Towards a regional circular food system

Impact story

Towards a regional circular food system

The continuously growing world population, with a changing preference in diet, requires more food and protein production. It increasingly demands more land and fertilisers, such as phosphorus. This fuels the thinking about food security in a more urban and regional perspective: food for the City’s inhabitants produced in the City’s surroundings.

Motivation

The Dutch City of Almere is situated in the Flevo-Polder, new land that was planned in the late 1950’s to harbour modern, rational, highly productive agriculture. However, Almere has hardly any relation with its agricultural fringe. Like any other modern western city, its food comes from everywhere and not necessarily from out of the region. To what extent might locally produced food help to reduce the demand for agricultural land and phosphorus? How does this work out for the urban region Almere?

Solution

A study was conducted to explore the potential of a regional circular food system, which is sustainable in terms of phosphorus flows for the City of Almere. Under different scenarios, the demand for land in the surroundings was calculated and mapped. In the most extreme scenario, in which almost all food and feed ingredients are locally grown, the area demand is around 27,000 hectares – about half the size of the agricultural land in the Flevo-polder. Imports of protein rich animal feeds can be locally replaced by seed legumes and rape-seed, or aquatic biomass from duckweed or microalgae.

It can be concluded that a combination of 85% of local food production and reuse of phosphorus from waste can result in a more or less circular food system with regard to phosphorus. A change to a diet with less dairy and meat components, and more plant-based ingredients will reduce the amount of required phosphorus in the food system considerably, as 85-90% is needed for animal feed production.

Wageningen University & Research carried out these activities in cooperation with AMS instituteFlevo Campus.

A decreased use of phosphorus, combined with recycling from waste streams, is crucial for future food systems

Impact and future perspective

The study demonstrates that, at least technically, a circular local food system based on phosphorus is possible. However, this circular food system requires fundamental changes in how the food chain (from farm to fork) is organised, including waste management. A decreased use of phosphorus, combined with recycling from waste streams, is crucial for future food systems, whether organized regionally or not. Almere can move forward in sustainably producing regionally grown food for its population.