On 30 October 2017, Climate-KIC held its annual Climate Innovation Summit at the Fabbrica del Vapore (Steam Factory) in Milan, Italy.
There was healthy CSA-related discussion in the session “A new urban food culture ” at the Climate Innovation Summit which brought together Anna Scavuzzo, Vice-Mayor of the City of Milan, Kate Hoffman, Founder of GrowUp Urban Farms, Emeline Felus, Program Manager of FReSH, Marco Poletto, Co-Founder of ecoLogicStudio and Tom Voorma, Food Strategy Project Manager for the City of the Hague.
“Cities are one of the most important players in food systems: Healthy food for all requires a paradigm shift”
Anna Scavuzzo, Vice-Mayor, City of Milan
Milan has long been at the heart of sustainable urban food leadership locally and internationally: In 2015, the Lombardy city has implemented its own food sustainability strategy as part of Expo2015 and its Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP) was signed by 159 international cities with more than 450 million inhabitants.
To deliver this strategy, Milan has worked with to launch a peri-urban ‘living lab’ OpenAgri. The project will create an “Open Innovation Hub on Peri-Urban Agriculture” in Cascina Nosedo, an ancient farmhouse located in Porto di Mare, an area defined as “urban fringe”, representing the transition zone between the consolidated part of the City and the agricultural lands. The project aims to spark new jobs, skills, start-ups and innovation in agri-food sector (including production, processing and food waste) while increasing the level of resilience and sustainability of the City.
Food contributes 20 per cent to 30 per cent of global greenhouse gases, while climate change is making it difficult to produce enough food.
Cities are the most important players in the food system. They are at the forefront of social, economic and environment challenges that require a holistic approach, including education about healthy food.
Consumption and consumers are the strongest levers to change food systems. Worldwide market research shows that as people become more urban, they resort to ‘snackification’, more processed food, smaller portions and with components that are not good for their health. Yet, the other side of “Westernisation” is people who are looking for what is healthy or fits their ethical or environmental values. The trick is to use good trends to reduce bad trends.
Food policies can promote sustainable over cheap solutions, making what is good also cool so as to turn a new paradigm into a habit. This needs to start with schools offering fruits instead of snacks. However, financing is required to preserve quality and avoid inequality. All school meals in Milan are provided by a public catering company that supports local producers with its procurement and offers educational possibilities, linking both goals in one project.
Vertical farming is not about skyscrapers as they cannot compete with the value of commercial or residential use. But urban farm projects can only become a viable B2B enterprise at a sufficient size to achieve economies of scale in technology and deal with major retail customers. Once the technology is fully developed, it could be reverse scalable as a bolt-on to a supermarket or a restaurant kitchen.
Micro algae are rich in vegetable proteins and could be a new stream of nutrients to contribute to reducing in animal farming. Innovation can bring high-tech and community-driven bottom-up projects together, triggering new urban practices of cultivation. Local government can bring technology, business interests and people together to boost understanding of what such repurposing of waste ground could mean and increase their willingness to pay a little bit more for food.
However, there is a real risk that food is a driver of inequality, because only the more fortunate can access good and healthy food. The urbanisation of rural culture is often for elites and inaccessible to parts of population hooked on inexpensive convenient junk food. There needs to be a way to introduce new possibilities to all strata of society. To overcome the lack of physical spaces in cities there would need to be opportunistic uses of areas awaiting redevelopment, and not just trendy farmers’ markets.
Test beds can generate interest and attract a certain level of investment, but there needs to be a right-scale project for a permanent project embedded in the city to demonstrate the viability of an urban algae farm.
Bacteria or insects are seen as things that have to be kept out of cities, meaning that design must imagine spaces to solve this perception issue. Both are potential alternative food sources.