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Co-design laboratory to regenerate the value connections of the food system

Promote applied research both technical and strategic, with results being prototyped in a real food system lab to validate innovative ideas

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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Universidad Ean

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Researcher Institution

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

1. Farmer Co-op or Farmer Business Organization: Corporación Familia de la Tierra. They will be in charge of the greenhouse (Technical part for research) and coordinating the activities with local farmers. They are experts in organic agriculture and best practices to produce abundant food without the use of synthetic inputs. 2. Non Profit, Fundación escuela Taller de Bogotá. They will be in charge of the restaurant operation with sustainable guidelines (water and energy use, waste disposal, portion analysis, checking on suppliers), menu alternatives and nutritional approach. Also they have a program for educating in better choices for healthy nutrition.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • Under 1 year

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Bogotá, capital of Colombia, covers a total area of 1.775 km²

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Universidad EAN is recognized in Colombia for its commitment to academic and outreach programs in sustainable entrepreneurship and social innovation, and has been working with the Colombian Government and with The Global Compact in Colombia to bring the Sustainable Development Goals promoted by United Nations and UNESCO to several regions and different productive sectors in our country. 

This project is one of this initiatives, that is becoming alive thanks to the development of the university campus, a smart block with a strategic location, easily accessible by main roads and in an area characterized by high gastronomic and commercial activity. The main Building, called Legacy, is inspired by Cradle to cradle design, registered for a LEED certification, designed for a better use of water and energy, new laboratories, classrooms and auditoriums, a perfect scenario to make sustainability a real experience for the community. 

We think about the building as our home, and like any home, the kitchen plays a huge role in social interaction, bonding and sharing beliefs, is a space to nurture the body and the mind. It doesn't matter in which area you work, if you are a student or a visitor, the kitchen is always welcoming everybody, and we want people to take out from this experience more than food. 

As a higher purpose of the university, we want to guarantee a prosperous scenario for future generations, starting with the city where we belong, which in turn is the heart of the country, and presenting systemic solutions that positively impact the largest number of people and bring greater benefits for the environment. We know that like Bogotá, the other cities of Colombia and the region, face similar problems at different scales, and we want this laboratory to be the cradle of many ideas that allow us to move towards sustainability.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Colombia has a varied climate, the population lives in a temperate climate with temperatures ranging between 17 and 24ºC. The main crops that we can find in Colombia are coffee, bananas, cocoa, sugar cane and avocado. It is a country located in South America, has a presidential government. The official language is Spanish.

Bogotá Capital District, with an extension of 163,660.94 (23.41% urban area and 76.59% rural area), has a diversity of ecosystems that amounts to more than 90 rural types and more than 400 urban environmental units, where they inhabit more than 600 species of flora and potentially more than 200 species of fauna; It is a tangible example of what the challenge of Management for the Conservation of Urban Biodiversity implies in a context of dominant rurality and with deep interdependencies with a wide, complex and diverse geographical region from the political, socio-economic and environmental aspects.

3.4% of the population registered in the country identified as indigenous, who live in all departments, and also identified as Afro-Colombian 10.6% of the population, 49% mestizo (mixed races) and 37% as white (DANE 2007). Right now, the population is mostly young, as  the national statistics direction (DANE, 2018) affirms, the largest population in Colombia is between the ages of 14 and 18, a band that concentrates 26.1%. They are followed by people between 18 and 26 years old, with 16%; This give Colombia a huge diversity of cultures, and of course gastronomy, and mixed traditions.  Also a mix of the old and the new thanks to globalization and generation relay. Colombians have a large pantry to choose our daily foods. With so many regions and food traditions, the dishes change, but broadly speaking, these are the foods that constitute the country's menu: typical Colombian soups made of beans, potatoes and different vegetables, with different animal proteins, arepas and empanadas (Made from corn) Patacones (made of green bananas), with traditional recipes, mostly balanced and healthy but in big portions. Very close to rural diets, and made always with fresh ingredients. Fruits are also very consumed, diverse and essential for colombians, raw or in juices.

The increase and evolution of diets focused on healthy foods this is shown by Nielsen figures because, currently, 4 out of 10 Colombians are looking for healthy options for their favorite foods specially in Bogotá,  enjoy fresh and easy-to-eat food options. Also traditional american fast food. All that comes with a change of habits, most colombians bring food in plastic containers to  their daily activities as study or work, even to recreational activities, to save money and being in control of what they eat.

Video: Francescutti , C., & Reid, C. (Direction). (2018). Tasting Some of the Wildest Fruit at Bogotá's Paloquemao Market — Vox Borders [Movie].

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)


What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

In the City of Bogotá, one of the biggest challenges refers to the disposition of residential spaces due to the large population concentration in the city, as well as being in continuous expansion, high unemployment and extreme poverty due to the high cost of life. Being the main place where people from all over the country come in search of opportunities.

The second challenge is about nutrition, ten out of every hundred children, under five, have chronic malnutrition. This condition is a consequence of insufficient food intake and can occur both because of its lack in quantity and quality of nutrients, which can not only cause problems in their physical development but also in mental health. In the specific case of Bogotá, fifteen out of every hundred children have chronic malnutrition, which makes it a central issue on the health agenda in the city. (El Espectador, 2018)

The third challenge has to do with the use of resources for agriculture in urban environments, thinking about the incorrect use of chemical products and solid and liquid waste in agriculture, it can contaminate the terrestrial and hydraulic resources arranged to generate products suitable for human consumption, in an already overused system. To this is added, the need to appeal to the constancy and dedication of the growers, as they can carry out this activity while they cover their most immediate needs without a business or long-term projection.

Bogotá is also highly vulnerable to climate change, which affects habitat, biodiversity, ecosystem, health, infrastructure development, food security and access to water, the latter being of great importance and risk since the city does not produce its own water or food and depends on these resources from municipalities in the region. The increase in temperatures and changes in the climate directly affect these two factors and therefore the food security of its people.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Awareness: The understanding from all parties that their actions have an impact in the hole system: technically, ethically,  ecologically, and being able to project those consequences is very important. We have to see the full picture as wide as we can, not fragments, and as difficult as it is. Sensitize the actors in the entire chain, as members of an interconnected system, were the approach to human beings is the most important.

Adaptation: find points that account for the evolution from a Minimum Viable Product to an advanced method. Pass barriers such as being able to see long-term results and economic resources to realize the full vision.

Market-fit: find the right value proposition in order to be competitive and economically stable, communicating correctly and effectively to a wider audience, and captivate new customers. Those that are more open to change habits, environmentally concerned and willing to learn and take action, as pioneers that can move more people with their example.

Educational model: Take advantage of this live laboratory as a space for learning based on challenges, in both technical and strategic aspects of the system. Moving from a traditional model can cause some resistance in students and teachers, so we have to be aware of that and work on a appropriation plan. This system implemented at the university can reduce the footprint generated by the traditional model and practices and improve nutrition and food consumption behaviour, also opening a very important conversation with a lot of actors

Scalability: evolution of a laboratory project to a replicable method that can be legislated and applied by public policy throughout the country. As ambitious as it sounds, recording, measuring, setting goals is very important so results can be supported and understood. Also, the understanding of the variables in each context is important, so mastering the basics is key.

Organic Agriculture: Challenges faced by producers in general to have products with a competitive price in the market. The relationship between: demand, organic production and competitivity, is yet an open and vivid subject that needs to be addressed and rethinked, and the academy plays a key role here.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Having the human factor in the center of all of the interactions in the system, almost guarantee an impact at different scales, we are aware that as a systemic approach, there will be some areas were it can be more evident than others, but we think is very important to move forward and co-create models that can be sustainable in time.

In a long term vision, we hope that our country will develop and implement best practices in organic agriculture, that can be escalated to the whole region, were Latin America become a source of the best food for its citizens and the world, with accessible superfoods and organic products. 

Also we envision our government to have a regulation that promotes healthy diet for children in schools, were nutrition and sustainable practices are in the center. We really hope to develop alternatives that have an impact in the way children are nurtured in our country, mostly in public restaurants were vulnerable population needs most care. 

