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Published

10 March 2015

New tools to stimulate sustainable urban cultivation

Training can make people’s interest in growing food profitable, and business models of community-supported farming can eliminate the middleman between producer and consumer. New research shows that these are two ways of boosting urban cultivation and meeting demand for food produced locally, while also creating more jobs.

In the Green Production project, Johanna Andersson of IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute is researching how conditions for local urban food production can be improved and its financial viability enhanced. The project is part of the Mistra Urban Futures initiative, which focuses on sustainable urban development.

‘We want to find out what it takes to generate financially profitable food production in and near urban areas: which networks need to be created; and which types of new arenas are required to facilitate company start-ups in the area.’

Initially, the project involved carrying out a survey of stakeholders connected with urban cultivation and agriculture in the Gothenburg area. They included the County Administrative Board, Studiefrämjandet (‘Study Promotion’, an adult education association), the City of Gothenburg, Stadsjord (‘Urban Farming’), Pilotprojektkontoret (‘Pilot Project Office’) and Changemaker. With these stakeholders involved in the project, two focus projects were jointly developed: training and new business models for urban farming. These two areas have been identified as important in paving the way for urban food production that is financially viable.

‘Previously, there has been no specific training for people wanting to grow food in urban areas. Just because you know about cultivation itself, it’s by no means certain that you have what it takes to succeed in business terms. Another interesting aspect is how we are changing the actual business. In urban growing, perhaps large-scale production ideas aren’t feasible.’

One way of boosting profits is to cut out the middleman, so that the food can go direct from producer to consumer. The business model on which the project has chosen to focus is known as ‘community-supported agriculture’. Sweden is almost empty of enterprises of this type, and the few that exist are nearly all new start-ups. A few basic principles unite enterprises of this type in the rest of the world: advance payment, risk-sharing between both consumer and producer, and direct contact between those who produce and those who eat the food.

Andersson is currently disseminating the findings from the project. In early April, the results from Green Production will be published in a report from Mistra Urban Futures.

Mistra Webbredaktör