Urban Food & the Sustainable City

Cities cover just 2% of the planet’s surface but consume 75% of its resources.  Any movement towards sustainability will need to focus on the resource-use challenges linked to production and manufacturing, a major part of which will be the role of food and agriculture.  Until recently, the benefits of agriculture were considered to be part of the rural development realm. But research suggests that in the future they will be part of city life. 

superbfood-logoDuring the past three years, the CCRI has been part of a pan-European partnership researching into good practice in food production and consumption in urban areas as part of a major EU funded food project, Supurbfood, an acronym for ‘Sustainable Urban and Periurban food provisioning’.

The Supurbfood programme has explored seven urban case-study regions across Europe: Bristol, Rome, Riga, Rotterdam, Vigo, Zurich and Ghent and has now come to an end.

Supurbfood researchers discovered key opportunities for SMEs to explore innovative entrepreneurial strategies along the entire food chain. As well as leading examples of how local councils can enable and enhance food growing in the city. The benefits include not only employment but better access to fresh food, using urban spaces for a wide range of activities that enhance the environment and through localising recycling a reduction in green house gases.

Whilst there are many potential business opportunities to be explored, researchers found that already there are many innovative SMEs all over the world pioneering entrepreneurial efforts to address urban food provisioning and security.  They have published short briefings for those active in trying to realise the benefits of urban agriculture either as hands on practitioners or working local councils [ddownload id=”8533″ text=”Download briefing: SMEs and Sustainable Urban Food Provisioning”]

A 'Waste Food' banquet in Bristol
A ‘Waste Food’ banquet in Bristol

In the Bristol case-study, the CCRI has highlighted the work of FairShare South West, a small organisation working with the food industry to minimise food waste and distributing quality surplus food to those in need. It’s research has also highlighted the importance role of citizens in Bristol in instigating the dynamic civic environment that underpins initiatives such as European Green Capital.

The CCRI team was led by Matt Reed, with Dan Keech, James Kirwan and Damian Maye.  He said:

“One of the unique features of Supurbfood has been that we have always worked with SMEs as research partners, so we have understood their perspective.  We are now publishing lots of short and useful resources that help people access that learning quickly.”

Dan Keech added:

“We have worked with a global organisation called RUAF, who has experience across the world with urban agriculture and that has helped a lot.  We have published details about our research in Bristol and Bath in RUAF’s free magazine; the whole edition reflects the work of the project.”

Findings from across the Supurbfood partnership also highlighted the case for food growing areas, such as rooftop gardens, community gardens and allotments, to be made mandatory in new or renovated housing developments, and for more public investment to stimulate urban food system enterprise development.

Urban Agriculture Magazine (No 29 – City Region Food Systems, p.26-29. May, 2015) ‘Building a Bristol Food City Region from the Grass Roots up: Food strategies, action plans and food policy councils – read article