Tools and Models: Analysis Metropolitan Food Systems

Within the debate of urban resilience and metabolism, reduction of ecological footprint and self-sufficiency, regionalized food systems and shortening of supply chains have gained increasing importance. Manifold benefits, such as reduction of vulnerability against crisis situation of the global food supply, more efficient energy and resource use or social welfare and competitiveness of the regional food sector, have encouraged many metropolitan jurisdictions to develop food policies, aiming at fostering local food systems and reconnecting cities with their foodsheds. As a precondition to policy making, analytical models are required, which determine the spatial extent of surrounding farmlands necessary to provide sufficient food, respectively the regional food balance between production and consumption.

The objective to spatially analyse the footprint of metropolitan food supply implies two specific challenges, which require the application of different methodological approaches – (i) The analysis of the spatial extent of the agricultural area required for food production (“How much?”); and (ii) the distribution of the various land use types, which are required for food production (“Where”?). Both modelling approaches feature not only methodological differences, but also in terms of input data, modelling rational and the degree of stakeholder interaction. However, both models apply a common spatial understanding of minimizing the distance of food production and consumption location (urban core), resulting in an idealized circular representation of food zones, comparable to the renowned model by Heinrich von Thünen (1826) about the spatial distribution of agricultural commodities as a function of transportation cost to the central market.

In the FOODMETRES approach, the question of the area demand for food supply is addressed by the Metropolitan Area Profile and Scenario (MAPS) tool, which adopts a straightforward data-driven approach of connecting regional food demand (local hectares) with the regional area productivity. Its main strengths are (1) the spatial representation (mapping approach), (2) model differentiation of commodity types, (3) the ability to apply different food production regimes (e.g. organic farming, food loss) and consumption patterns (e.g. vegetarian, healthy diets) or population scenarios, and (4) the analysis of theoretical self-sufficiency levels at different administrative levels. The Metropolitan Foodscape Planner (MFP) offers (1) hands-on impact assessment allowing stakeholders to re-allocate commodities on a digital maptable, (2) quantification and geo-referencing of up to 10 commodity types at the scale of 1 hectare-grids, (3) the analysis of self-sufficiency based on a regional concept consisting of four metropolitan food zones, (4) landscape-ecological allocation rules to base land use decisions on sustainable principles, and (5) European data such as EFSA, LANMAP, HSMU and CORINE Land Cover to allow future top-down tool applications for all metropolitan regions throughout the EU.

The MAPS and MFP tools are accompanied by the economic assessment of the Metropolitan Economic Food Balance (MEFB) tool, which is aimed at understanding how economic dimensions of agricultural systems are linked one another into a complex structure. Based on the calculation of quantitative elements expressing the relation between food production and consumption at staple food level, such an approach reveals the chances of getting them closer and serves as a tool for the assessment of performances of regional agro-food systems.

The Sustainability Food Impact Assessment (SFIA) tool complements the family of food assessment tools. Here the focus is on impacts of different food innovation within the different dimensions of sustainability. Therefore 15 different impact fields have been taken into consideration.