Brisbane Food City
To create a network of edible and interactive public spaces that build a local food system, drive climate initiatives and foster community.
Lead Applicant Organization Name
The Mini Farm Project
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Small NGO (under 50 employees)
If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.
The Mini Farm Project (Charity)
Our Food System (Other)
Green the Street (Other)
Future Wild (Other)
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?
City of Brisbane (also known as Brisbane City Council)
What country is your selected Place located in?
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
Kylie Newberry Kylie is grateful to call Brisbane home and loves spending time outdoors. At Our Food System, Kylie inspires and empowers people to believe they have the power to transform the food system. She does this by building the food citizenship movement; influencing change at the household, community and policy level, facilitating a more democratic food system.
Nick Steiner Nick loves Brisbane for its social nature and public transport. Nick runs the Mini Farm Project which grows food for the those in need by converting under-utilised spaces across the city into urban farms. Nick works at an impressive pace, managing two farms, with an extra coming on board in 2020 and has grown a community that works tirelessly to grow food for the most vulnerable in Brisbane.
Catherine Simpson As an Urban Designer and Landscape Architect, Catherine is passionate about healthy urban design, walkable cities and placemaking. She is co-founder of Green the Street, an initiative dedicated to making Australia's streets greener, shadier, walkable and more bike friendly, kickstarting dialogue around rethinking how we design, interact and transform our streets.
Ellia Guy Ellia’s favourite parts of Brisbane are the hum of crickets and early morning bush walks. Ellia cultivates urban spaces, reimagining Brisbane’s potential to incorporate nature, biodiversity and urban agriculture through her business Future Wild. She also works with chefs to create gardens that showcase menu items, allow diners to connect with the source of their food and create dialogue around local 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.
Brisbane, Australia’s third largest city, is subtropical, fringed with bush and cut through with a twisting, winding river. Over the last three decades its grown up, from a ‘big country town’ to Australia’s ‘New World City’ but is still characterised by a down to earth and friendly character.
The region (Meanjin) was first inhabited by the Yuggera and Turrbal people’s, however European colonisation in 1825 led to widespread death and persecution of the traditional owners and our Indigenous population now sits at only 2.3%. Recognition of our black history is slowly growing, however reconciliation is still a distant hope.
Culturally, our city is made up of a wide range of backgrounds. Just 66.8% of the population is Australian born, and 19.4% of households report a language other than English spoken at home, with Mandarin, Vietnames, Cantonese, Spanish and Hindi being the most common other than English.
Socially, people in Brisbane have varied hopes and dreams including affordable housing, reconciliation and inclusivity. A growing number hope for government action on climate change, or for a commitment to growing more food locally so that they might be able to put healthy and sustainable food on the table for their family.
Across Queensland, there is a high rate of obesity and our state’s consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables is at an all time low. Convenience is driving our food choices, with over half of Australian households having at least one person ordering takeaway food everyday.
In Queensland, this holds true and while there are many fast food options, there is also a strong culinary scene focussed on fresh produce and a burgeoning recognition (amongst local residents, cafes and restaurants alike) of the importance of sourcing local produce. While this is not always easy, due to a widespread lack of local farms, this shift in awareness has helped drive growing public support for more localised agriculture. Produce markets are growing in popularity, a food hub based on CSA principles has been crowdfunded and several small scale farms focused on regenerative practices have emerged within or close to the city limits in recent years. Despite this, most produce is sourced from the Lockey Valley, approximately two hours west of Brisbane, dominated by vegetable production (often referred to as Brisbane’s salad bowl), and the majority of our population shops at one of two supermarket chains that controls the market across Australia.
In recent decades our city, and the farms that support it, have endured drought, floods and soaring summer temperatures. These both underline the importance of local food systems, and raise alarm at farming under a changing climate. However, the degree of change our city has endured over the last three decades points to remarkable potential for further transformation through to 2050.
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.
Brisbane’s food supply is reliant on food grown on average, over 100km away, on farms experiencing drought and record maximum temperatures, and is sold through a supermarket duopoly that pays farmers approximately 10c in the $1. AUSVEG predicts a 50% increase in vegetable prices in 2020, driven by an increase in extreme weather events.
Accordingly, our region’s most pressing issue is below average rainfall, alongside record-high daily temperatures. More than half of Queensland is drought declared and many farmers are having to destock, stop planting, or sell their farms.
The agricultural sector contributes 3% to Australia's GDP, with the gross value of Australian farm production in 2016-17 A$60 billion. Australian farmers export about 77% of what they grow and produce. Domestically, farms produce almost 93% of Australia’s daily food supply. Despite these significant contributions, there is the challenging perception that small-scale farms do not contribute in any significant manner to our economy, a view that is exacerbated by the distance of farms from urban centres and relative exclusion of farmers from societal awareness.
Australia’s agricultural policy is heavily centred on growing more to export more, with very little policy action on climate change. Technology is hailed as the answer to food system issues with many large-scale industrial farmers investing in approaches such as genetically modified seeds to grow drought resistant crops.
Across Queensland, dietary factors contribute to high rates of obesity with two-thirds of adults and one-quarter of children being overweight or obese in 2014–15. Most Queenslanders did not meet the recommended daily serves for any of the five food groups outlined in the Australian Dietary Guidelines, based on the latest available data for Queensland from 2011–12. More than one-third of daily total energy intake was from unhealthy foods across all age groups.
In 2050, we anticipate challenges will be linked to extreme weather events and a changing climate. Due to a lack of action on climate change and already ‘baked in’ temperature rise, maximum daily temperatures will reach record highs and rain will become even scarcer. Extreme weather events, including floods, cyclones, bushfires and severe storms will interrupt and undermine food production, supply and distribution channels. With limited water for irrigation and an escalating price for water, rural farming will face significant challenges.
We anticipate the price of fruit and vegetables to soar due to lack of availability, further increasing our population’s consumption of highly processed foods thereby escalating rates of chronic disease.
Temperatures rise will lead to more time inside, decreasing physical activity that compounds chronic disease and mental health issues. Brisbane’s population is predicted to swell to 4.2 million in 2050, fuelled by high density living alongside spreading peri-urban areas, leading to more people to feed with less land to do so.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
Our vision aims to transition Brisbane’s food supply away from a model that is centred on a complex, carbon intensive, unjust food system, to one that is sustainable, equitable, community driven and climate resilient.
Through establishing a network of urban farms covering 550 hectares across the city, we will utilise a number of mechanisms to address water scarcity, increasing temperatures and extreme weather events. This includes shorter supply chains by selling at neighbourhood food hubs, incorporating climate appropriate fruit and vegetable varieties into production systems and our diets, bordering farms with native plants to mimic regional ecosystems, and incorporating water sensitive design elements at all farms.
We anticipate that 550 hectares would supply at least 70% of Brisbane’s 2020 population with their daily vegetable intake at accessible and convenient locations through the networked food hubs, greatly enhancing our city’s access to fresh produce and driving health outcomes as a result.
Cultivation of tropical and climate appropriate fruit and vegetables and introduction of these new varieties to our city’s diet through community cooking classes and recipe development will build resident’s food literacy, enhance our nutritional intake and address chronic disease risk, while building climate resilience into our food system.
