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Co-owned food for unique food experiences in Copenhagen

A Food System that is owned & experienced by citizens and is interconnected through private micro-mediators - so called Food Spaces.

Photo of Lena Marijke Wenzel
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Food Spaces PMV

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

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

  • Just beginning now

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

Copenhagen

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Denmark

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

Copenhagen and surroundings, the capital of Denmark - covering about 290km^2.

What country is your selected Place located in?

Denmark

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

First of all, we selected Copenhagen on the basis of geographical proximity. We live, work and study in the city, which makes our collected knowhow better of this place than anywhere else. Our group’s mixture of Danes and internationals make for a broad perspective of the Danish food culture. Our backgrounds stretch from urban gardening to food tech start-ups to futures studies to waste recycling projects to diet app development to food technology.

Secondly, Copenhagen is a lighthouse in food innovation and a pioneer into both fine cuisine and social eating. From highly praised Michelin star restaurants to street food markets, Copenhagen is a city of good food. The city is permeated by the New Nordic Food Movement with its focus on local, seasonal, quality ingredients and the Danish values of trust, ‘hygge’, equality and collectivism.

Thirdly, the municipality of Copenhagen already has a lot of plans for using new urbanism to make the city even more livable, greener and more sustainable. We would argue that food and the social setting around food is an absolutely essential thing to consider when implementing these plans. 

For us, Copenhagen is the cafes with organic sandwiches, coffee, and juice. Copenhagen is a picnic paradise with parks and recreational areas spread across the city from churchyards (Assistens Kirkegård) to canal-side swimming areas to gardens. Copenhagen is THE place for street food with everything from traditional hot dog street vendors to food markets such as Reffen and Torvehallerne. Copenhagen is national championships in kebab. Copenhagen is experimental food concepts and experiences and traditional ‘smørrebrød’. Copenhagen is local, Copenhagen is global. You are connected to your neighborhood but also connected with the city itself.

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.

Located on the eastern coast of Denmark, Copenhagen has about 1,346,485 citizens - ca. 10% of the total population. The climate is mild, seasonal and temperate with temperatures averaging from 0-16°C and steady rainfalls.

The government is actively shaping the city brand which resulted in Copenhagen becoming the European Green Capital 2014. The city has high goals including neutral carbon emissions until 2025 and a 50% modal share of cyclists. On a social level, the Scandinavian welfare model gives citizens equal rights to social security. It is subsidized by the state, resulting in relatively high taxes.

Peasant dishes served before the Industrial revolution used natural products from self-produced dry products like smoked pork. These traditional Danish dishes represent the Danish food triangle - potatoes, meat, and vegetables. Annual Feasts are held around Christian traditions, however, the act of eating and drinking together is considered more important than what is actually consumed.

Copenhagen and the surrounding “whiskey belt” area of wealthy people are different from the rural and more traditional areas. The New Nordic Cuisine put Copenhagen on the culinary world map. One can find organic dining options from Michelin star restaurants like Noma to the street food market Reffen. Organic produce has found its place in mainstream foods as it makes up 24% of total food sales and 88% of the food consumption.

Street food and food courts have an enormous impact on the way Danes eat. This trend also inspires a variety of cooking clubs and urban farming projects sprouting in other Danish cities. Sustainable alternatives to supermarkets emerge, like a market with no packaging, a community distributing supermarket food left-overs for free, start-ups that offer delivery of local produce considered “too ugly” to sell.

Denmark is called an “agricultural superpower” by the Economist in terms of ingredients, products, and knowledge. It is also a European leader in food tech. With limited natural resources, the Danish economy is heavily dependant on international trade and export. Agricultural production includes pork, poultry, milk & eggs. Agricultural land covers ca. 62% of the country, of which the majority is used for livestock & feed. 91% of farms are individually-owned, with a 3 % decline of farms per year from 1990 to 2011.

Locals voices:

“Not only Copenhagen people want to eat more green, organic & local, but in general, Danes eat less sugar and prioritize cooking time over other activities”.Klara, biologist & food entrepreneur


“I wish that I had access to a variety of healthy food choices and would be able to afford going out with friends more often”. Kate, food enthusiast


“I wish for a future where we get inspired by the past to change the current unhealthy food system. Climate change and sustainability are two driving forces that unite us”. Asmus, food historian

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

290

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

1346485

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

The three main challenges in the Copenhagen food system are (1) Human and environmental health, (2) Debt of farmers, (3) Monopoly of four players in the farming industry. We assume the main challenges intensify in the next 30 years if no intervention is taken. 


Environment 

Recently, Copenhagen had unusually hot summers. The main contributors to GHG emissions are the pig and dairy industry. Standardization of crops and the usage of pesticides foster soil destruction. Those trends are especially alarming (challenge 1) as 62% of the land is used for agriculture.

In the future, the climate will become drier and warmer and sea levels will rise. This will change the types of crops that can be grown on the remaining land.


Economy

Farmers struggle with high production costs due to high labor costs & land prices and changing weather conditions has caused high economic losses (challenge 2). The industry is centered around four big co-operations that dictate production methods and standardization of food and own the biggest share of profits in the supply chain. Food waste is around 600,000t/year with households accounting for 42%. 

In the future, export that relies on pork and dairy is under pressure by sustainability movements, climate conditions and uncertain export partners like the UK. Many individual farmers could vanish under the pressure of the monopoly. 


Culture

Food consumption and access have to be convenient, supporting a take-away and single-use culture and thus food and plastic waste and consumer unawareness. 

In the future, Copenhagen will have to feed more people which might challenge current systems. Because convenience is still a core need of consumers, delivery services are increasing and offering on-demand services. 


Diets

The Danish diet is too fat, sweet and lacks dietary fiber. More than 50% of Danes are overweight and about 6% of Copenhageners have diabetes (challenge 1). Food waste accounts for 11% of CO2 emissions and costs about DKK10M/year.

In the future, diabetes could have exceeded 500,000 people in Denmark which puts financial pressure on the health sector and the social system of the state. 


Technology

The need to increase productivity to stay competitive in the global market puts pressure on the vibrant food tech scene. Increasing automation could lead to a loss of jobs in the agricultural industry. Big data ensures and improves food safety. Further, data could make consumer choices transparent but the need for clear agreements on data and ethics arises.


Policy

As diabetes-attributed costs increase, the government discusses regulations on unhealthy diets (e.g. sugar tax). To reach the goal of neutral carbon emissions until 2025, many industry practices have to change. The economic loss of farmers due to climate change affects the export power and thus the government has given “drought aid” in past years.

In the future, epidemics remain the biggest threat to humankind and production standardizations and food safety have increased even more.

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

Even though the Danish food system faces a variety of smaller and bigger challenges, we chose to focus on three. These three represent (potential) major bottlenecks for Danes but at the same time, we see great potential to reverse those.


1 - FARMER'S DEBTS

First, we aspire to re-invent the organizational structure of the food system. With this, we address the challenge of high debts of Danish farmers. Through crowd-investments of Danes in Danish farms, we make citizens co-owners of the Danish farming system & thus help farmers finance their activities. With this, we also break out of the huge cooperative structure present at the moment, creating a close to a monopoly of 3 big farming cooperatives in Denmark. This way, the historical importance of farming for Denmark is protected if not elevated: through crowd investments, usual Danes take an active stake in farming next to farmers.


2 - RESILIENCE

Secondly, we tackle reliance on export of raw foods such as pork as well as the environmental threats such as high CO2 emissions of the meat industry by diversifying food products grown in labs (especially meat). Stepping up within the food tech industry already now, Denmark is likely to become a big player in this field in the future. Hence, being able to grow foods such as pork more efficiently and without the need of using large amounts of land, water, and livestock, GHG emissions, land use and water use could be reduced tremendously according to the EU. At the same time, investments into this new technology could save Denmark a spot at the forefront of lab-grown meat globally. This is not only beneficial for Denmark in terms of the environment but also economically.


3 - HEALTH

Lastly, we tackle the challenge of bad health through excessive sugar and too little greens by elevating the citizen's knowledge of and engagement with farming. We believe that awareness of healthy foods such as farmed vegetables & co-ownership in these is an important step in changing these dietary habits. As research on changing habits suggests, a mix of both individual interventions, such as elevated knowledge and environmental restructuring, and policies, such as marketing and service provisions, support individuals in changing habits. By creating a platform for individuals through which flexible investments in Danish vegetable farms is possible, important aspects of behavioral change interventions and policies are addressed that can enable Danes to slowly change from high sugar and fat diet to a more natural and plant-based diet.

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.

Re-organization of key stakeholders within the current food system is necessary. The importance of farming in Denmark is kept while ensuring economic viability, resilience, and consumer awareness. In essence, we call for integration and communication over silos:

Individuals invest through a crowd-investment platform in Danish farms. They have a voice on produce & support Danish farmers through direct investments. In reverse, individuals receive credits that can be used in exchange for raw or readily cooked food at Food Spaces. The amount of credits depends on the amount invested. Through a higher awareness of Danish grown foods and the provision of these at the Food Spaces, diets are likely to be less sugar and fat heavy.

Food Spaces are an integration of supermarkets, food delivery and restaurant experience in one. Through direct sourcing from Danish farmers, Food Spaces SOURCE safe, healthy and variety of food products from farms, food labs and import. On top of that, Food Spaces make it easy and convenient for individuals to cook or order readily cooked foods alone or in groups. The highly valued aspect of socialization through food in Denmark is kept.

Providers

1. Local Farms: Fully-automated small-scale facilities for local food production of most fruits and vegetables. Farms deliver directly to Food Spaces and are connected to consumers through the crowd-investment platform. With this, debts are a story of the past.

2. Food Labs: Grow foods (especially meat) artificially in order to add value and ensure economic growth through export at the forefront in global food tech

3. Import: Variety of international partnerships that ensure diversity for the local diet similar to today

The Government supports individuals financially through a basic income and promotes investment in farms and Food Spaces. It subsidizes businesses that fall under the criteria of Food Spaces. It creates regulations that ensure CO2-neutral food production of Food Labs and local farms.

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

Our vision for the Copenhagen food system of 2050 is shared, glocal, resilient and healthy.

Having identified farmers’ debts, reliance on single exported goods and too sugary and fatty diets as Denmark's greatest challenges, we came up with a vision that addresses these challenges while embracing the Danish importance on socializing over food and farming practices. 


Three core concepts create the vision:

A Food Space is a place where a supermarket meets a lively kitchen & restaurant. Designed in differing themes, Food Spaces make use of unused buildings such as churches & bring life to those places by filling them with food & people. Local farmers distribute their crops directly to Food Spaces, eliminating the need for supermarkets. At the same time, prominent Food Labs deliver nutritious meat and dairy products, while imports from other countries such as wheat from Germany enrich the Danish world of food. At a Food Space, guests can choose to order a cooked meal, get raw foods and prepare their own dish in one of the available kitchens, shop for aliments, or get their ordered raw or cooked foods delivered straight to their door. 

Being at the forefront of food tech, Danes revolutionized lab-grown meat and dairy products in highly efficient & sustainable Food Labs. The food produced is for national use but more importantly, depicts the backbone of Danish exports. Formerly exporting livestock and tons of dairy, Food Labs enable diverse meat cuts and dairy products to be exported globally.

At Food Spaces, customers pay with Food credits which they earned from investing in local farms of their choice. With this, consumers have a stake in what is being produced, have a better connection to where food comes from and support local farmers with micro-investments. This structure pulls farmers out of debt and undermines the close to the monopoly of Danish farming cooperatives.


To better understand Copenhagen in 2050, let’s follow the life of one of its citizens: Maria. Maria lives on the outskirts of Copenhagen and she works as a Food Space Architect. Her usual weekday starts with a short ride on her e-bike to Copenhagen's inner city. Luckily, weather-protected bike highways enable her to bike no matter what. She arrives at her favorite co-working space and begins to work. Maria is currently working on a challenging project. She is designing a new Food Space in a former church in Århus but regulations on preserving the historic monument challenge her in her design freedom. She decides to check in with Mark, a befriended urban designer who knows the playing field of those regulations inside out. Maria books a table for lunch at a nearby Food Space to chat with Mark.

It’s lunchtime and Maria and Mark arrive just in time at their chosen lunch Food Space. This one is very modern - build in an igloo style with solar-integrated glass walls. Its theme is a very business professional so not a lot of families with children come here. Instead, you see a lot of young professionals sipping coffee and working on their projects or having meetings. Thus. more focus is on cooked food rather than providing kitchen aisles as is the case in other, more community kitchen oriented Food Spaces.

Maria and Mark decide to get a cooked meal too instead of cooking some lunch themselves. Like this, they have more time to chat about the church in Århus. Today’s dish is a delicious fusion of Nordic cuisine with a Mediterranean touch. As usual, Maria is curious about the origin of the food and quickly scans the indicators on the menu. Lab-grown salmon and cream from Denmark, seasonal kale from a close local farm and pasta from Germany. A delicious lunch and an interesting talk later, Maria pays for both lunches with her Co-Food credits. She loves the Food Spaces and the concept of crowd-investing in and thus supporting local farms. Thus, she invests quite a bit of her monthly salary in Co-Food farms and hence always has a lot of credits to use on food from Food Spaces. The investment also gives her the possibility to have a say in what is being produced and how. She loves it! Sometimes she tries to imagine how it had been back in the days when consumers and farmers hardly met let alone talked to each other. Hard to believe!

After lunch, Maria decides to stay at the Food Space a little longer and work from there since she has a visit to another nearby Food Space in a bit. That Food Space is a pop-up space which means that it changes its theme regularly. For this time redesign, Maria is thinking about a Spanish theme. Summer is coming is Spain is certainly one of the Danes most loved holiday destinations. This theme is also perfect to underline the Danes love for socializing over some good food or drink and the Food Space gives plenty of room for that.


What a pleasant day! On her way home from work, Maria receives an invite for a spontaneous dinner form one of her friends. Since she has no other plans she decides to stop by. They decide to get some fresh food delivered from one of the nearby Food Spaces in order to prepare some delicious meal themselves. After a hygge evening, Maria bikes back home for a good night's sleep. 

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Thank you so much for the Food Extension Initiative.

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