For our students, it is a huge opportunity to learn in more applicable ways, to do research in real life systems and to gain experience during their academic studies in a subject that is relevant for everyone. We are betting on the professionals of the future. 

As consumers we have the need and the right  to understand all the processes implied for the food we eat to come to our plate, be more responsible of our choices, in charge of our nutrition and the way we interact with food. This is a principle we hope, is the starting point for the transformation from the way we consume nowadays (from production, throughout use and disposal) to a new conscious way with better, more responsible, ethical and fair choices, for all kind of products or services.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

The problem of climate change is systemic, it involves not only activities of production and use of natural resources but also psychosocial behaviors such as consumption and the perception of nutrition, therefore it cannot be seen from a single perspective. Many of the bad practices are due to the need for accelerated economic growth and the need to be competitive in a globalized world, where local markets are deeply impacted by the massive agricultural and industrial productions that are carried out abroad, it is necessary produce more, in less time and at lower costs, to satisfy a voracious market that is faced with alternatives always with lower prices but questionable quality.

It is important to look holistically and take action on multiple strategic fronts, fundamentally the human factor assuming with responsibility and ethics, and knowing the impact of the decisions taken as consumers and as producers, since particularly there is where we can find changes that can be sustained in time.

Climate change has rendered Colombia highly vulnerable to natural disasters. Most disasters in Colombia are due to climate variations, (ISRD, 2009). In the last 50 years, 90% of disasters have been due to hydrometeorological phenomena. Also, there is another kind of problems that go from environment to economics to social,  “30 years ago, the country's agricultural vocation grew in a way that allowed the State to dream of competing worldwide. However, the conflict -We had a guerrilla conflict for almost 50 years, in 2016 the government sign peace with the  FARC guerrilla- , the lack of information and even the decrease in the support of some crops, led to many of the food grown in large quantities to fall and remain static for many years. However, in 1990, the government approved that the country's gradual economic opening be initiated, with the aim of encouraging the growth of national industry and competing with other countries, which became one of the causes of the considerable decline and until the disappearance of many traditional crops. It is paradoxical that in a country where the production area can be increased by 20 million hectares, about 12 million tons of food are being imported annually.” (El Tiempo, 2019)

Bogotá is located in the region of Cundinamarca, which emits the equivalent of 24.088.000 tons of CO2, each year, accounting for 13.38% of the national total. According to the Regional Strategy for Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change, the response to these phenomena must be a true adaptation that builds territorial resilience, by evaluating and monitoring different measures implemented to reduce GHG (mitigation) and identified territorial vulnerabilities (adaptation). 

So both, nationally and locally we need to take actions towards finding a way to reduce our carbon print, focus on producing in a competitive way, maybe not thinking only about quantity but quality, taking care of the soil, and making organic agriculture a more common practice.

On the other hand, institutions must present viable alternatives that have a lower ecological impact but that are applicable to the day to day activities of  people, the educational institutions must pass from a passive role and assume a leading role since they are in a privileged point: specifically from this perspective,  a micro vision of the system,  professionals who are trained in their classrooms today will become the professionals who enter the workforce in the future and make decisions, so they need tools and clear examples that things can be done in other ways, sustainable ways.

Institutions must start searching for alternatives, investigating new materials, energies and processes, as well as innovating the way of creating businesses and acting as centers of knowledge that operate hand in hand with the actors in the chains to generate valuable changes, taking into account the exploitation of a finite planet, the new habits that will bring the fourth industrial revolution where technology presents viable alternatives, but which for the future must be molded in a sustainable way.

All of this reasons combined, and the opportunity that brings the construction of a new building for the university (Ean Legacy), were this subjects are being treated theoretically in classrooms, we can finally take a step ahead and make this project a live laboratory,  were everyone can participate in one way or another by experimenting, researching, studying, eating, learning, sharing and more.


