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Utopia 2050

‘to create a sustainable urban food system which reduces greenhouse gas emissions and is resilient to the effects of climate change’.

Photo of Colin kennedy
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC)

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Government

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

Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC), is one of 11 Local Council’s in Northern Ireland (NI). Derry City and Strabane is a local government district that was created on 1 April 2015 by merging the City of Derry District and Strabane District. It covers most of the northwest of Northern Ireland. MaREI, Science Foundation Ireland’s Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Maritime in University College Cork (UCC): Leading research centre on climate change impacts & adaptation, working closely with practitioners in local/regional/national government; informing policy; publishing outputs in peer reviewed journals; and leading/collaborating across a wide range of funded research projects at the Irish, European & international level. The Acorn Fund: based in Derry is part of a regional organisation, The Community Foundation for NI (CFNI) Established to address economic and societal imbalances experienced by communities in the North West and to direct local philanthropy.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

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

  • 1-3 years

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

Our Vision is for the city of Derry-Londonderry and its peri-urban hinterland.

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Northern Ireland (NI), United Kingdom (UK).

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

Our vision is located in the Northwest or Ireland in Derry-Londonderry which is part of the United Kingdom.

What country is your selected Place located in?

United Kingdom

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

DCSDC is the local authority of the region. Derry- Londonderry and its hinterland is a scenic and historic place in Northern Ireland.  We are passionate about this place. We are however, concerned about the environmental & social impacts we as consumers are having on our natural resources. Our partners are also concerned about the Food System and its impact on Climate Change.

We have built a strong partnership over the last number of years and are committed to changing our existing food system to become more resilient.

Our particular focus is on food resilience and climate change at a local level within a global context. Our proposition Utopia, specifically considers food security, sustainability and supply resilience. It considers these in the context of climate change, growing populations and dependency on fossil fuels (carbon dependency) and locally in the context of BREXIT, free trade and food production.  

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.

Derry is located in the northwest of Northern Ireland and borders the Republic of Ireland. It is the 2nd largest city in NI and the 4th largest city on the island of Ireland. Derry is the ‘Capital of the Northwest’. The council area serves a population of 150,000. The wider region is 350,000. The district is 1245km2. The Urban City Area is 34km2.

Derry, officially ‘Londonderry’. The name Derry derives from the Irish ‘Doire’ meaning ‘oak grove’. Derry is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in Ireland as a  6th century  monastic settlement. The city was first planned city in Ireland during the Plantation of Ulster 1613. King James I, granted the city a Royal Charter whereby it gained the ‘London’ prefix.  Derry is the only remaining completely intact walled city in Ireland.

We have a remarkable and rich history, culture and heritage set within a stunning landscape. Derry is characterised by its distinctive hilly topography. The River Foyle forms a deep valley as it flows through the city. The richness of our countryside, landscape, natural environment & biodiversity is recognised by international designated important sites. 

The district has a population of 150,678 (2018). The population is predicted to decrease back to 145,680 by 2041. The district is predominantly nationalist; 72.2% of the population are Catholic, 25.5% Protestant and 2.4% other. We are one of the most youthful city regions in Ireland, UK and Europe. 34% of the population are under age of 25 years. The overall health of the population is poor compared to the NI average. Our staple diet is based on meat and vegetables, however, has changed over time with the increase of restaurants and convenience food outlets.

Of the 11 NI councils, Derry has the lowest recorded employment rate (56.8%) compared to the NI average of 69%. Derry has the highest economic inactivity (37%) compared to the NI average of 27.7%.  Our largest work sector is Human Health & Social Work, followed by Wholesale and Retail Trade. Agriculture is predominately, beef & diary production.  

Dairy was an important part of the ancient Irish diet. Early spring, Irish cuisine made extensive use of vegetarian meals. Vegetables included onions, chives, cabbage, celery, wild garlic and leeks.  The consumption of seafood, despite Ireland's enormous coastline, is not as common as in other maritime countries. Irish people eat seafood well below the European average.

Derry has, like most of Ireland a temperate maritime climate. The average annual high temperature is 13c and low 6.4c. The annual precipitation is 850mm. As a border county with the republic of Ireland. We have challenging times ahead within the context of BREXIT.

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.

