number of stakeholders involved. The process and methodology for the second city-region workshops was adapted to the conditions in each city-region, which allowed for flexibility regarding the specific organisation of each workshop. The stakeholders in each city-region discussed the findings of the explorative phase (reported in WP2 on agro-food dynamics and governance in city-regions) and the findings in the subthemes of the project WP4 (closing cycles), WP5 (short food chains), and WP6 (multifunctional land-use), which included: (1) a discussion about the approaches developed in the SUPURBFOOD project framed by the findings, i.e. the analyses of different activities / best practices in the three subthemes; and (2) the presentation of the best practices in each city-region, as identified in earlier stages of the project.
The workshops aimed in particular to reflect together with the stakeholders on the role of institutional interaction and governance. Therefore, the participants were encouraged to discuss the degree of interaction between practice and institutions (initially referred to as the public administration), and whether from such interaction synergies are derived that promote a better performance of the agro-food system in the city-region and/or to list the obstacles that hamper interaction. While the first city-region workshop results (in 2013) mainly served as input for the final reports in earlier stages (WP2 and WP3) and set the agenda for further activities in WPs 4, 5 and 6, the second workshop besides providing feed-back to regional stakeholders on the project results served as input for the online consultation of stakeholders (2nd subtask of task 7.3 in the Description of Work).

International seminars
Two international seminars were organised. The seminars were meant to be attended by the consortium partners and the members of the consultative forum (i.e. policymakers, practitioners and CSO/NGO representatives for Europe as well as form city-regions in the South). Aim of both seminars was to discuss and reflect upon provisional project results but also to foster the North-South dialogue by sharing experiences and joint learning.
The first seminar took place in Vigo (Spain) at the Faculty of Economics of Vigo University), on 26th and 27th June. The seminar was recorded and filmed by the UVigo TV facilities and the videos are available in The SUPURBFOOD First International Seminar brought together around 60 delegates representing different interests, institutions, entrepreneurs, and civic groups. From Global South 9 guests attended. Also 2 invited guests from every city-region attended the Seminar.
The second international seminar took place in Bonn (Germany) at the ICLEI-Local governments for sustainability 6th Global forum on urban resilience and adaptation, from 8 to 10th June 2015. In order to share and discuss the SUPURBFOOD project’s results with this global forum, a special Urban Food Forum was organised by SUPURBFOOD that consisted of three sessions that link to the ICLEI’s objectives of creating an urban resilience agenda that joins adaptation, mitigation, disaster, risk reduction, and sustainable, equitable development. On Wednesday June 10 a first session was on urban policy and programmes, a second session on food and urban planning, and a third session on the role of SMEs to support cities all over the world to develop resilient city-region food systems. Each SUPURBFOOD Urban Food Forum session attracted about 70 participants of over 420 from 56 countries in this ICKEI 6th Global forum. Of the participants in the ICLEI event 25% represented local and regional governments, and 75% researchers, international organisations and private sector representatives. For this second international seminar 9 south guests were invited. Finally, only 8 attended the meeting since Ms. Nambahu, mayor of Walvisbay (Namibia) had to cancel in the last minute for personal reasons. Also, 4 city-region and SME representatives were invited and participated in the international seminar.

Special issue of Urban Agriculture Magazine
The RUAF foundation (P10) with support of P4 and P1 have coordinated the production and distribution of the special issue of the Urban Agriculture Magazine on the main findings of the project. This magazine has 7,000 subscribers to the hard copy version and over 90,000 readers of the online version. In doing so, SUPURBFOOD members aim at outreaching a wide range of North and South academics as well as target groups (SME’s, NGO’s, producer and consumer groups involved in urban and peri-urban agriculture). The special issue of the Urban Agriculture Magazine is about “City region food systems” and presented the main results of the project through the publication of 24 articles (including the editorial; see targeted at an audience of policymakers and practitioners.

Policy brief and a practitioners brief
The RUAF foundation (P10) has coordinated the production of policy briefs that summarize the main research outcomes and recommendations in a concise way and in a language that is well understood by policymakers and relating the research outcomes to their policy priorities and ongoing dynamics in the “policy arena”. Draft versions of the brief were shared with selected policy makers and senior officers in order to get their feedback on contents and design of the brief. The final brief is uploaded in the SUPURBFOOD website (

Similarly a “practitioners brief” was also produced focusing at making a summary of findings and recommendations that are of interest for SMEs, producers and consumer groups involved in local short chain initiatives, recycling and multifunctional land use in urban and peri-urban areas. Also in this case the representatives of the target group were invited to provide feedback on the brief before finalising it. The final brief is uploaded in the SUPURBFOOD website (

Scientific conferences and publications
- Organization of a Working group at the XXV ESRS Congress held in Florence in 2013, where city-region dynamics have been discussed with a wider academic audience
- Editing a special issue for the Spanish Journal of Rural Development in which case study research of several city-regions is included: Ghent, Riga, Bristol, Vigo and other cases, external to the consortium.
- Editing a special issue about city-region food systems of SITOPOLIS – Journal of Urban Agriculture and Regional Food Systems, with 9 peer-reviewed open access articles, all built on the outcomes of the project

List of Websites: