Combining the best urban agriculture and supermarkets offer: Abundant, fresh and healthy food, sustainable production, and community.
A first rendered version of the SuperGarden.
The SuperGarden is a green oasis in the middle of the city and could look like this:
An inspiring personality: Dona Sebastiana is a community gardener in the socioeconomically weak east of São Paulo. The community gardens created by the Brazilian NGO Cidades Sem Fome (Cities Without Hunger) are the basis of our vision for the city of Berlin: Access to healthy and sustainable food for everybody.
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Cities Without Hunger Germany
(STÄDTE OHNE HUNGER Deutschland e.V.)
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Small NGO (under 50 employees)
Website of Legally Registered Entity
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
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?
What country is your selected Place located in?
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
Berlin is the place our organisation Cities Without Hunger Germany is based at. Since our foundation in 2015, we have been building an extensive network in Berlin's urban agriculture sector, including bottom-up initiatives, social enterprises, supermarkets, NGOs, governments, universities, and bottom-up initiatives like the Food Policy Council Berlin.
Our organisation supports the Brazilian NGO Cidades Sem Fome (Cities Without Hunger) who deploy urban agriculture as a way of tackling complex multidimensional social, ecological, economic, and health problems in the megacity São Paulo. By implementing productive vegetable gardens in the socioeconomically weak east of the city, they create jobs and income opportunities for marginalised people as community gardeners. The gardens greatly enhance local access to high-quality fresh produce.
Although Berlin and São Paulo are different in many respects, there are striking similarities in how people's socioeconomic background, diets and health relate. Equal access to healthy food is a big challenge. Rising temperatures in combination with the urban heat island effect beg for urban green to enhance the microclimate. Driven and inspired by the example of our Brazilian sister organisation, we have developed a vision tailored to the complex challenges of Berlin's food system: The SuperGardens.
Berlin's thriving urban agriculture and food scene, its open-minded and diverse population, and our broad and well-developed network make Berlin the place where we seek to make our vision become reality.
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.
In 2016, Cities Without Hunger Germany called Berliners to participate in the #SaladChallenge. The social media campaign had the objective to raise awareness of sustainable urban food production by our the Brazilian NGO Cidades Sem Fome (Cities Without Hunger) that we support. The enthusiastic responses makes us confident that Berlin is ready to embrace this vision!
This is an aerial view of Berlin. Tempelhofer Feld, a former airport that now serves as an urban recreational area, is marked. There are already some urban agriculture activities going on here.
Berlin's cityscape with the famous TV tower at Alexanderplatz.
Berlin is a city state and the capital of Germany. It is surrounded by the rural federal state of Brandenburg. The population density of 4,088 inhabitants per km² is relatively low in comparison to other world metropoles. 44% of the urban area are green spaces. Summer temperatures up to 37°C pull Berliners to the many lakes in and around the city. The winters, in contrast, are notoriously dark and cold.
Berlin's difficult history is well-documented, so I focus on the city's feeling and culture. In my personal perception, Berlin has a heavy soul – you definitely still feel the historical divide between East and West from 1961 to 1989. Loneliness is a big issue due to 'big-city anonymity'. At the same time, Berlin radiates an incredible lightness, allowing for personal freedom and expression. Internationally, it is known as a creative hotspot attracting artists from all over the world. World cultural heritage museums, a famous electronic music scene, and crazy nightlife attract millions of tourists. The German parliament is located here. Berlin has world-renowned universities and a thriving start-up scene with a focus on tech, media, and sustainability.
Berlin is home to people from all over the world: One third of the inhabitants have a migration background. Berlin's foodscape reflects this cultural diversity – from Doner kebap street food and Mexican restaurants to Russian and Asian supermarkets. The many bakeries across the city mirror Germans' love for bread. Artisanal bread is experiencing a come-back. A steadily rising number of (currently about 120) organic supermarkets is specifically concentrated in wealthier parts of the city. Socioeconomic inequality is high; the risk of poverty is three times higher for people with a migration background (monthly net income lower than 60% of Berliners' average income of 1538 €). Berlin comprises of 12 districts, each of which has its own unique character. Berliners strongly identify with the district they live in. The district of Prenzlauer Berg is notorious for young families who love organic food, Mahrzahn for its residential tower blocks, and Neukölln combines all contrasts of Berlin – poor and rich, Arab delicacies and Berlin curry sausage, the calm and spacious green field of the former airport Tempelhof, and busy street life.
Berlin has politically active and opinionated inhabitants hungry for reconnecting with food production. A traditional form of urban farming in Berlin are allotment gardens – they cover about 3% of the urban area. More than 100 urban agriculture initiatives are registered. Alleys at the outskirts of Berlin are planted with fruit trees and more school gardens are set up every year. The "We are fed up!" ("Wir haben es satt!") demonstration against industrial farming practices and for more sustainable agriculture attracts up to 30,000 people each year. The bottom-up Food Policy Council founded in 2016 demands sustainable and democratic transformation of Berlin's food system.
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.
Diets & Economics. In Germany, 66% of men and 51% of women are overweight. One in five people is obese with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes type II (BMEL, 2019). Whilst half of the German population consumes meat daily, 74% believe that reduced meat consumption helps provide food for a growing world population (BMEL, 2019). Half of the people with a monthly income < €1,500 believe that healthy food is too expensive for them. Fruit and vegetable consumption is lower than the recommended "five a day". To improve human health, the share of plant-based foods in people's diets need to rise.
Environment. Due to climate change, summers get hotter and drier with irregular torrential downpours. Winters become warmer, extending the vegetation period. Until 2050, maximum temperatures will increase by 6.1°C, and the mean annual temperature by 1.8°C (Bastin et al., 2019). Predominantly sandy soils make agricultural production vulnerable to extreme weather (Stefanovic et al., 2016). In Berlin's surrounding rural areas, nitrate for fertilisation threatens water quality and causes ammonia gas emissions. Food waste and waste from food packaging is another big environmental problem.
Culture. Berlin is known for its cultural diversity. About one third of the city's population has a migration background, and the share is rising. Food is intimately related to, and an expression of culture. A 2050 resilient, urban food-system needs to respect the cultural dimension of food and not fall prey to a merely functionalist approach higlighting food's health and sustainability dimensions. For most, the first contact with food starts in the supermarket, presenting a distorted picture of the reality of food production through "standardised" fruit and vegetables or false health promises by the food industry (Schmitz, 2012). Supermarkets and convenience food do not offer a community around food. Loneliness is as a big issue due to the anonymity of the big city and an individualistic culture (Adli, 2019).
Technology & Economics. More sustainable urban agriculture production practices and technologies do not yet reach a mass market, but target high-price market niches (Hemmerling, 2019). Regional organic production can't keep up with rapidly growing consumer demand (MWE, 2015). But start-ups and research projects start to respond to the increasing demand, promising substantial change by 2050.
Policy. Bottom-up initiatives such as the Food Policy Council demand a sustainable transformation of Berlin's food system. Food is regularly the source of consumer outrage and activism. Various forms of urban agriculture are not yet legally rooted in Berlin. The current Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union does not apply yet to urban agriculture and its multifunctionality (Piorr et al., 2018).
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
Diets & Economics. The SuperGarden breaks the link between people's socioeconomic status and the quality of their diet by providing healthy, affordable, and sustainable food for everyone. On-site food production positively contributes to the urban microclimate and biodiversity. The SuperGarden constitutes a social hotspot and creates an inclusive community around food. By 2050, the SuperGarden will have become what supermarkets are today: The main access point for food in urban households. It will, however, have changed the way food is produced and is consumed: More sustainable, socially inclusive, and healthier.
Environment. We embrace climate change. Increasingly warmer temperatures enable local production of mediterranean and tropical food, such as bottle gourd or olives. That way, locally sourced ingredients for many typical cultural dishes become available. We pay particular attention to resource-efficient production techniques that close nutrient cycles, minimise agricultural inputs, enhance biodiversity, and preserve and extends urban green to enhance local microclimate.
Culture. We celebrate cultural diversity and make it part and parcel of who we are. We are officially multi-lingual and welcome people in multiple languages including German, English, Arab, Turkish, Polish, Rumanian, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Russian, Italian, French, and Vietnamese. Our staff speaks one or more of those languages to enable a multicultural shopping experience for people from diverse cultural backgrounds. The SuperGarden invites people not only to do their groceries, but also to explore our permaculture garden, participate in cooking workshops, or exchange fruit. This community can reduce loneliness. Via our on-site production, people reconnect with the origins of food through their shopping experience. At our street food stand, we offer traditional cultural dishes, e.g., from Russia, Germany, or Brazil, all of which are made from our locally sourced ingredients.
Technology & Economics. The SuperGarden follows a modular approach for the integration of sustainable food production practices and technologies. For example, hydroponics linked to the urban waste water system or bioreactor façades (algae and energy production) help improve the sustainability and efficiency of food production. By 2050, the SuperGarden is financially and commercially self-sustaining.
Policy. Integrating urban agriculture as a type of land use in urban planning is essential for our vision. Current policy entry points are horticulture, food, or green infrastructure policies. The modular approach can actually help the SuperGarden integrate at policy level by gradually implementing all those elements that are feasible within existing policy frameworks. The increased interest in urban agriculture at multiple policy levels including the municipality of Berlin and the European Union is indicative of future policy development enabling the complete SuperGarden.
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.
Healthy and sustainable food has become part of everybody's daily life. Regardless of their socioeconomic background, people do their groceries in the SuperGarden.
The SuperGarden is more than a traditional supermarket. It is a green oasis serving as a meeting point and connecting the local community around food. People wander through the garden, enjoy the cool, fresh microclimate, or just have a chat with their neighbours from over a cup of coffee in the café area. You hear laughs and chatters in different languages. Companies book on-site cooking and gardening workshops. School classes visit to learn about food production. In autumn, SuperGardens provide fruit and nuts from all over Berlin and Brandenburg to everybody. Further regional supply chains with organic farmers in Brandenburg have developed for grains, legumes, fruit, and specialty vegetables like asparagus. Transportation of these products is almost emission-free, since we use electric cars, cargo bikes and trains.
Thanks to sophisticated production techniques, a wide range of locally grown produce is available throughout the year – also enabled by higher temperatures prolonging the vegetation period. Every season offers a different variety of food. Our creative multi-cultural team offers recipe ideas, prepares delicious meals, and shows visitors how to process seasonal vegetables.
The Food Policy Council and the municipality of Berlin are proud of how the SuperGardens have changed the relation of people to food. Food has become a source of community and health, and contributes to making Berlin a climate resilient city.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
Diets, Economics, and Culture. The SuperGarden is a social enterprise dedicated to its mission of providing access to healthy and sustainable food for all people, irrespective of their socioeconomic background.
By offering an indulging and abundant variety of healthy, tasty, and fresh food, it combines the every-day accessibility, choice and price architecture of supermarkets with environmentally friendly urban agriculture production. Customers no longer have to weigh sustainability, price, and health when making food purchasing choices: All food offered is sustainable, affordable, and part of a healthy, balanced diet.
We see the first SuperGarden in Berlin's districts Kreuzberg or Neukölln. These areas are central, inhabited by people from very diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, and hotspots for tourists so the SuperGarden can really unfold a lighthouse effect. Furthermore, the abandoned airport of Tempelhof is located here, giving space for a big permaculture garden (which we do not intend to cover the whole field, though!). Berliners love that area for its recreational value, and defend it as natural and cultural spot against construction. Already today, an urban agriculture organisation (Allmende-Kontor) is using parts of it for plant production and community involvement.
The SuperGarden embraces Berlin's cultural diversity. We grow and sell ingredients for many typical cultural dishes, and offer street food such as Russian borschtsch, or Brazilian feijão. One of our signature street food dishes will be the SuperDöner, a Döner with locally sourced ingredients. Cooking workshops teach customers how to create delicious dishes from our local ingredients.
The BreadMutter is our in-house bakery offering home-made bread and other baked goods. We also have a zero-waste area where customers can buy flour, legumes, soap, oils, and other household and food products. The SuperGarden café is opening up to the street and invites people to relax under the green pergola. The street food stand offers healthy and affordable, locally sourced food to stay or take-away.
Cultural connection functions via personal connection. Our employees come from diverse cultural backgrounds. We are officially multi-lingual. The SuperGarden welcomes people in the languages of the nationalities most present in Berlin: German, English, Arab, Turkish, Polish, Rumanian, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Russian, Italian, French, and Vietnamese. We will have a Welcome sign and staff who speak one of more of those languages to enable a multicultural shopping experience for people from diverse cultural backgrounds.
The SuperGarden creates a community around food and transforms the culture of engaging with our food. It does so by:
- Making food production visible. The on-site production makes people experience where their food comes from.
- Offering educational activities. School classes come and learn about food, companies book cooking or gardening workshops as teambuilding or wellbeing events, and our in-house nutritionists provide information (face-to-face and on screens) to customers about how to prepare food in a way that enhances nutrient content and uptake.
- Inviting volunteers. Our business model includes volunteers who can help in the garden or at the prep station to contribute. In exchange, they get food without paying money for it.