Environment: Our food system is not sustainable. 60% of fresh food is imported into the UK from overseas, 30% is wasted.  We do not have a Circular Economy food system.  Agriculture accounts for 27% of greenhouse gases in NI. Our food system is subject to climate change challenges. The daily max/min temperature extremes have increased by 1°C+ since 1950. Heavy seasonal & annual rainfall events have increased. The most recent decade saw 8% more annual average UK rainfall. This means by 2070 summer temperatures could be up to 4.9 °C hotter, average winter rainfall > by 25% and average summer rainfall

Diets: Our diets have changed. Expanding middle class has led demand of higher protein consumption. Poor nutrition/diet are linked to poor health inequalities as a consequent low academic achievement and economic inactivity. The life expectancy in the DCSDC area is 77.7 years for a man and 81.4 years for a woman. The adult obesity rate is 27%.

Economics: the agri-food sector is NI’s largest industry ( £3,744 m). Beef & Sheep is the largest sector (£968m), estimated to increase to over £1bn.  Dairy (23%) is the second largest contributor (£876m).  Poultry and Eggs (17%) is valued at £648m. The majority of sales are outside NI to key markets in UK and Ireland. Fish is valued at £20m, with an £10m in aquaculture products. Arable crops, fruit and vegetables production is  5% of the total area farmed.

Culture: Irish cuisine is the style of cooking that originated from Ireland, an island in the North Atlantic; or was developed by the Irish people. It has evolved from centuries of social and political change, and the mixing of the different cultures, predominantly the English and Irish (and, in Ulster, the Scottish). Today, Western culture has been adopted in Ireland.  Our purchasing patterns have change with online ordering. We have become a society of convenience in term of our relationship with food.

Technology: Derry was once a global player in agricultural practices and manufacturing. Many more people worked the lands as small holders.  Web technology has changed the way we purchase food today.  Derry has a low technology industry today. There is little or no activity in the renewables sector.

Policy: NI Agri-food Sales are over £4bn/year and are 10% of private sector employment. ‘Going for Growth’ aimed at accelerating the growth of farming, fishing and food and drink processing in Northern Ireland to 2020 and beyond. There is no mention of urban food growing practices. Little attention is paid to Climate change.

We still have food inequalities. Food poverty is a growing issue in Derry. NI saw a 29% increase in demand. Food bank crisis food supplies are for the most part non-perishable, processed foods. Growing reliance on food banks is due to people suffering financial hardship because of relatively lower wages, ill health, addiction and mental health issues.

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

Environment: ‘the best way to predict the future is to design it’ (Buckminster Fuller). Our Sociology of Food Movement will change the food system. In our future we see a Circular Food Economy based on Permaculture. We will change land use/farming practices through social reorganisation.  Tomorrow’s agriculture farmer is the future ‘Energy Harvester’. They produce Green Energy to feed the Green City. Urban dwellers become ‘Food Farmer’. They will produce nutritious local food to feed the city.

Imaging, a network of Geodesic Domes across the City. Prototype ‘Acorn Farm’ will be the ‘earth-ship’. These Farms are exemplar ‘agritecture’ regenerative food production houses.

Farms function together as one organic Food City. Food is produced, harvested and sold locally. Utopian farms become the supermarkets of tomorrow.

The peri-urban of the City will be managed by the Energy Harvester. Agricultural land now produces green energy to ‘feed’ the city.  

The outer ring is the Cities Ecosystem Services Engine. Agricultural land is now afforested. It produced eco-system services to offset the cities carbon footprint, reduces flooding and improve air & water quality.

Diets: Utopia will apply a systematic approach to future food system. Food as Medicine though Nutrigenetics/Nutrigenomics will support healthier communities. Utopia, will eliminate food poverty through the provision/availability/affordable of fresh food.

Economics: Utopia will create a bio-economy and new opportunities food & fish production.  Skills/jobs in eco-innovative, education, skills and life-long learning will flourish. Green Gross Domestic Product (GGDP) i.e. turning ecology into economics becomes the norm. Our Utopian Farms are lab’s for innovation, sustainable research and some become our future universities and hospitals. Utopia will create new job markets to live/work using the green economy as a new green industrial revolution.

Culture:  the Sociology of Food Movement is aligned to culinary gastronomic. We become part of the Food eco-system and not a simple consumer. We build a regenerative food and climate action society.

Technology: Utopia will identify innovative technological solutions, leading on urban 'agritecture' poly-culture. The Acorn Farm 'Earth-ship' and satellite Domes will create new innovative technological solutions. Futuristic farms are self-sustaining with innovative water and energy management systems. New technological solutions developed using innovative design and technologies such as regenerative food growing will mitigate and adapt to climate change. This is the new Green Economy.