Affordability will be ensured by one-step supply chains, credits towards produce through a citizen volunteer program and initial council concessions for start up farming enterprises, addressing the anticipated increase in food prices through to 2050.
The transformation of Brisbane’s local food system would bolster the local food economy, creating a new job market for small-scale urban farmers. Farmers would be paid fairly for their produce and their role in the food system would be visible, valued and respected by their local community.
Quality of life and community connectedness would be greatly enhanced through the mobilisation of local communities around the urban farms and food hubs. This would be enabled through innate connections made through buying direct from a farmer, but also through volunteering in exchange for credits toward produce, community cooking classes and the creation of a meeting place at each food hub.
Sensors and small machines would drive on farm processes, analysing water requirements and driving irrigation efficiency, helping address water shortages. This would be linked to an open data platform tied to an on-farm management system, ensuring that supply and demand are managed holistically across the system to minimise food spoilage and waste.
Small urban plots interlaced across the 190 suburbs on underutilised parklands will ensure the growing population of Brisbane will have equal access to locally produced food. To account for a rapid increase in high-rise living, rooftop gardens and indoor farming opportunities would also be a part of the model.
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.
Travelling through Brisbane in 2050 it’s hard to miss the tracts of productive land filling in previously underutilised grassy parkland. These urban plots contain neat rows of crops alongside wilder food forests, bordered with native shrubs. It’s surprisingly cool for the subtropical city at the height of summer; rising temperatures over the last thirty years have been offset by vegetation cover across the urban farm network.
Continuing through the city, you note food growing hubs every few kilometres across the 190 suburbs; providing easy access for residents city wide. Young farmers are planting rows of native grass for grain, meanwhile, older farmers work in a gentle rhythm pulling sweet potatoes and placing them in baskets, ready to be washed, weighed and added to a city-wide harvest database. This local produce is commonly sold within days of harvest and prices now sit below that of conventional supermarket produce. Previously considered ‘fresh’ supermarket produce has declined in popularity as informed citizens recognise the inflated prices account for a long supply chain and significant external costs. Yet, organic, nutrient dense produce affordable, accessible and convenient, fruit and vegetable consumption has significantly increased across the city’s population. Hospital admissions are on a downward trend, and obesity levels are falling.
Sub-tropical varieties suited to Brisbane’s humid climate have been increasing in popularity as they are introduced and tested across plots. Community cooking classes bring local residents together to experiment with new ingredients. New varieties’ popularity is further supported by experimental chefs fiercely passionate about local produce.
Council has followed community support, providing land, concessions and removing bureaucratic obstacles, allowing the local food economy alongside a local food strategy to take root and flourish. In Brisbane 2050, the powerful connecting force of food has become the city’s life-blood.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
Fair Future Grounds Brisbane is our vision for transitioning our city of Brisbane from a fragmented and disconnected food system to a resilient network of city farms and food hubs, that mobilise food citizenship, community connection and climate resilience.
We recognise the significant potential of Brisbane to revitalise underutilised land across its 190 suburbs. We have identified scope for small urban farm plots in regular intervals across the city area. Averaging ¼ acre, these would be commenced initially on sections of underutilised parklands and with this land alone we have calculated significant capacity to kickstart an alternative food movement.
Conversion of ten percent of the underutilised parkland into city farms would produce enough vegetables to supplement 70% of Brisbane residents’ current vegetable intake. Notably, that figure is utilising parklands alone, and doesn't include possible expansion onto private land, rooftops, indoor farming and community gardens. Furthermore, this figure is based on conventional farming methods and does not allow for higher yields seen in systems such as syntropics, agroecology and regenerative agriculture. Accordingly, we can consider 70% to be the lowest yield scenario.
Our calculations are as follows: current parkland size in Brisbane = 15,000ha; 9,500ha is considered ‘natural area’ parks; leaving 5,500ha // 10% of 5,500 = 550 ha = 5.5km2 // The current population of Brisbane 1,131,155 // 5.5km2 / 1,131,155 people = 0.00000486km2 per person = 4.86m2/person // 5 serves of 75g of veggies per day = 375g veggies per day // 375 / 1000 = 0.375kg per day // 0.375kg x 365 days = 136.88kg veg per person per year // UN FAO reports 1m2 can produce up to 20kg per year // 4.86m2 x 20kg = 97.2kg per year for each person // 97.2kg supplied / 136.8kg needed = 71% of veggies. So with 550 hectares we could supply approximately 70% of Brisbane resident’s vegetable intake in 2020. This same area would supply 19% of the Greater Brisbane region’s projected population of 4.5 million in 2050. It must be noted this figure doesn’t account for an expansion of food growing space in this time and covers the Greater Brisbane region, as population projections are not available for the city of Brisbane for 2050.
Connected food hubs driving change
A central challenge to the transformation of our food system lies in shifting community values and habits away from the entrenched supermarket duopoly supply chain and towards the future story of a locally produced, sustainable and community centric food system. Guided by other cities’ success stories (notably Detroit, Leige and New York) we have identified a number of factors that would allow us to address this challenge with the momentum that is needed for society-wide change. Stories will be a powerful ally in our transition but alongside these lies the more pressing issues of ensuring that produce from the city farms is accessible, affordable and convenient.
Produce will be sold directly to the community through local ‘food hub’ distribution channels, each supplied by 2-3 urban farm plots. The number of food hubs across the city ensures accessibility for every suburb and would operate via direct pick up or delivery via electric bicycles and, down the track, autonomous delivery vehicles.
Affordability would be addressed in several ways. The overall aim is for the farms’ organic, nutrient dense produce to sit below the price point of conventional produce in supermarkets, ensuring affordability for Brisbane residents across all strata of society. This is possibly the most significant challenge in the early stages of our vision, as the cost of conventional supermarket produce is misleadingly cheap due to conventional farming practices not accounting for the true cost of production, with significant externalities such as environmental pollution, biodiversity loss and inadequate nutrient density.
Conversely, our vision of a one-step supply chain for Brisbane, whereby city farms sell directly to local residents, ensures all profits would be funnelled directly back to the plots and the professionalised workforce running the city farms. Closed loop composting, onsite nutrient capture and organic farming methods account for externalities within the model. Initially, Council concessions on water and rates, low or no leasehold costs on land and a subsidised training program for the farming workforce would be needed to assist in keeping costs low, removing the obstacle of affordability in the first few critical years of production. As methods are refined and the local food economy starts to grow, we anticipate affordability would be strengthened, decreasing reliance on the local council for concessions.
The already successful council run composting program indicates that composting stations at each of the city farms would be successful additions that would keep input costs low or negligible. Chicken runs and collection of local restaurant and cafe waste would also be explored as nutrient inputs for the farms to further reduce costs.
Volunteering at the farms and food hubs in exchange for credits toward produce would assist further in reducing food costs, all while building community as residents are incentivised to get their hands dirty in exchange for fresh fruit and vegetables.
Informed by an open, collaborative, data driven system
Our vision is underpinned by an open data platform with an app interface that would be used for on-farm management systems, collection and administration of daily harvest data and would allow for the ordering and purchase of fresh produce.
Our vision sees sensors and smart machines helping to drive farming processes, assisting humans in analysis and planning. Most notably, harvest data from each urban farm plot would be entered into the data platform, via an easy to use app interface, that allows real time updates to the online fruit and vegetable store. Not only does this deliver an efficient supply chain but data sharing across the city allows citizens to access produce from other food hubs and helps to even out gluts or undersupply of certain produce at each food hub. Food would be transported between food hubs using electric bikes and vehicles.
Powered by a sub-tropical diet
An important step in the transformation of our local food system is the incorporation of climate appropriate fruit and vegetable varieties into our diet. This builds in climate resilience, ensuring fruit and vegetable production is suitable to the increasing temperatures Brisbane will be facing in the coming decades, and also expands and diversifies our diet. Introduction of new varieties across the city farms will be accompanied by guidance and practical cooking basics, via community cooking classes, recipe development and a recipe database (created and contributed by local residents). We see chefs, already strong proponents of local farmers, to be important advocates in educating and shifting our diets toward these varieties, re-imagining what and how we consume local produce.
Driven by empowered food citizens, mobilised by co-created community
Our vision empowers, trains and hires the citizens of Brisbane to grow and distribute produce grown in the urban farms. We see this as an important bridge in moving towards a co-created foodscape and further strengthens the movement's legitimacy and resilience by having a professionalised workforce to cultivate and manage our city’s urban farms. Training programs would be administered by the larger local food network and would unlock a powerful new job market within our city. Additionally, steps would be taken to recognise and celebrate farmers as playing a vital role within the city.
By mobilising local communities around urban farms and food hubs, providing a meeting ground for local residents and helping to transform our city’s view of food as a connecting force, rather than a commodity, our vision will create a mechanism for food citizenship within our city. We anticipate this will see improved physical and mental health, greater environmental resilience, enhanced quality of life, increased social connectedness and a strong community emerge.
A healed past and strengthened culture
As a city we are disconnected from our cultural heritage. Our vision incorporates local indigenous knowledge into city farming practices, rebuilding our connection with our First Nations people and building an important bridge to a healed and culturally vibrant future. Workshops and education around native bush tucker, arts and culture would be offered by local Aboriginal residents who can guide us in restoring and building our city’s connection to our significant cultural heritage.
Underpinned by climate resilience
Each city farm will be bordered by native plants, structured in a way to mimic regional ecosystems. The overall vegetation cover from these urban farming plots will decrease carbon emissions, increase habitat for local species and provide a cooler environment, reducing the urban heat island effect and reducing overall energy consumption.
Rainwater collection including tanks and dams, alongside water sensitive design across the farm plots ensures rainfall is captured, strengthening drought resilience.
We will reduce greenhouse gas emissions using regenerative farming practices, reduced food miles and decreased energy consumption from shortened supply chains. It also significantly bolsters food access and resilience in our city at a time when our weather and climate is becoming more unpredictable.
Our vision sees a transformation of our city’s food system to one that is healthier, sustainable and more just, transforming the city from one that is compromised by climate change to resilient and community driven. By building a community of food citizens, we unlock our ability to influence and guide the food system to one that is fairer and more resilient for the planet, our people and the natural environment.
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?
Describe how your Vision developed over the course of the Refinement Phase.
Initially, we had the ambition of establishing small urban farm plots in every neighborhood throughout Brisbane. While our intention of reconnecting people with food via urban agriculture and food hubs remains, how we achieve this has shifted, for several reasons. One is that Brisbane's inner-city land is often contaminated, so we have integrated alternative farming applications to address this challenge. Additionally, as the city's population grows, particularly in densely populated inner-city pockets, we recognise the constraints of having large enough farm plots to feed higher population densities. Thus, climate-controlled indoor growing facilities, including aquaponics and vertical gardens, emerged as a feature in our Refined Vision, expanding diversity and bolstering resilience in our food system. While technology, in general, is more prominent, it does not replace the community's participation in the local food system, but rather provides a mechanism to enhance it.
Please provide the names of all organizations you meaningfully partnered with to develop this latest version of your Vision (they contributed at least 10 hours of time to the Vision development during the Refinement Phase).
The partners listed below were the core contributors to our Refined Vision, forming a project team that provided advice, expertise, knowledge and insight as we developed our vision. They were selected based on both their current involvement in Brisbane’s local food system and representation of various actors across the system. See our full vision for details on their roles and contributions. Others contributed time, ideas and graphics but were not part of the core stakeholder team - those stakeholders also are listed in our full vision.
We reached out to a number of other key stakeholders who weren't able to engage due to time constraints around COVID-19, but we see that they will be meaningfully involved going forward.
Describe the specific steps you took during the Refinement phase to include different stakeholders to develop your Vision, including a description (age, profile, and total number) of the stakeholders engaged, and how you engaged with each.
On hearing of our progression to the Refinement Phase, we commenced, in earnest, conversations with key actors in Brisbane’s local food system, inspiring others with our proposed vision. Based on already established relationships, we identified key stakeholders for the project and invited them to an initial virtual meeting to discuss how they might contribute to our vision for Brisbane's future food system. There was a buzz of energy from everyone present and consensus to form a project team, led by the initial core team, and to continue meeting weekly over the next four weeks. These meetings encouraged cross-disciplinary thinking and enabled us to gather valuable knowledge from each stakeholder and to incorporate their unique experiences and perspectives within the local food system into our evolving vision.
We purposely selected stakeholders who were already engaged in building and creating a healthier, sustainable and fairer food system in Brisbane, across a broad range of professions. The team, eleven in total, includes five small scale farmers, two women and three men, ranging in age from early 20s to late 40s. These farmers grow food locally using regenerative agriculture principles and sell directly to the community and local cafes and restaurants across Brisbane; a young entrepreneur in his 30s who has a beekeeping social enterprise; a male in his 40s - the owner of Brisbane’s first urban winery, with an adjoining restaurant with a strong ethos around locally sourced produce; two chefs - a male and female both in their 30s with regionally focused cuisines, and who each advocate for local producers and sustainable production; a start-up tech company run by a father-son team, in their 50s and 20s respectively, who are developing an urban farming platform and app; a young academic, in her 40s with a focus on agri-food and cultural and political economies. We also consulted our local Brisbane community via an online survey distributed via social media.
What signals and trends did you draw from to inform your Vision? Please provide data or examples that back up each signal or trend.
Severe weather events and longer term climatic trends across Australia point to a future climate that undermines food production as we currently know it. The trend toward rainfall deficiencies and more frequent extreme weather events is already impacting food prices and production. Banana prices increased 500% following Cyclone Larry in 2006 (Hughes et al., 2015) while unfavourable seasonal conditions across Australia last summer led to a 66% reduction in total summer crop production for 2020 (ABARES, 2020).
For Brisbane specifically, a decade-long drought from 2000-2010 (the worst in 1000 years), followed by unprecedented rainfall 2011-2012 (leading to 1 in 100 years flood), are indicative of extremes that are forecast to continue through to 2050 and beyond (BOM, 2015). These events and longer term trends highlight the importance of local, diversified food systems, with shorter supply chains, built in resilience buffers, and shift in diet that favours climate-adapted varieties.
The launch of small-scale farms in the peri-urban fringe of Brisbane indicates the emergence and energy for a local food supply and economy. These include Loop Growers (est. 2015), Neighbourhood Farm (et. 2016), Blue Dog Farm (est. 2015) and Millen Farm (est. ). In 2019, local food enterprise, Food Connect Brisbane, raised $2 million via an equity crowdfunding campaign to buy and convert their warehouse into a community-owned local food hub.
The impact that each of these enterprises has on their local communities and the broader Brisbane population has been substantial and our city's embrace of their values, ethos and produce indicates energy for a local food system expansion.
Sprout is an urban farming platform and app currently being developed within Brisbane’s leading Social Enterprise accelerator program. The platform is designed as both an on-farm management tool and interface for connection and delegation of tasks to the local community. In this way, it reimagines farmer/community connections, delegating select on-farm tasks to community members, empowering them to participate in food growing.
Also being developed in Brisbane is HeyMonty, a compost monitoring tool. It points to a future where ancient processes like composting are coupled with high tech sensors, empowering users to engage with sustainable processes and encouraging active participation in these processes.
Australian feasibility studies and research
The Western Sydney Airport Agribusiness Feasibility Study signals, in an affirmative way, that state governments are exploring urban agribusiness precinct design, though points to a focused agenda on producing food for export, highlighting the need for advocacy for locally focused production systems. Melbourne Foodprint explores the city's food system resilience and importance of urban agriculture; an indicator of what city level research and scoping related to local food systems looks like.
Describe a “Day in the Life” of a key food system actor within your food system in 2050 (e.g., farmer, chef, supply chain actor, food policy actor, etc.).
Travis, Executive Chef - 12 Oct 2050
Upon waking, I open Sprout to check produce availability as well as forecast harvests so I can start brainstorming our weekly menu. I see a message from Clara and Theo, who manage the market garden down the road, "Travis, we've pulled the first carrots! Can't wait for you to try them." We've been saving seed for this particular variety for seven years and its flavour, and resilience to the higher spring temperatures, improves every year.
It's Monday so my first activity is visiting farms that supply our restaurant. I visit at least once a week, walking through with the farmers, trying test crops and exploring by-products that I can use. Working with our local growers and using in-season varieties means everyday is a fresh challenge as we develop innovative, honest and interesting dishes for our customers.
I arrive at our restaurant and start to unpack the produce that has been dropped off from the local food hub by the electric driverless vehicle we have affectionately named 'Bob'. There are fresh asparagus spears harvested by Yosef, mushrooms from a disused car park basement farm, and the first of the yam harvest. While unpacking I realise that in my haste to leave I skipped breakfast, so I knock up a frittata using some of the produce, with some freshly baked sourdough, made from flour milled in-house. This is now a typical breakfast for me - having fresh, local produce more readily available means that vegetables take the place of meat in many of my meals.
Based on the delivery I begin menu planning and trialling dishes for the week as my team arrives. We start the day with a chat about what’s happening at the farms and menu changes, then start prepping for the week ahead. Monday is just a prep day, so we wrap up early and I jump on my bike to ride home.
Cherishing the rare night off, I take the time to make a delicious spring soup, using seconds from my morning farm visit and opt for an early night.
Environment | How will your food system of 2050 adapt to climate change and remain resilient?
Brisbane faces numerous challenges in the face of climate change through to 2050. The catastrophic bushfires of 2019-20 highlight the severity of the challenges we face. We have considered these challenges carefully, designing a food system that not only adapts to these conditions but works to continuously develop capacity, flexibility and positive feedback loops to ensure resilience.
In Brisbane 2050, average summer temperatures will be 2.5℃ higher than 1991-2000 temperatures under RCP8.5. For a sub-tropical city, this means that days above the dangerous 'heat stress' temperature of 40℃ will occur, on average, every 1-2 days during summer (Chapman et al. 2018).
In our outdoor growing environments (including market garden plots, rooftop gardens and larger-scale peri-urban field agriculture) heat stress and the urban heat island effect are reduced by borders of trees and perennial shrubs. These bands of green infrastructure cool the growing environment by providing shade, and enhancing evapotranspiration, reducing maximum onsite temperatures. It has been well established that greenspaces provide a cooling effect in cities, with as little as 10% forested area on a site providing a 0.83℃ reduction in surface temperature (Kong et al. 2014, Bowler et al. 2010).
Incorporation of permaculture, syntropic and regenerative agriculture design elements, including living mulches, cover crops, and stratified and intercrop plantings, further enhance the green infrastructure of the farm and augment the cooling effects.
Greenhouses are incorporated across the urban farm parcels and built based on Natural Ventilated Augmented Cooling (NVAC) design, to provide further protection against extreme temperatures for select crops.
Designed around water
In 2050, water resources have decreased across dry, subtropical regions (IPCC, 2014). For South-East Queensland rainfall, under RCP8.5 has shifted by -25% to +10% (Alluvium, 2019). At the same time, extreme rainfall has become more intense, leading to a greater flooding risk for Queensland overall (Alluvium, 2019, IPCC, 2014). Accordingly, systems account for both water scarcity and episodes of intense rainfall.
Design of urban farming plots accommodates for water capture and storage, utilising dams, ponds and water tanks for longer term water storage. Where plausible, grey water recycling further augments water supplies. Water sensitive urban design principles are incorporated across sites, including rain gardens, swales, wetlands and sediment ponds ensuring excess water, nutrients and sediments are managed at source - slowed, absorbed and captured onsite, reducing offsite impacts and reducing flood risk. Stormwater from adjacent properties is used as an additional source by farming plots to augment water supplies, and drip irrigation is utilised to further drive water conservation.
Climate adapted crops
A key mission of the food system is a biologically diverse, robust and resilient open access seed bank for our city, contributed to and accessible by both farmers and the community. A focus on genetic diversity and resilience of local seed has resulted in locally resilient varieties, bolstered genetic stocks and the development of varieties that are improved and adapted to the shifting and warming climate (MacFall, et. al., 2015).
The city-wide seed bank provides energy efficiency in crop production and reduced pest and disease pressures (FAO, 2015). Indigenous food plants, including kangaroo grass, lillypilly and macadamia nuts have been established as production crops and are increasing in popularity.
Alternative farming technologies
Hydroponics, aquaponics and controlled environment farms have been established in purpose-built enclosures, unused buildings, industrial estates and car parks/basements, offering alternative farming methods that allow for enhanced resilience in the face of climate change (Bradley & Marulanda, 2001, Dos Santos, 2015, Proksch, 2019). The environmental benefits include little or no soil, reduced water inputs and energy efficiency. Furthermore, since inner-city land in Brisbane is frequently contaminated, these systems provide a way to grow food for residents in these areas. Crops from these systems include salad and micro-greens and protein sources such as fish.
Diverse, connected network
A crucial element in adapting to climate change and building resilience has been the networked design of our food system, providing production diversity across the city, increasing adaptive capacity and allowing farms to go on and offline seasonally (MacFall, et. al., 2015). Through this, farmers have the ability to take time off each year and the soil has time to regenerate The city wide data platform, Sprout, provides the technology to support this distributed network of farms and food hubs.
Diets | How will your food system of 2050 address malnutrition in all its forms (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, metabolic disease) for the people living there?
Our food system in 2050 takes a whole-of-system approach to dietary considerations, in line with the diverse and multi-sectoral challenges that it solves.
Empowered with knowledge
One of the primary roles of our food system is re-orienting our communities toward what constitutes 'good' food, shifting the focus, from previously prioritised values such as cosmetic appearance, to a greater understanding and appreciation for what constitutes quality produce. Food is judged according to how it has been produced and how many days have lapsed since harvest. The city wide farm data network Sprout provides data on the nutrient profile and field-to-plate data on fresh produce, empowering citizens with knowledge on where their fresh produce comes from, how it's produced and its overall nutritional profile.
With this approach, public education focuses on demonstrating how the nutritional value of fresh produce is linked with soil health, regenerative farming practises and the shortness of food chains. Regenerative farming creates organic soil, rich in microbial life and essential nutrients and minerals that produces nutrient dense produce (Kremer & Hezel, 2013). In vertical farming, aquaponics and hydroponic farms, inputs are carefully controlled to ensure optimum nutrition (Croft et. al., 2017).
Regenerative agricultural practises combined with on-farm monitoring of pests and disease, coupled with strong, local crop genetics eliminate pesticides from all farms, ensuring chemical-free produce. Furthermore, a short supply chain ensures the highest possible nutritional benefits are retained for consumption.
The deeper work here is decoupling food from the profit driven motives of supermarkets and large food corporations that valued food only as a commodity. Through education, connection with local growing and an increasing awareness of the deficits of commoditised food, Brisbane's community re-orientes, slowly but surely to an understanding of food primarily as nourishment, medicine and nutrition. Eating shifts from being purely a recreational activity to a vital, connecting, ritualised part of everyday life and as a result, Brisbane's citizens are healthier than they have ever been. Obesity, anxiety and depression are on a downward trajectory and the youngest in the community can't quite understand their grandparents when they try to tell them what things were like before.
Reconnected to food growing
With food growing areas located every two to three suburbs across Brisbane, connected via a network of food hubs, fresh produce is embedded into both the landscape and social fabric of Brisbane in 2050. The city wide food network is based on a participatory model, whereby citizens can participate in farm and food hub activities in exchange for food hub credits, further integrating fresh produce into the daily life of our communities. As demonstrated by 'Good Food Box' in Toronto, Canada - as availability of fresh, nutrient dense, healthy and culturally appropriate food becomes more visible and available, diets become increasingly healthier (Johnston & Baker, 2005).
Possessing knowledge on how to prepare and cook basic fresh ingredients forms the basis for a balanced, healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables (Welsh & MacRae, 1998, Garcia et al., 2016). Accordingly, shifts toward a more local food system are accompanied with cooking classes and workshops, which have become incredibly popular across the Brisbane community. The inclusion of community kitchens is central to faciliating these classes and workshops and are a powerful way to improve the practical cooking skills of community members, driving improvements in diet and a greater confidence in selecting and consuming a more diversified range of fresh produce (Iacovou, 2013). Regular cook offs, between neighbouring food hub communities, and old family recipes and sourdough starters are shared with enthusiasm.
Chefs are powerful advocates in this arena; instrumental to driving dietary trends and encouraging experimentation with novel flavours and varieties of fruits and vegetables, and dietary diversity, further enhancing the health and nutritional intake of our community (Inwood et. al., 2008).
Food as medicine program
GPs, dietitians and nutritionists are powerful allies in better health outcomes within our future food system. The champion a 'food as medicine' prescription program, whereby health professionals offer a tailored eating plan along with tokens that provide the patient/client with subsidised fruit and vegetables for the length of the healthy eating plan, facilitating access to fresh produce and driving better health outcomes. This aligns, more generally, with education from health professionals around a 'planetary health diet', as outlined by the EAT Lancet Commission report, focused on a diversity of plant-based foods and protein, limited animal protein, unsaturated fats and reduced sugar.
Economics | Where and what will the jobs be that support living wages in your future food system of 2050, and how will these jobs impact gender equality?
A shift in thinking, brought on by a greater appreciation for food and an understanding of the time and skills farmers have, has elevated farming to a valued job in Brisbane in 2050. Exposure to farms and the growing of food from infancy has allowed Brisbane's citizens to engage with food growing in a non-gendered manner. Woodwork, cooking and farming are taught equally, regardless of gender and this approach, from an early age, has helped to break down the gender division of labour.
A powerful new job market has opened with the creation of food hubs and farms across the city and paid work is interwoven by volunteering at the food hubs, in exchange for credits toward fresh produce. Exchanging time for credits toward food essentials has removed pressure to earn money for essential goods.
Farming as a viable career path
Farming has been established as a desirable and valued career, through an organisational structure of the wider food system that sees farmers paid as employees. This model sees farming wages paid out of a social enterprise that reinvests 'profit' back into the system. Each season, a portion of all profits are allocated to a Resilience Fund - which pays farmers' wages even when crops fail. In this way, the enterprise is resilient and the farmer has the guarantee of a living wage. Accordingly, farming has shifted from being a fraught and undervalued career path, with periods of hardship brought on by crop failures and harsh weather, to a secure career path that provides a living wage. Entrepeneurial farmers can explore micro-enterprises, workshops and the hiring out of on-farm social event spaces which allows them to expand their wage beyond the farming wage if they so desire.
It must be noted that not all growing spaces across the city are as vulnerable to crop failure and extreme weather events as the outdoor markets gardens. The presence of indoor controlled environment farming, including indoor vertical farms, mushroom farms, hydroponics, aquaponics across the city provide baseline resilience to the entire system, allowing shocks to the system to be weathered sustainably.
Jobs have been re-imagined in the network of food hubs across the city. Employment is available but the exchange is not limited to money for time. Community participation has become the primary activity within food hubs, with time spent 'working' at the food hub exchanged for a significant reduction on the cost of produce from the food hub. In this way, paid employment has been replaced by active participation and a reciprocity is fostered that runs deeper than just time and money.
The model that exists in Brisbane's food hubs of 2050 has been based on and adapted from successful food coops in America, such as Bushwick Food Coop, and Park Slope Food Coop where food is generously discounted in exchange for work shifts, committee participation or attendance of co-op meetings.
Chefs are recognised as important 'opinion leaders', influencing communities' broader tastes and preferences through a number of approaches including signage, diffusion networks and cooking classes (Inwood, et al., 2009). Accordingly, chefs play a key role within Brisbane's emerging local food system and economy in 2050; helping to drive new food trends, encouraging experimentation with new and more resilient crops and providing essential re-skilling to communities via cooking classes, live demonstrations and workshops.
Food hubs driving sustainable local economies
Food hubs have become the heart of neighbourhood communities. As well as stocking fresh produce and fresh wholesome food they provide a number of additional functions within the community.
Food hubs are established with spaces for micro-enterprises, including office space, child-care and commercial kitchens. In this way, local micro-enterprise at the neighbourhood level is fostered and supported. These small businesses not only supplement the produce on offer at the food hubs but strongly contribute to the local, increasingly circular economy.
Food hubs also offer a range of additional income generating programmes, including yoga classes, event space hire and small nurseries. Each of these enterprises provide a number of key jobs for the local community.
