Return to regional food networks

The research project series nascent examines the contribution and potential of transformative business models in the food sector.

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Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung
FONA Sozial-ökologische Forschung
nascent is a research project series funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. As a university and civil society association, we research the emergence and development of transformative business models that are committed to ecologically valuable, socially inclusive, economically stable and crisis-resistant regional supply within the food networks.
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Challenges

  • Globalized procurement
  • Vulnerability through dependence on external supply
  • Increasing decimation of number of farms | up or out
  • Loss of diverse and vital cultural landscapes
  • Loss of social places: anonymization
  • Loss of healthy and ecological food culture
  • Loss of soil fertility and biodiversity
  • Competition for land through feed and energy crops & increasing land use for settlement and transport
Zu den Vorteilen transformativer Ernährungsinitiativen und -unternehmen

Solutions

  • Establishing regional food and agricultural sovereignty with seasonal and organic food
  • Enabling rural or small-scale diversity agriculture
  • Strengthening participation, integration & community
  • Promoting awareness and transparency about production contexts
The multiple crises and risks of an industrialized agriculture and food sector have become increasingly
evident. Large-scale agricultural structures and monocultures as well as the concentration of
transnational companies contribute to the fact that agriculture and food industry already play a major
role in the transgression of four of the nine planetary boundaries: Land use change, nitrogen and
phosphorus inputs, reduction of biodiversity and climate change confront us with the overcharge of the bases of life.
 
In this context, radical alternatives are developed by a continuously increasing number
of transformative companies and initiatives. All over the world, as well as Germany,
food co-operatives and business initiatives are setting out on their journey, to test and disseminate transformative forms of food supply.
 
  • How can these transformative business forms activate comprehensive innovation processes instead of remaining in their niche?
  • How can their contribution as transformation pioneers be assessed in order to motivate others to participate and emulate them?
  • Können diese Initiativen  das etablierte Ernährungssystem verändern?

Development opportunities through CSA

How can community supported agriculture (CSA) contribute to a transformation of the agricultural and food sector?What are the possibilities and limits of this innovative economic concept as a catalyst for resilient and sustainable value creation areas?

Since the beginning of 2020, the potentials and limitations of this economic form are being investigated. The aim of the project is to analyze the following aspects and to promote them in practice, too:

1) the emergence and diffusion of CSA-based farms 

2) their social and economic stabilization as well as 

3) the resulting contribution to a resilient and comprehensive regional supply.

The project team works transdisciplinarily, i.e. in close exchange with practice partners, such as the German CSA Network "Netzwerk Solidarische Landwirtschaft". As a result, a practical guide for the stabilization of CSA-based farms is to be developed in addition to the scientific classification of this specific economic practice.

Sustainability through transformative business models

New economic forms and initiatives, such as urban gardening projects, commuty-supported agriculture or producer-consumer communitiesare characterized by a new understanding of the interaction between consumers and producers. 

Nascent examines the potential for the transformation of the established food system that these initiatives generate. To achieve this, initiatives in five regions of Germany are being studied: Oldenburg and surrounding area, Berlin and surrounding area, Leipzig and Dresden, Munich and surrounding area and Freiburg im Breisgau and surrounding area. In addition, developments in other countries will also be examined through cooperation with partners abroad. The project team would like to develop a typology of the initiatives, crystallize their different motivations and interests. On the basis of these results, the scientists want to identify potentials of diffusion and provide target group-specific information in order to support a sustainable development of the food system.

Results

As initiators of a sustainable and gradually cooperative economy, the role of transformative businesses and initiatives is to test alternative supply practices. In regional value creation areas they can, on the one hand, guarantee a stable supply of regional, fair and sustainable/ecologically produced products and food, and, on the other hand, offer places for participation, solidary economic activity and transformative learning. Transformative businesses enable sustainable practices in a variety of ways.

Within the framework of the research project, numerous qualitative and quantitative data have already been collected, which reveal the diverse potentials, but also the limits of transformative businesses and initiatives.

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