Policy: Utopia will influence NI food policy. Emphasis will be placed on climate action in the agri-food sector. Our Utopian City will seek to influence policy to create a shift towards sustainable food production and climate resilience.  Our vision will create a societal/ paradigm shift towards sustainable food culture using permaculture as a catalyst for policy setting.  

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.

The agriculture landscape is transformed. Intensive agriculture is replaced by afforestation. Eco-system services are understood and managed by Eco-System Farmers. Food is produced sustainability through regenerative growing practices. The network of Geodesic Domes and Utopian Urban Farms work as a single organic organism. They use SMART technologies. The food system is resilient to weather changes. Growing environments are controlled.

Well-being and life expectancy of dwellers increases. They are healthier and happier. There are advancements in food as medicine. Some geodesic farms become the research labs and clinics of tomorrow.

Prosperity is now measured in Green GDP. There are more jobs, lifelong learning & skills opportunities. There is a new cleaner, greener bio-tech industry.

Government food policy changes. It moves away for current agri-food production to urban regenerative practices.

Others learn from Utopia.

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

Environment: Utopia offer a new food system vision.  Our future urban/rural landscapes will change. Agricultural  practices move towards regenerative urban farming practices harnessing the benefits of eco-system services.

The Sociology of Food Movement creates new opportunities for society. Utopia is underpinned by ethics – Permaculture will guide our food regenerative system.  We care for people, the earth & the equal distribution & non-waste of resources.

Utopia creates a space to rethink how society functions. Our Utopian City: the outer zone is the Eco-System Services Engine for the Green City. Afforestation takes mono-culture agricultural lands out of production. The forested landscape at a macro-scale sustains the Green City with valuable eco-system services. It provided fresh air, carbon sink, water attenuation and natural filtration to clean our drinking water.  We move away from the downstream chemical treatment of water. The Eco-system Farmer manages the new landscape.

The next Zone: the Peri-Urban: a productive landscape. More people work/live on the land creating a bio-economy. They produce green energy to ‘feed’ the city.  Energy is longer produced by multi-national companies who once controlled the market at detriment to the environment. The Energy Farmer , no longer dependant on food companies and the myriad of super market outlets who once determine premium. They symbiotically work with and support the Urban Framers of tomorrow in sustaining the new food system.

Within Green City, geodesic domes are  strategically placed where people line around the city. Central to the system is the ‘earth-ship’ dome. The command centre for a network of interlinked domes. They function as an organic entity. They use futuristic SMART technologies.

They domes, become the ‘growing spaces and supermarkets of tomorrow’. Food is grown locally & intensively using poly culture growing practices. Production is all year round. Low cost green energy is supplied by the Energy Harvesters to support regenerative growing practices.  Urban Farmers tend the utopian farms.  These are the city dwellers of tomorrow.

Food is produced locally. Food waste is minimised.  Like the ‘sugar tax’ & ‘plastic bag tax’, a ‘Veg Tax’ is added to food that is imported into the system. There is a drive to support sustainable/regenerative practices though disincentive.

Our planned food system has adapted to climate change. It is resilient. Our climate is changing & projected to change further.  It’s becoming wetter. We witness land taken out of agriculture production & crop loss due to unpredictable weather patterns. Our Utopian Farms now grow crops under glass in controlled agricultural environments.  Water is not wasted. It is harvested as a valuable resource. It is used to sustain growth in periods of drought. Food waste is minimal. It makes composed for growing. It becomes the growing media for tomorrow: improving soils fertility, structure and carbon sequestration.

Diets: Utopia improved our diet. People connect with nutritious food. There is a transition away from beef consumption for health and climate conscious reasons. Demand increase for more fresh food. Freshly harvested is the most nutritious. It is not refrigerated, proceed or packed. The future is micro- veg production. Locked in nutrients are provided by plant based fertilized in hydroponic systems. Our protein diet is re-balance by reducing meat consumption in favour of eating fish. Fish will be produced using aquapoinc growing systems within the geodesic farms.

The food will be sold on site removing the need for storage & refrigeration.  Expensive infrastructure to support the existing food system is no longer necessary. The geodesic domes become future green-labs providing the medicine for tomorrow. Precision Medicine & advances in Nutrigenomics with academic and research partners flourish. Good diet supports the health of our community. In the future rain water will be harvested from the geodesic domes & treated on site to become drinking water.