Training and incubator programs
Training programs are administered by the larger local food network and have unlocked a powerful new job market within the city. The programs are diverse and cross-generational ranging from school immersion programs, allowing students to participate and learn on farms from primary school. Farmer incubator programs provide accessible pathways for young people to enter the urban agriculture industry, and re-skilling opportunities exist for older generations so that they can continue to contribute to the local economy and explore new and rewarding pathways as their interests shift and evolve.
Culture | How will your 2050 food system ensure that the cultural, spiritual and community traditions and/or practices in your Place flourish?
It is essential to acknowledge that the group that makes up our vision prize group are recent immigrants on ancient and sacred land and that sovereignty of this land has never been ceded. We have explored various avenues of how we might engage with the Jagera and Turrbal people, the Nunukul of Stradbroke Island, the Joondaburri of Bribie Island and the Ningy Ningy of Moreton Bay but unfortunately, meaningful engagement within the timeframe of writing this vision has not been achievable. In light of this, we would like to be upfront that engagement with the Traditional Owners of this land is a process that, after more than 200 years of trauma and occupation, requires significant time and care from both sides. Forming authentic relationships, without the presence of an external agenda is something that is years in the making and takes care, attention and deep listening.
In this way, instead of paying lip service to cultural engagement we would like to be upfront in stating that a significant gap exists in this proposal without an Indigenous perspective, however the process of reaching out and commencing conversations has begun and will be developed from here, as we engage during the evaluation period. With this perspective in mind, we have brainstormed how we might build this more hopeful future, and have included in our future plans how we engage with our Indigenous communities for development of the future food system. We believe that the deep connecting forces of food, storytelling and community provide fertile ground on which to navigate a way forward to a reconciled future.
It must also be acknowledged that alternative food movements are commonly built on a foundation of white privilege and institutionalised racism, issues that are buried deep under often naive mentalities that mean well and seek to 'do good' (Slocum, 2006). We venture into this landscape with an awareness of this often disguised challenge and a commitment to anti-racism across all relationships, activities and policies that are part of building our local food system for Brisbane.
Acknowledge our past, heal our present, strengthen our future
Land will be reconnected back with Indigenous communities by creation of Indigenous food growing patches every few neighbourhoods. These patches of land, similar to the market gardens, will be set aside solely for use by the Juggera and Turrbal traditional owners in Brisbane. They provide a space for the nurturing and reconnection with Country, cultivation of native crops and a space for language and women's weaving circles as well as workshops teaching native land stewardship and plant knowledge. These farm hubs provide a valuable space for Aboriginal people to meet and gather, share knowledge and educate the wider community.
Spaces for connection
Our food hubs, urban farms and growing spaces across the city will incorporate human centred design in a number of straightforward but subtle ways. Food hubs provide the most apparent of these spaces, including community kitchens that allow for joint connection over food via cooking classes, workshops and a space for food preparation for celebrations and festivals.
The inclusion of seedling nurseries, spaces for micro-enterprises and community composting provide extra spaces of connection across the food hubs. Through inclusion of these spaces, intermingling, pausing for a chat and bumping into neighbours, acquaintances, strangers and friends is enhanced and encouraged, strengthening social cohesion and building networks among local communities.
Create new rituals and communities of practice around food and the environment
Rituals will be re-introduced to our city-wide community with regular celebrations based at the food hubs. These will be centered around key events such as a shift in seasons, winter and summer solstice and harvests, such as the first native yam crop for the year. Such events help our communities find their way back to wisdom of the land and provide a way of acknowledging the deep spiritual connection that comes from this.
Celebration of key moments
Milestones for each farm and food hub will be celebrated, providing local communities with a sense of accomplishment and shared motivation for future milestones. Examples of key moments include breaking of ground for a new farm for the first time, a win for a community member, success of a new crop and wins for the micro-enterprises hosued on-site at the food hubs. These celebratory events bring energy, motivation and a sense of shared hope to the community while deepen connection between community members.
These cooperatives provide the necessary training, support and guidance for both aspiring and experienced farmers and foster friendship and social connection.
Technology | What technological advances are needed to transform your food system into one that meets your goals and embodies the values of your Vision in 2050?
We see technology as the thread that assists us tie our food system together. Importantly, in our system, technology will not replace humans in all spheres, but rather provides the tools to enhance quality of life. The growing environment context will influence the level of automation and influence we choose to allow technology to have. In a market garden, which provides a key space for connection to nature, the land and our communities, technology will exist under the surface, providing tools to assist and enhance efficiency. In contrast, in controlled environment growing scenarios, the use and integration of technology will be significantly higher, as these environments provide the ideal environment to exploit the efficiencies and automation that advanced farm management systems can provide, particularly with future advancements. Broadly, we have identified that the three main areas of technological advances will be algorithms, automation and authentication, however we delve into these deeper in the specific contexts below.
Connected and automated vehicles (CAVs)
Driverless, electric vehicles, otherwise referred to as CAVs are a significant design feature of our interconnected network of food hubs and farms, providing the link that allows numerous farms to be connected to food hubs in a way that liberates our community from performing the perfunctory role of delivery driver and, in doing so, allows for significantly more time to be spent on the land or with community. Significant advances in CAVs and Vehicular Ad hoc Networks (VANET) are needed to allow for this to be a reality for our food system in 2050. More specifically, advancements in the Internet of Things (IoT), leading to a possible Internet of Vehicles (IoV) has been identified as being essential (Outay, 2020). This advancement entails developments across network characteristics, wireless access and communication technologies, data security and user interaction (Outay, et al., 2020). The research that is being undertaken today, including in South East Queensland, suggests that, providing for appropriate regulatory frameworks and consumer acceptance of this shift, CAVs will be an integral part of cities in the near future (Campolo et al., 2015, TransUrban, 2019).
Blockchain-based data management and on farm management
Our future food system is connected via a powerful, open-source, blockchain-based platform that incorporates on-farm devices that act as both sensors and actuators to manage farm tasks, engage and delegate jobs to community members, monitor soil and nutrient factors, control irrigation and collect harvest data. These on farm devices would connect to both the Internet of Things (IoT) and would also feed into a larger city wide data management system that connects food hubs, farms, community members and other stakeholders including hospitality and training providers. Supply chain management and optimisation, allowing for aggregation and subsequent distribution from each of the food hubs will be part of this network, as well as inventory monitoring. It would be interfaced with an app, accessible by the entire Brisbane community, with specialised access according to role, including farmer, food hub coordinator, hospitality and the community. Input of harvest data, ordering of fresh produce and organising volunteering shifts would be some of the functions available via the app. As well as this, IoT agriculture solutions will be integrated into the model, providing-on-farm management solutions for the controlled environment agriculture that is included in our system including aquaponics, hydroponics and vertical farming.
The recent report, The National Blockchain Roadmap indicates willingness from the Australian Government to create a regulatory environment supportive of advancement toward a blockchain driven future. The rapid and focused nature of the technology in this industry suggests implementation of the applications suggested will be feasible by 2050 (DISER, 2019, Ferrag et al., 2020).
In order for a fully operational model as described above, advances in this field are still needed. Firstly, constraints including data leakage, vulnerability and scalability need to be addressed (Rejeb, 2019, Strydom, 2020). Furthermore, advancements in machine learning techniques, datasets for intrusion detection and the design of practical and compatible cryptographic protocols are needed (Ferrag, 2020). There are also important communication and interference challenges that will need to be addressed to allow uninterrupted connectivity in both outdoor and dense urban environments (Ferrag, 2020).
