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Competitive Circular Cuisine in West Sweden

A sustainable and future-proof food system in West Sweden, combining technology, delicious food and a culture of community.

Photo of Anton Johansson
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Mycorena AB

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

http://www.mycorena.com

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

  • 1-3 years

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

Gothenburg

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Sweden

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

West Sweden, a National Area of Sweden

What country is your selected Place located in?

Sweden

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

At Mycorena, we have a lot of love for West Sweden. As the place where we were founded and where we do the majority of our business, our personal and professional lives are heavily influenced by the way of life and what the region has to offer. Thanks to its rich culture, neverending enthusiasm and innovativeness of its people and organizations, and profile as a Nordic powerhouse for entrepreneurship and sustainable development, Mycorena is fortunate to have its foundation here. As such, despite our multicultural team and strong desire to change food systems all over the world, West Sweden will always feel like home to us. Our love for the local cuisine is just a bonus. More importantly, the ambitions underpinning our company are closely connected to those that are central to life in West Sweden. Just like the typical Western Swede, we are strongly driven by curiosity, a love for food, passion for sustainability, and willingness to do good together with others. These are the central values upon which we do business. 

We selected West Sweden for several reasons. The most important factor is that it is a place where strong commitments for sustainable development and a more innovative and competitive food systems are already in place. This means that absorption and acceptance of novel solutions are very high, and that countless synergies can be created for any ambitious pioneer such as ourselves. Still, many challenges remain, and with the right efforts and initiatives, West Sweden has a lot of potential for growth and for becoming an even stronger beacon of light in the global community for innovation and sustainability. We want to contribute to this growth. Finally, as we ourselves have our roots in the region, we want to utilize our specialized knowledge and relationship with the place as leverage for creating valuable offerings and sustainable innovation for the long run. 

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.

It has hardly escaped anyone that life in Scandinavia is all about sustainability, with many other parts of the world using its successes as guiding stars. West Sweden arguably constitutes ground zero for this movement, with its largest city, Gothenburg, having clinched the top spot at the Global Destination Sustainability Index several years in a row. With an understanding of the inner workings of society in the region, none of this hardly comes as a surprise. There are three themes of life in Western Sweden that are central not only to the way people live and interact, but also to a society which fosters a great love for sustainability: food, nature, and community.

Food: Home to both the culinary and fika capitals of the country, West Sweden is a place where food plays a huge role in everyday life. When not enjoying locally produced dishes (especially the beloved seafood) or spending time with friends at one of the hundreds of microbreweries, Swedish westerners can most likely be seen at one of the local cafés and coffee shops, enjoying cakes and pastries with loved ones. Nature: From billowing forests to scenic plains and beautiful coastlines along the archipelagos, West Sweden has everything needed to birth a population passionate about spending time outdoors. Hiking, paddling, exploring and exercising are staples in everyday activities in a Place where you are never far from nature. Community: West Sweden harbors an immense love for local culture and history, with its inhabitants always finding time for both new and nostalgic experiences together. Togetherness is a key characteristic of all Swedish westerners, and you are always close to making a new friend. 

Together, these themes are central in shaping the way West Swedes view the world. The proximity to nature and the strong sense of community undoubtedly creates a common will to join forces in enabling harmonious health and longevity for society, environment and industry. This is extremely well reflected in the way people produce, consume and experience food in the Place, and fairness, sustainability and responsibility are watchwords for all West Sweden foodies. Without ever compromising on culinary quality, everyone is pulling their own weight by promoting local produce, consuming responsibly, and avoiding food waste by providing unused leftovers to livestock feed, biogas production and digital food salvaging services. Still, as we will see, there are opportunities for improvement.

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

30000

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

2000000

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

Despite the fact that West Sweden is the region with the largest area of cultivated land in the entire country, and that international interest in West Swedish cuisine is increasing, there are significant challenges facing the current food system. The first relates to self-sufficiency. Because of comparatively low production output and variation in the food produced, West Sweden is a net importer. There are two important consequences to consider, namely that: (a) consumers face a natural limit on the supply of local produce, and; (b) the competitiveness of the regional food industry and its actors is not as strong as it could be. To solve this issue, regional authorities are implementing programs aimed at increasing both the volume and variety of output of locally produced food, but much is left to be done. The second factor pertains to the most prevalent types of foods. Meat and dairy dominates the agricultural sector, which not only means large negative climate impact , but also that people in West Sweden experience adverse effects to health from excessive consumption of animal-based protein. The consumption of plant-based protein is increasing, but since the most prevalent sources are not extensively grown in Sweden, this is primarily import-driven which exacerbates the first challenge identified above. The third challenge relates to food waste. Despite large efforts to reduce the amount of food that gets thrown away , a fact of the matter is that very large amounts of delicious food and fika still ends up in the bin. With an improved food system with higher resource efficiency and upcycling mechanisms for food waste, we could ensure that many more people get to enjoy Western Swedish food and that the region a lot more sustainable.

In the future, we predict that the biggest challenges for the food system will be related to competitiveness and to the supply of competence. We are at the beginning of a structural transformation where traditional food production technologies are being overtaken by novel biotechnology-based alternatives, with emphasis on production of alternative protein sources for food (lab-grown meat, insects, bacteria/yeast, fungi, etc). This means that expertise relating to this scientific field will increase in importance and stimulating and attracting commercial activities that use these technologies to produce food will be crucial. The Swedish biotechnology industry already faces difficulties in finding employees and entrepreneurs with the right skills. The issue is extraordinarily pressing within the Swedish food space which, as opposed to the pharmaceuticals industry, is not well-developed in terms of biotechnological expertise. Preparing the West Swedish food system for this transformation by encouraging entrepreneurship and competence development within biotechnology-based food production will be crucial.

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

Our Vision for the West Sweden food system of 2050 will have mitigated all of the previously identified challenges and risks. First, the region will no longer experience the full weight of weakened self-sufficiency. By not only reusing larger proportions of unused food, but also by using biotechnology to upcycle byproducts and side streams into entirely new products, the degree of self-sufficiency will be significantly improved. Larger amounts and varieties of food will be produced locally, at extremely high efficiency and very low cost. This will be fundamentally made possible by technology and facilitated by aspects relating to economics as well as to food culture, dietary preferences, and necessary developments within policy and regulation. Our Vision therefore sees the 2050 food system of West Sweden as much more competitive than it is today. Thanks to the advent of entirely new food products, and to extensive systems for sharing and redistributing unsold meals, consumers will also be given a richer variety of culinary products to choose from when visiting their favorite restaurants, cafés and grocery stores. Second, our Vision will contain all the necessary conditions for enabling food choices that are beneficial for both health and environment. Thanks to rapid advances in food production and ingredients science, the supply of foods will be made a lot more healthy without compromising on taste or quality of the most beloved Swedish foods. As such, the issues relating to detrimental health and climate effects associated with the current food production system will be all but eradicated in our Vision. 

If properly acted upon, our Vision will also have mitigated the key future risks relating to competence attraction and the development of expertise for a future-proof food system. Thanks to factors of both technology push (i.e. comparative advantage of novel production systems vis-à-vis current methods) and market pull (greater demand for healthy, sustainable and locally sourced products), the pool containing the necessary expertise will have grown to equilibrium levels. Realizing the need for structural transformation of how current value chains operate, public and regulatory bodies will surely implement various policies aimed at incentivizing innovation and knowledge development within the food segment. With the industry also becoming increasingly competitive leading up to 2050, it will be made more attractive for the vast amount of human capital available, creating a positive feedback loop between knowledge development and the generation of new talent to enter the field.

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.

We envision a West Sweden where the food system has evolved into a prosperous circular economy, operating in a environmentally and economically sustainable way that will inspire other places worldwide. Such developments will mainly be made possible by the introduction of entirely new technological solutions. However, the importance of factors relating to economics, policies, and dietary preferences should not be understated. The most important aspect might be the role of culture and community. Not only is the way of life in West Sweden already heavily influenced by sustainability, community-driven change and a love for food, but also by curiosity and willingness to have new experiences. These characteristics will be a driving force behind realizing our Vision, and will need to be further leveraged for ensured success.