- Hosting neighbourhood food events. Three times a year, the SuperGarden hosts a food festival. The occasions are: 1) the start of the vegetation period in early March, 2) the strawberry harvest in June, and 3) the harvest festival in October.
The business model is strongly diversified. We reinvest all profits in the SuperGarden's continuity and upscaling. Additional sources of revenue are targeted at specific customer segments with relatively high purchasing power, e.g., health-at-the-workplace programmes for companies, high-quality catering, nutrition education (online and offline), and home delivery of dishes and groceries by bike.
The SuperGarden can be built from scratch – but it can also serve as an orienting vision for any existing supermarket to transform into a SuperGarden. This transformation is enabled by the stepwise integration of SuperGarden elements, all of which are explained in the following.
Technology and Environment. The SuperGarden produces food on-site in a sustainable manner. To that end, a variety of production technologies and practices are deployed, many of which fulfil not only the function of food production but also provide ecosystem services and efficiently use/produce energy.
Plant and animal production:
- Permaculture: Production of vegetables, fruit and herbs; enhancing the urban microclimate; enhancing biodiversity.
- Greenhouse elements: Production of mediterranean and tropical fruit and vegetables; insulating the building.
- Vertical farming (green walls; vertical gardens with unified soil, see vision by J. Biezehr): Production of vegetables and herbs.
- Aquaponics and hydroponics: Production of fish and salads; closing the nutrient cycle via urban wastewater treatment (e.g., Roof Water Farm technology developed by Technical University Berlin).
- Algae tubes/bioreactor façade: Production of spirulina and chlorella for human consumption; algae production for biogas (energy provision).
- Indoor mushroom production: Low resource input/high harvest output mushroom production.
- Indoor LED-supported micro greens production: Energy for LEDs provided via solar panels and/or bioreactor façade.
- Beehives: Production of honey; plant pollination.
- Rooftop garden: Vegetable and fruit production; enhancing the microclimate.
- Composting: Closing the nutrient cycle for the permaculture garden; provision of highly concentrated nutrient-rich composting liquid for fertilisation. People can also return their household compost in our Renutry station and receive a price premium, which functions similar to the bottle return system in conventional supermarkets.
- Green roof (pergola): The green roof above the café area enhances the microclimate.
This list is not exhaustive as additional technologies can be integrated in the SuperGarden as long as they enhance the productivity, sustainability and variety of food offered to our customers.
Emerging food production technologies that are neither reliant on plants nor on animals like laboratory meat or ferming (bacteria-based: production of nutrients through fermentation processes) are likely to substantially contribute to the nutrient and calory provision by 2050. For two reasons these technologies do not hamper but enhance the need for SuperGardens. First, such technologies do not substitute the multifunctionality of SuperGardens: SuperGardens do not only produce and provide food, but also fulfil social functions like creating a community around food; and environmental functions like improving the urban microclimate and enhancing biodiversity. Second, those technologies can actually be integrated in SuperGardens to provide a wider choice of sustainably produced food to the local community. SuperGardens as main access points for food in urban households can contribute to enhancing the uptake of these technologies.
The on-site production focusses on vegetables, herbs, fruit, mushrooms, and fish. For grains, legumes, additional fruit, and specialty vegetables like asparagus, the SuperGarden connects to a network of regional organic farms in Brandenburg. Transportation is almost emission-free since we use electric cars, cargo bikes, and trains. Through a network of bottom-up initiatives who map fruit trees, we incentivise harvest and consumption of local fruit and nuts so they do not rot away. In autumn, SuperGardens serve as an easy-to-reach access point for fruit and nuts from all over Berlin and Brandenburg against voluntary donation. The SuperGarden will not import food from other climates. The main goal is to be as CO2 neutral as possible. We seek to make the range of seasonal and local products available as large as possible by re-discovering old and wild varieties, and integrating less-known edible plants such as exploding cucumbers or tamarillo in our production.
There are a number of new and old technologies that help enhance the energy efficiency of the SuperGarden, such as underground natural cooling, or bioreactor façades for energy production. While these technologies will be more challenging to implement in already existing supermarkets (following the modular approach of turning a regular supermarket into a SuperGarden), when built from scratch, the SuperGarden should feature those technologies from the start.
Policy. Urban agriculture land use, practices, production techniques, and food safety regulations for urban agriculture products are integrated in the legal framework at the European level and at the municipal level. This allows for further upscaling of SuperGardens in Berlin and beyond.
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?
A friend who works at FAO Chile indicated the opportunity to me.