In the utopian food system movement, stakeholders will adopt the Permaculture ethos. It about connectivity of people, earth and sharing resources. Our current system, where everyone ‘feeds’ the existing food systems ceases to exist. There is a collective consensus on producing food that is environmentally friendly. Models like Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) flourish. Consumer & farmer work together sharing the costs, risks and benefits. Others joint the movement. Better and more affordable food does away with food banks and availability of heavily refined processed foods.

Economics: Food economics is global. The monopoly of the market place by global firms who control the market place from producer to seller is challenged. Utopia readdressed the market place and external factors that control our food economy. The Energy Harvesters work  as a co-operative to manage & supply the energy that feeds/nourishes the Green City. Energy is no longer produced by industrialists. The Energy Harvesters produces green energy using our natural eco-system services. The economics of food production is linked to the price/abundance of fossil fuels. There is a new way. The Farmer is part of the community. They live & work within the peri-urban area of the Green City. They are invested in its future.  A new bio-economy around the city is created. It support more families to work on the lands sustainably.

Lower energy costs and ‘agritecture’ allows the Urban Farmers to produce varied food out-off season competitively. This support lower income communities. Fish is no longer a luxury food.  It is produced sustainably & harvested on demand. Utopia, refocused our existing agri-food sector and its reliance on beef production in favour of sustainable agriculture such as fish, vegetable and free range poultry production.

The urban Geodesic Farms are of scale. They meet the needs and demand of the local community. They are strategically placed where people live in the Green City.  They support the food needs of these communities.

Utopia moves away from the standard GDP economic metric measurement toward a new Green GDP. This values our eco-system services, human well-being and happiness as prosperity.   Profit generated are kept within the new food system. Eco-System, Energy Farmer and Urban Farmers work collectively as part of the Sociology of Food Movement.

In balancing demand for locally produced food, a ‘Veg Tax’ will be charged. Finance collects will be reinvested in this utopian circular economy for further innovation/growth of new bio-economy. This will positively impact on the supply and demand for locally grown and produced food over imported food for outside the region.

Utopia will educate young people in regenerative growing technologies and provide employment opportunities within the new food system.

Culture: Utopia will create a new food culture in the Green City. Food will be celebrated through the Sociology of Food Movement. There will be a real cultural shift in food provenance, provision, cooking and eating.

The Green City will become a gastronomic centre of food excellence. It will draw in others from around the region and beyond to experience true artisan food. Utopia will reconnect us as a society back to earth. It will also re-connection with our Irish cuisine. Restaurants will flourish providing quality, fresh and nutritious food produce locally and sustainably.

The celebration of food will become an annual festival connecting us back to our celebration of the ‘harvest’. This will become the largest event in the Green Cities calendar bringing all communities together through the ’Culture of Food and Us’.

Technology: Utopia will advance technological knowledge & application towards creating a new regenerative food system.  Our university sector will expand to become a market leader in pro-typing, developing and Geodesic Dome manufacture. Research & development will advance in solar, rainwater harvesting and treatment, aquaponics and vertical growing techniques. SMART technologies for controlled agriculture environments and renewable energies will advance. Advancements in the peri-urban Energy production systems and transportation of green energy into the Green City will be developed. There will be technological advances in the Eco-System Services Engine for the Green City. We learn to understanding and monitor how ‘the engine’ is preforming as a living organism in supporting the city.

Policy: Government policy will change as part of a green renaissance. Utopia will reverse the trend for over production & exploitation last witnessed in the industrial revolution. The Sociology of Food Movement will inform Government Policy, toward regenerative food production in urban/peri-urban Green City. There will be a new way in how stakeholders in the existing food system relate to each other. There will be a transition towards a circular food system. All stakeholders will buy into the sustainable practice as ethos of permaculture. They will work ‘as one’ applying an eco-system based approach to environmental health and well-being.

A new agri- food policy will see the reuse of the landscape to produce sustainable energy as opposed to mono-culture food production. Today’s farmers become the Energy Harvesters of tomorrow supplying energy & eco-system services to the Green City.

They will manage the landscape and eco-system/s to support the Urban Farms in the Green City. There will be a seismic move away from the over intensive exploitation of our rural landscape. There is a 'C' change in the drive not to produce food that is harmful to both human health and the environment. An eco-system based approach to food production and cohabitation of the planet will flourish. Utopia will see more families employed in the countryside. They will be sustained though a new bio-economy of energy and regenerative food production.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

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1 comment

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Photo of Andrea Vaz-König

Hi Colin! Welcome to the Food System Vision Prize & good luck for your proposal! We are looking to deep diving into it!