The perhaps most important change that will happen relates to how organizations and individuals build relationships and interact with one another in the food system. This will most clearly be seen in the way that byproducts and unused or unsold goods will be utilized for additional value creation. Instead of actors being isolated entities, each fulfilling a certain role, mechanisms for cross-functional cooperation and communal value sharing will be created. Byproducts and side streams will be utilized by biotechnology firms for upcycling into entirely new food products. Leftovers and underutilized inventories will be redistributed to actors and individuals with better capacity for using them. More food will be shared. As such, material flows in the value chain will not only enable entirely new relationships to form, but food will also become a much stronger marker of cultural identity and a point of common identity. Consumers will be more willing and more demanding of solutions that allows them to act sustainably, and policies will be adapted to incentivize and promote activities that are beneficial for society and climate. 

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

Our Vision is for the food system in West Sweden to be transformed into a more self-generative and sustainable version of its current self. This will be driven by novel solutions for production and distribution of food both within and outside the biotechnology sphere, and leveraged by the very features that make life in West Sweden what it is today.

With the help of new solutions for both production and distribution of foods, the supply chain will be made significantly more efficient at bringing products to consumers without increases in resource uptake or climate impact. Primarily, this will require the implementation of technologies that enable creation of value chains, transactions and relationships that were not previously possible. Biotechnology offers a lot of promise in this regard. Through the use of fermentation, low-cost and abundantly available raw materials will be used to produce novel food ingredients that are healthy, sustainable and free from animal-based protein. Efficiency is incredibly high compared to conventional food production methods, and with negligible negative climate impact. This will not only enhance the aggregated food output capacity of West Sweden in a highly sustainable fashion, but also introduce an entirely new  foods to be enjoyed by the inhabitants. The very same type of process also enables using byproducts and side streams as raw material for food production, significantly decreasing resource use and CO2 emissions per every unit of nutrition that is provided to the consumer collective.  Similarly, technologies such as aquaponics, urban farming, and various digital food services will transform the way Western Swedes source and consume foods. 

The current economic challenges of many emerging food production technologies will be resolved well in time for 2050, enabling widespread adoption. However, economics does not only play a role in shaping the future of food systems, but will also be affected by how they evolve. Rapid improvements in food technologies will have a profound effect on the economics of West Sweden, mainly because it enables an enhanced output of food in terms of both volume and variety. The most obvious consequence is that the region’s competitiveness increased. This, in turn, leads not only to more jobs and stronger West Swedish self-sufficiency, but also to higher economic output and greater material prosperity. Because these technologies also enable large increments in efficiency of the food value chain, a larger share of invested capital can be expected to shift from traditional food production to novel alternatives, which puts financiers’ money to better work. Economic effects will not, however, begin and end with the organizations and ecosystems of the region, but evolve in close connection to its inhabitants as well. In 2050, consumers of West Sweden will be a lot more empowered than they are today. This pertains both to the fact that their material well-being and disposable incomes will have increased, allowing for greater freedom to consume foods of choice, and to that consumers will be king and have endless possibilities to vote on the developments of food systems by choosing where to spend their money. 

It is obvious that West Sweden has great potential to develop and maintain a sustainable and regenerative food system while not having to  compromise on the most beloved aspects of Western Swedish diets. First, thanks to the help of various technological solutions for upcycling and redistributing unused food, traditional cuisine will benefit more people without the need for more raw materials. Such solutions include biotechnological conversion of foodstuffs into new microbiology-based products to digital services for buying and selling unused meals. Second, fast advancements in food science will have made possible the replacement of unsustainable and unhealthy ingredients with superior alternatives without negatively affecting taste, quality or price. An obvious example is the replacement of meat with plant-based, microbial and cultured alternatives. Third, we expect consumers to place higher demands on sustainability, local produce, and high-quality foodstuffs, meaning that the transition to new foods will be driven not only by technology push but also significant market pull factors. At the same time, it is almost certain that Western Swedes will expand their diets and explore a multitude of new options. A naturally open-minded, curious and friendly population, they are more likely than many others to fully embrace the possibilities to consume entirely new food products and to buy unsold meals to help local commerce and environment, even if it means stepping outside of one’s normal dietary habits. 