Augmented and virtual reality
Advancements in article intelligence, cloud technologies and biosensors will be required in order to see the virutal and augmented reality applications we envisage as part of our food system in 2050 (Muñoz-Saavedra, 2020).
Policy | What types of policies are needed to enable your future food system?
To enable our future food system, policy change will be necessary at all levels of government, with a significant shift away from the policies of today, both nationally and internationally. For our local food system to function as intended, it’s imperative that policy makers adopt and change various policy instruments that enable urban farming across cities, especially at the local level.
State and Local policy
By 2050, the State Government of Queensland will recognise urban agriculture and local food production as an important part of current state interests in ensuring liveable communities and managing natural hazard, risk and resilience. The state will have a range of planning policies around food security, resilience and sustainability.
With collaboration between state and local governments a State-Local Food and Urban Agriculture Policy will need to be created, that requires local planning schemes and infrastructure plans to consider local food supply as part of urban growth and management and monitor success.
Local governments including Brisbane City Council, would create a Local Food Policy/Urban Agriculture Strategy and review planning schemes to remove land use barriers and identify and preserve land for urban farming. Within Brisbane City Council a comprehensive Urban Agriculture Policy would then be adopted. An implementation policy would then outline steps to support growth of a local food network.
From these local policies, Council will appoint Urban Agriculture facilitators and an advisory committee to support the creation of local farms, community liaison, upskilling, insurances and procedures and problem resolution. The Urban Agriculture Policy would also clarify the regulatory status of urban agriculture making it easier for urban farmers and micro-enterprises to operate, reducing the regulatory burden. This would include changes to environmental health regulations, facilitating the inclusion of animals within an integrated farming management system to ensure good biological health, while also ensuring public health measures were adhered to.
Land and building use changes may include the allowance for re-purposing of indoor, outdoor and rooftop spaces for urban farming and food-hubs. The policies and guidelines will need to fill a gap around new kinds of farming and would need to be changed to define, regulate and enable the many emerging uses and practices including but not limited to 'urban farms', 'rooftop farms', 'indoor farms' 'vertical farm', 'aeroponics', 'hydroponics', ' insect farming', 'synthetic meats'', 'fungi farming' and 'aquaponics'.
Food procurement policies within large local and state government organisations should be enacted - similar to current EOI processes and tenders which have a preference for locally sourced food. Council’s would also need to review green waste collection policies to support local composting at urban farms.
Brisbane’s not for profit Food Policy Council would have been in place for 20 years advocating for food values and shifting community thinking about food systems in a participatory fashion. As part of their work a Food Charter will be developed, along with a detailed food system assessment plan, which includes indicators of success, and monitors progress through an annual food and health report card. This provides ongoing democratic checks on the performance of Brisbane and the City Council.
A number of policy changes need to occur at a National level to enable our future food system. There needs to be a National Food Policy developed, with significant contribution by civil society. The Food Policy would prioritise the health and wellbeing of the population, sustainable food production, along with equitable and resilient food systems. This policy would recognise Australia’s place in meeting the global demand for food for some countries, while also ensuring that local food production and distribution is supported, encouraged and prioritised.
Australia needs to have a climate change policy that addresses how food is a major contributor of global greenhouse gas emissions and the ways in which we can significantly reduce emissions. This links to the UN Sustainable Development Habitat Goals and international climate change accords which Australia would continue to be a signatory to.
There needs to be a review of the conditions of the General Agreements on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), which currently promotes international trade through the elimination or removal of barriers to trade. This needs to be reviewed in order to support trade policies that favour small scale farmers and producers over big corporations - similar to some current Eurozone policies. Other Eurozone trade policies that should be encouraged at an international level include the trade of regional products that are only available from certain regions/ bio-regions of the world for example, bush tucker and other native foods specific to Australia.
Describe how these 6 Themes connect with and influence one another in your food system.
Mother Earth underpins all of our existence, which is why a healthy planet is crucial for our survival. We recognise the limits which our planet has been pushed has huge repercussions on our Environment. Our food system starts with recognising these limits and the enormous impact they’re having currently, and will continue to have, on the way food is currently produced and distributed. With rising temperatures, worsening droughts, an increased frequency of floods, bushfires and storms, along with diminishing fertile soil and water, it’s unsustainable to continue to grow food in a way that puts huge stressors on our Environment. Building resilience into our food system is at the core of Brisbane Food City. Through the introduction of syntropic farms and food forests, utilisation of agro-ecological farming practices, the transition to climate-resistant crops and water sensitive design at the urban farms, coupled with climate controlled indoor growing facilities, our Vision is dependent on nourishing and nurturing our Environment. As the urban farms flourish throughout the city, this has resulted in a huge change to the food environment of the past. Where fast food and takeaway stores previously dominated, market gardens and food hubs have become the cornerstone of every neighbourhood across the city. This has shifted dietary patterns away from an energy dense, highly processed Diet to one that is nutrient dense and diverse, due to improved access, availability and affordability of locally grown fruits, vegetables, grains, mushrooms, legumes, eggs and nuts. Technology has enabled greater efficiencies in the food system through facilitating enhanced connection and communication about our food. We are more aware of our food and its value than ever before. Technology has aided this transformation through the community engagement App. Virtual reality has also enabled people to be transported onto the farms where their food is grown within the confines of their home, to understand and appreciate their food like never before. Our food system is grounded by our Culture. Local Indigenous knowledge is integrated into the city's farming practices. Through rebuilding connections with our traditional owners, we take the necessary steps towards acknowledging our past, enabling important healing to occur. The city's chefs have transformed our food culture from a cuisine previously centered around red meat, to one which incorporates a range of tropical crops, and greater diversity of plant based protein sources. Our food system is aided by important and necessary Policy changes that took place over the past 20 years. Due to the introduction of a Local Food Policy/Urban Agriculture Strategy, numerous barriers were removed that enabled and prioritised local food production and distribution. As a result the local food Economy has flourished, with the emergence of a thriving network of urban farmers who are paid fairly through the local food system.
Describe any trade-offs you may have to make within your system to attain your Vision by 2050.
Our initial Vision imagined a city with a network of farms on underutilised public land, across the 190 suburbs in Brisbane, revitalising it into thriving urban farms. As conversations unfolded about how this looked in reality, we acknowledged a few challenges. The first is that inner city land in Brisbane is frequently contaminated with asbestos and heavy metals. While raised beds were considered, we acknowledged that to build resilience into our system at a time when temperatures will have increased, droughts and extreme weather events will be more frequent, we need to be growing more food indoors in climate controlled systems such as aquaponics, hydroponics and vertical gardens. These are much more water efficient than traditional farming models and use little/no soil. In highly densely populated areas, they can also feed more people more efficiently. Accordingly, a trade off is that not every neighbourhood may have its own urban farm, however, inner city residents will still be able to participate on the farms outside of their suburb through the Sprout app.
