Metropolitan Foodscape Planner (MFP)

Complementary to the qualitative impact assessment based on stakeholder input, FOODMETRES also assesses the quantitative dimension of urban food consumption addressing spatial, logistical and resource aspects. FOODMETRES identifies the location, type and amount of agriculturally productive land in reach of urban centres to supply metropolitan populations with regionally grown food. For this purpose we developed the Metropolitan Foodscape Planner (MFP) tool, which allows the spatial allocation of food groups on the basis of regional demand figures derived from food consumption census data compiled by the European Food Safety Authority. The demand figures derived from this database have been projected against the actual metropolitan land use, making use of Homogenous Soil Mapping Units (HSMU). With the digital Maptable technology, stakeholders can engage in ‘serious gaming’ exercises and develop scenarios for increasing the supply with regional food for 8 food groups on the basis of the urban consumption needs. During regional workshops, stakeholders can suggest where different crop types can be produced for urban consumers. Building upon the classical market-centred Von Thünen (1826) model, but translating it into the system environment of today’s agro-food-sector and spatial planning strategies, the following spatial areas are identified: (1) urban core area, (2) green buffer & fingers, (3) metropolitan food production, and (4) transition zone. For Rotterdam metropolitan region, and taking into account the urban demand for recreation (0.2 ha/per person; see Goossen, 2014) and food consumption (Sali et al. 2015), the metropolitan food production zone comprises a total of 48,000 ha – agricultural hectares potentially available to mainly satisfy the non-meat consumption needs of the 1.2 million inhabitants of the Rotterdam City Region. Land cover such as urban areas, water bodies and nature conservation areas are excluded from this food production zone. Besides the map, stakeholders also receive statistical information in which – according to the demand figures – crop types are over-represented or underrepresented in the current land-use scheme. Together with researchers, stakeholders can then, through direct operations on the digital Maptable, make land-use change proposals for better balancing supply and demand in the respective metropolitan production region and – if necessary – also beyond, in the transition zone.

The Metropolitan Foodscape Planner (MFP) allows users to detect concrete spatial locations and the available amounts of suitable farmland (supply) around cities for the most essential food groups on the basis of urban population figures (demand). Unlike MAPS, MFP is a dynamic tool in the sense that users can directly undertake – by drawing with a pen on a digital table – land use changes in response to the footprint assessments which are provided by a geographic information system. MFP allows the spatial allocation of 8 to 9 food groups (depending on the respective case) making use of the following European data sets:

  • national food consumption census data compiled by the European Food Safety Authority (2011);
  • geo-referenced distribution data for food groups as recorded in the Homogenous Soil Mapping Units (HSMU), deriving from the European Commission’s main agricultural land use model CAPRI (Kempen et al. 2005).
  • a European Landscape Typology (LANMAP) combining in itself exclusively European and global data sources such as CORINE land cover, the elevation model GTOP030, the European Soil Database and climate data from a European stratification (Metzger et al. 2005).
  • The Common Database for Designated Areas (CDDA) showing all nationally and internationally protected landscape and nature conservation areas.

Though less accurate as the national land use survey data, HSMU is available for the whole of Europe, allowing direct top-down assessments without resource-consuming data gathering procedures. The concept of spatially allocating specific food groups for which a certain supply deficit has been recognised – e.g. vegetables or oil seeds are typically underrepresented in the metropolitan surroundings of cities – to areas with clear food supply surplus coverage, for example grasslands, points at the need to guide such stakeholder decisions by offering additional land use related references. MFP is doing so by the means of two support mechanisms:

  • a metropolitan zoning concept that suggests an agreed-upon sequence of food-zones following each other inspired by von Thünen (1826);
  • a series of food group allocation rules specifically designed for each metropolitan region on the basis of landscape-ecological references (LANMAP)

Building upon the classical market-centred von Thünen (1826) model, but translating it into contemporary agri-environmental and spatial planning strategies, we developed the following concept of metropolitan zones: (1) urban core area, followed by (2) a green buffer reserved for nature and recreation, (3) a metropolitan food production zone differentiating a plant-based and a protein-based supply zone, and (4) a transition zone which is meant to provide food also for adjacent urban areas.

Making use of the figures for urban food demand, MFA projects the corresponding land demand figures in the form of ‘local hectares’ to those areas of land that can be considered to be eligible for farming. We hence excluded all land covered by urban areas, water bodies (sea, lakes & rivers), nature and landscape conservation sites, forests and other non-farmlands such as rocks, beaches and swamps. Around urban centres we reserved a ‘green buffer’ zone mainly for biodiversity and recreational functions – but without investing into further elaborations. Here we obviously included all lands to have this potential function. The guiding principle for introducing such a green buffer was based on the assumption, that (1) urban dwellers will appreciate short travel distances to enjoy these functions, and (2) there is a basic need to offer micro-climatic compensation for high-density urban zones in terms of air quality and circulation.

Following the green buffer, we gave full priority to the supply with plant-based food groups such as rotation crops (wheat, sugar beet, potatoes), other cereals, oil seeds, vegetables and fruit, taking the total hectare requirements for calculating the width of the plant-based metropolitan food-ring, as we call it. This means that the amount of available farmland within this ring matches exactly the total amount for land needed for all plant-based food groups, but that actual distribution of these food groups within this ring shows of course large deficits and surpluses, thus the type of expected imbalance we consider as an important reference when exploring potentials for optimizing the supply of regional food on the basis of the available land.

Following the plant-based food production ring, we dedicate the next zone exclusively to land cover types such as fodder and grasslands for livestock keeping. We called this the protein-based metropolitan food ring. The rationale behind the concept of an inner plant- and an outer protein-based production zones is related to the von Thünen economic theory according to which perishable food should be located closer to the city. Another aspect has been the environmental and social conflicts associated with livestock keeping as a pressure on human health and wellbeing (odours, bacteria, manure issues).

We are aware that introducing clear spatial demarcations for different food groups in the forms of zones is drastically contrasting with the everyday situation in our current metropolitan regions. However, rather than intending to reflect the agricultural status quo, the MAPS-concept offers a quantitative look at agricultural resource potentials in which key issues such as the impacts and location of protein consumption, human requirements for recreation and nature, as well as availability of land to provide regional food is visualised in one scheme.

Making use of the digital Maptable technology, stakeholders can engage in ‘serious gaming’ exercises and develop proposal for increasing the supply with regional food for the 8 food groups on the basis of the urban consumption needs. In order to provide further guidance during this process, MFP offers the spatial references of the European Landscape Typology (LANMAP) to ensure that stakeholders receive ‘alert’ messages if their changes they propose are in conflict with the allocation rules laid down as part of the landscape-ecological references.

Both the MFP-zoning concept as well as the LANMAP-based allocation rules are in principle open to stakeholder revisions prior to engaging in the Maptable exercise. This way, a high level of tool transparency and flexibility can be achieved – the basis for gaining trust and ownership throughout the process.

Diagram MFP 3.3.1
Figure. Comparison between supply and demand figures for the cities of Rotterdam, Berlin and London in global hectares as produced by MFA.