West Sweden already houses a highly sustainability-minded population, largely attributable to the closeness to nature. By 2050, we will see even greater advances towards an environmentally healthy ecosystem. Thanks to  efficient solutions for production and distribution of foods, greenhouse gas emissions and other factors that are inherently harmful for the environment will be significantly diminished. Because future solutions also require far less natural resources, land, water and time to reach viable output, a range of beneficial effects for the local environment will be seen. The most important ones are improved soil health and biodiversity, a far less strained water system, and the freeing up of cultivated land for creating natural green zones and a more diverse local topography. With the region standing at the forefront of Swedish urban development and infrastructure, it is also a near certainty that the food value chain will become an integrated part of green architecture and life in green cities of the future. Urban farming, localized aquaponics and digital C2C food marketplaces will be central to these developments.

Today, policies and regulations are not keeping up with rapid developments within technology and consumption patterns. The time to market for novel food production technologies are lengthened due to incompatibilities with existing regulation, and reusing unsold food is allowable only under strict conditions. Similarly, the lion’s share of unused byproducts and side streams from food processing currently goes to biogas production and animal feed production, instead of being utilized for the creation of more human food. This inefficiency is strictly a matter of lagging regulations and a lack of incentives. Even though the willingness to engage in activities that increase efficiency of the food system and decrease climate footprint is high, the ability to actually pursue them is thus falling behind. On the bright side, an extensive policy framework governing public funding for food systems innovation has been put in place at both the local, regional and national levels. As such, innovators in West Sweden have access to significant capital that risk-averse private financiers would not otherwise provide. Unfortunately, other policies relating to food regulation have not kept up with this progressiveness. By 2050, all of these discrepancies and limitations between will have been decreased if not eradicated completely. Exponential growth in new technologies, relationships and transactions that currently are too costly to pursue will be enabled as a result. These developments are likely to not only originate from within the commercial sphere and its actors, but from increased demands of the consumers and general public on simplified frameworks for living sustainably in the food system as well. Among other things, policies will be in place in 2050 that incentivize innovation and progress, disincentivize and/or penalize activities that are harmful for environment or society, provide clear guidelines for various forms of novel food production technologies, simplify processes for upcycling and redistributing unused foods, and educate households on sustainable consumption. As a result, companies will be more inclined to take risks and innovate, up- and recycling will become a naturally integrated part of every value chain section, and consumers will find it easier to make conscious decisions on eating and spending.

All of the above will require strong anchoring in the local community and that a significant grass roots movement can be built up at the consumer level. Without such engagement, any initiative from either the public or industry is likely to fail. Luckily, the foundations for achieving this culture shift are already in place, as Western Swedes are already highly passionate about food and sustainability. In addition, the strong sense of community and togetherness will be important building blocks for ensuring that developments in culture continue to drive and support what is happening in the public and commercial arenas. Last but not least, West Swedes are adventurous in nature and therefore highly receptive to new flavors and culinary experiences. In a nutshell, this means that the road to the future food system will be heavily characterized by leveraging existing cultural patterns, rather than creating entirely new ones. In 2050, consumers will place even higher demands on producers and regulators to create favorable conditions for a sustainable food chain that delivers high-quality and locally rooted food. A day in the life of a West Swedish consumer will be characterized by purchasing a wide range of traditional and novel food products from brands that they know and associate with, using consumption as a marker of cultural identity and as a tool for building relationships, and make conscious decisions to reduce their negative impact on climate and society in every aspect. This entails not only choosing the most sustainable food products at the point of purchase, but also that they utilize the well-established services available for providing leftovers and unused foods to upcyclers and redistributors. 

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

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Photo of Constanza Castano
Team

Hi, Anton Johansson ! Welcome to the Food System Vision Prize Community!

We have reached the end of this Open Submission phase. Yours is a comprehensive, well-informed, and promising 2050 Vision. Thank you for sharing it with us.

All the very best for the Prize!

Warm regards,

Constanza