Another trade off is the shift in our consumption patterns. Australians love meat. In 2017 we ate around 26kg of beef per person, and we exported 68% of our beef to 77 countries (ABARES, 2016). In fact, meat is a huge part of our food culture, with the stereotypical image of meat on a barbecue being synonymous with Australia. Yet, meat is a huge emitter of greenhouse gases and according to the EAT Lancet report, we’ll need to be consuming on average, 14g red meat/day in 2050 (EAT, 2019). Our Vision takes place in a metropolitan city, hence we don’t envisage grazing animals will be part of the local food system, yet we are also hesitant to say that people of Brisbane will no longer be consuming meat as part of their diet, since that is a huge shift in our current food culture. Hence the trade offs we have explored are eating more sustainable meats, such as kangaroo (Sustainable Table, 2020), or possibly synthetic grown meats. Alternatively, eating less meat from sustainable and ethical farms that are using regenerative agricultural farming practices and capturing significant amounts of carbon through this process.
With the massive shift in the relocalisation of Brisbane’s food system, we’re aware of the strain this may place on rural farmers and their livelihoods. Agriculture is no longer the backbone of rural and regional Australia, which has resulted in a shift in jobs and training. Broad acre cropping still exists, but uses regenerative agriculture farming principles.
Another trade off has been the shift in power from big corporations to small social enterprises and the community, who largely have a say in driving the direction of investment and energy of the local food system.
3 Years | Describe 3 key milestones that you would need to achieve within the next three years for your Vision to be on track?
We believe that in order for our Vision to be on track these things are critical to its execution within the next three years. The first step is to acquire land for the urban farms. Ideally, we would still like to see at least 10 percent of underutlised public land in Brisbane City Council be converted to market gardens by 2050. However, as outlined in the trade offs, we know that negotiating the policy and planning requirements of this, may take longer than three years. Nonetheless, access to land at an affordable price is still a major milestone, and we would like to have acquired three sites on private land to establish the first demonstration sites for the Vision. The second milestone is having sufficient farmers on hand to be able to manage these market gardens. Thus, upskilling a cohort of young farmers through an extensive training program, which includes access to mentors is crucial. We believe that we could offer this through the Farmer Incubator program, along with access to land and mentors with the current stakeholder relationships. The third milestone is to ensure there is a distribution mechanism in place for the community to access the food grown at the market gardens. Establishing food hubs in central locations across the city is also a critical step. Currently, the Brisbane City Council has a Suburban Shopfront Activation program in place, which is encouraging property owners with vacant premises in the suburbs, to provide opportunities for temporary use by emerging businesses. We feel this is a perfect opportunity to activate empty shop fronts through the pop up food hubs, with a minimal fit out. We also acknowledge that community engagement throughout this entire process is crucial. The refinement of the open data source platform, Sprout is another critical component, and is currently on track for roll out in 2021. Establishing a social enterprise is also something we aim to do within the next three years.
10 Years | What progress will you need to make—by 2030—that would set your Vision up to become a reality by 2050?
Outlined below, is the progress we will need to make by 2030 that would set our Vision up to be a reality by 2050:
Organisational structure for social enterprise established
Commence roll out across a minimum of five additional urban farms
Relationships have been formed and strengthened with Brisbane’s traditional owners, Turrbul and Jaggera nations, rebuilding our connection with our First Nations people and incorporating local Indigenous knowledge into city farming practices
Investigation into climate adapted crop varieties necessary to transition to a more climate friendly diet in a subtropical/ tropical region
Brisbane City Council have begun to make changes to their current planning scheme, which currently prevents market gardens to be established on flood prone land
Land has been identified across the council, and plans have been drawn up to begin the planting of native and fruit trees across the sites to ensure sufficient shading in place for market gardens in 2050
Community composting hubs to be established on the sites to prepare land
A people’s governance structure is established (e.g. Food Policy Council) which informs the development of a local food policy strategy
Technological advancements feature highly in our 2050 Vision, so it is essential a plan is in place which outlines the developments required for this, and the potential investment opportunities in this area
Providing easy to access, affordable training pathways for future farmers, along with ensuring that culinary training includes information on food production and food systems to adequately prepare the next generation of chefs
Linking the local food system with an education program in schools is crucial. This is because children inspire their parents/ carers to shift their behaviors based on what they have learnt in school. Additionally, promoting farming as a viable career path upon leaving school is hugely important to ensure we grow the next generation of urban farmers.
If awarded the $200,000 prize what would you do with it?
We have provided costings based on public land, however we anticipate there may be significant cost difference for set up on private land. We are exploring both of these options, but have provided the more costly version, which would involve setting up a farm on public land. Without having formalised agreements in place, or a true idea of what many of the costings would be, outlined below is what we would hope to have achieved within a 12 month period, if we were awarded the prize funds. These costings are in AUD and take into account the current currency conversion rate.
Set up governance structure with key members, led by advisory board, develop constitution $15,000
Insurance policy premiums $5,000
Site design $52,000
- Early community engagement
- Indigenous community engagement
- Concept design: refined vision / structure plan
- Sub-consultants permaculture, regenerative agriculture, WSUD, electrics, planning
- Consultancy regarding planning laws
Part-time Project Coordinator $50,000 (coordinate, administers, chases grants, leverages partnerships)
One acre market garden set up ($120,000)
- Infrastructure (soil, compost, seeds, polytunnels, composting bays, bee hives, irrigation system, water tanks, social gathering structure)
- Install Sprout Nodes for on farm sensors and investment in app development
- Two farmers trained through the Farmer Incubator program $24,000
- Cost of Farmer Incubator 10 month program
- Two local farms receive funding through a training and mentorship program
Establishment of a food hub (through the Suburban Shopfront Activation program in Brisbane City Council) $26,000
- Infrastructure required to minimally fit out shop
- Refrigerated transport vehicle
Sponsored composting program with local cafes/ restaurants $8000
TOTAL = $300,000AUD
If you are chosen as a Top Visionary, The Rockefeller Foundation would like to share your Vision widely with a global audience. What would you like the world to learn from your Vision for 2050?
Our biggest hope for what the world learns from our Vision for 2050 is that change is possible now. While our 2050 Vision describes a local food system, embedded in technology and supported by policy change, it is entirely possible to shift away from the global, industralised food system, to a localised model, which is powered by the people, for the people. Our Vision has been inspired by many positive examples already taking place around the world, including Leige, Detroit and Paris. The one thing that features heavily in all of these examples, including ours, is the need for citizens to have a greater say in their food. When we give the power back to the people, we create a food system that puts their health as a priority. We ensure that our environment is looked after for future generations. And we can establish a food system that is equitable and ensures that everyone within it is paid fairly, which is our ultimate goal. Through engaging with both stakeholders and the community during the Refinement phase, it is evident that the people of Brisbane want this. There is energy and momentum around our idea and of course, there is an undeniable need to build resilience and security into our future food system. What we would like you to know is that if we can do it, you can do it also. It may look slightly different where you are, but there will be enough people in your area who want to transform the food system for the better.
Please share a visual that communicates the structure and operation of your food system in 2050. Describe the visual.
Brisbane’s community is at the heart of our food system. It’s citizen led which creates a food system that acknowledges the environmental, political and health forces at play, and implements change locally to ensure food security for all. Through more democratic participation in their own food system, the people have designed one that is diverse, resilient, informative and fun! With a greater connection to their food, this has empowered its citizens to eat better and nurture the planet.