We see each of the 3 main instances of the Lab-project: Production (Urban and Organic agriculture), Restaurant (Food processing and supply chain) and Education (research and innovation), as a laboratory where experiments can be held and research can be done aligned with sustainability at different phases both in the technical and strategic aspects: 


1. Production: we seek not only to perform a coordinated exercise of implementing biodiversity and native food, but to generate a symbiosis with the menu designed in the restaurant by our chefs and the native food culture in our country, all this under an academic exercise, where everything is monitored and analyzed by our students from different programs. We are going to grow in a greenhouse installed in the canopy of the university, a variety of plants and vegetables and make comparisons of naturally grown plants vs the ones grown in controlled environments. Also we want to work with local farmers to find new alternatives for the challenges they have to produce organic products more efficiently.


2. Restaurant, we see three main subjects: first, food processing and everything within the operation of the restaurant, suppliers chain, use of resources as energy and water, waste management that includes an inside laboratory for composting. It is very important for us to define our minimum standards for our suppliers in the beginning and set goals for the future (fish, meat and dairy  have to be sustainably sourced, most of our ingredients have to be sourced locally, most of our fruits and veggies produced organic, among others), something that is completely new in our country, for a food system in a HEI.

 Second, The menu has to respond to the necessities of our academic community in order to be successful, the offer needs to be flexible and open to try different ingredients and embrace our cultural roots, and have to be balanced between the habits they already have and the new ones we want to introduce as “Eat a little less meat and eat more amazing vegetables”, “Thanks to all of the things that had to happen for this meal to be here”. The prices need to be affordable but without sacrificing the quality of the ingredients, flavor and nutrition.

Rescuing ancient recipes and native agricultural products (forgotten biodiversity), promoting research about best practices for agricultural organic production, food conservation and transportation.

Third, community building: As simple as it is, the kitchen since tribal times is a space for reunion, we want this space not only to be for food consumption but a place to gather the community for open conversations about food, creativity, innovation, sustainable habits, sustainable entrepreneurship, recycling and more. 


3. Education: the results of the experiments, will allow us to generate strategies and improvements later replicable, and to build skills in every actor (students, producer, faculty, customers) to understand sustainability on a daily basis, and being able to practice it beyond this project in different scenarios.

In order to make it happen, we need to coordinate and involve teams of people from different disciplines, empower them to co-create each part of the project and to lead its development. Furthermore, we need to facilitate and educate in sustainable practices at the different stages of the project, in order to learn by applying them successfully. Teachers play a huge part in this. Also, we need to build the infrastructure for the restaurant and research facilities as spaces for creativity and innovation to flourish.

For the specific Lab proposed, the multidisciplinary team will conduct codesign sessions, rapid prototyping, minimum viable product prototyping, monitoring system implementation, data collection and results analysis, and most of all the coordination necessary to start the process for the food system.

We will develop some innovations and prototypes in different steps of the system:

The MVP of the Lab will be a greenhouse with a high level of monitoring and sensing generating data for researchers

Soil aeration system, as a container for the germination of seedlings that facilitates that in the process of transplantation the roots do not break, which also improves the possibility of exchange of soil-plant nutrients

Compost-Lab with monitoring and sensing: to minimize the negative environmental impact of the food-waste (raw and cooked), with efficient systems to facilitate ground adaptation

Treatment system: to minimize the negative environmental impact for the food-waste (cooked)

Social research in habits, cooking methods, ingredients choices, and motivators in our students, and how to introduce new habits using merchandising methods

In addition of the mentioned impacts, those innovations support other systemic (or global) impacts:

Knowledge generation that contributes to the training and learning processes of different professional areas 

Changes in society's behavior regarding issues o

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Conference/event


Join the conversation:

Photo of Maria Rinaudo

This project has the potential to design transitions towards sustainability from an innovative food system. Colombia is a vulnerable country to the effects of climate change, so it is necessary to rethink our agricultural and food model based on initiatives such as these. I am very happy to be part of this great team! Thank's Juliana!


Maria! you are a very important member of this team! We are betting on the professionals of the future, and the power of giving them the tools to research and create alternatives to create new systems. We take climate change very seriously and the impact that the food system has to it, so we are creating this initiatives were we can find solutions to real problems.

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