Distributed Responsibility for Food Security in Greater Montreal
Building a permanent bond between people and their food through co-creation of a network of services in the multidimensional food system.
Open public consultation meeting number 3 at Cafe le 5e. Inspiring individuals building the vision of the regenerative future of food in Montreal.
Cafe le 5e is a zero-waste coffee shop coupled with a zero-waste grocery store and a community space for the events! The best place to gather and speak about the future of our local food system.
Volunteers building the first minimum viable product for this vision.
That's how far we have reached before winter came! Almost up and running!
This is the present state of the greenhouse. We took out the plastic to protect it as we didn't have time and resources to finish the greenhouse this summer.
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Small company (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.
PraxEco conceived and initiated this project with the support of OpenIDEO Montreal Chapter and several community leaders in the LaSalle, Mile-End, Verdun, Southwest, and Ville-Marie boroughs of Montreal and with academic experts with links to Concordia, McGill, and Montreal universities.
Among the partners are Hadi Shamieh, Vincent Dessureault, David Leroux, Douglas Jack, Tayssa Waldron, Tracey Arial, Isa Nanic, Alain Farmer, Andreanne Dumont Houde, Tiberius Brastaviceanu and others… We have organized a series of 3 meetings and one online session to synthesize our ideas into a compelling vision.
Stakeholders include several entities, including Cafe le 5e, Cannafish, Coop CAUS, GrowSense, Precious Plastic Montreal, SENSORICA Sustainable Development Association and PraxEco. Each of these organizations operates within movements larger than themselves.
PraxEco is a hub for collaborative creation of projects, products, and services that contribute towards a self-sustainable future.
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?
We are developing a vision for the Greater Montreal Area, a region close to 4,250 km^2.
What country is your selected Place located in?
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
The Greater Montreal Area fits within the Saint Lawrence Lowland, the glacial sea-bottom bio-region we inhabit. It is our home, the home of our families and the home of the flora and fauna that survives in the hemiboreal humid continental climate typical of the region. Most of us grew up here. It hosts our culture, speaks of our history, and will continue to nurture our children. Here is where we are privileged to reside and work.
Most of us work within organizations that fit within wider community movements. Cafe le 5e represents a growing zero waste sentiment, with a coffee shop, the Coop LOCO grocery store and an event space capable of hosting events of up to 80 people for past and future public meetings about the future of food in the region.
Innovative farming practices are represented by The Cannafish Project, Coop CAUS, GrowSense and the Sustainable Development Association.
Cannafish encourages hydroponic operators and other urban farms to fertilize with manure and compost to potentially replace large amounts of inorganic phosphorus and synthetic ammonia while supporting innovative farmers. Coop CAUS operates community aquaponics, composting, farmers’ markets and food education projects as a member of Grand Potager, an urban agriculture resource centre in the Verdun municipal greenhouses. GrowSense distributes garden/farm/agriculture monitoring and automation systems. The Sustainable Development Association promotes polyculture orchards, indigenous community economy' heritage, multi-home communities and community contribution.
Precious Plastic Montreal is a non-profit organization that addresses the issue of plastic waste. Its strategy is to install distributed (small scale) recycling nodes that share the responsibility through focused tasks.
Sensorica develops open source hardware and collaborative entrepreneurship based on new organisational models which promote commons-based peer 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.
The current local food wastes
Imported food origins
One of our genius reference books
Montreal gets its name from an island in the Saint Lawrence River that has housed permanent settlements since at least 1535, when Jacques Cartier encountered the village Hochelaga. In 1701, the Great Peace of Montreal treaty between New France and 39 First Nations of North America took place in this location. It remains among the most diverse places in Canada.
Almost half (48%) of the Quebec population lives within Greater Montreal. Although it functions primarily as a French-speaking milieu, a vibrant English-speaking minority and multiple visible minorities enhance diversity. More than 30% of the people who live here self-identify as visible minorities and 56% of the population speak both French and English.
Montreal is also packed with diverse communities that bring together a diverse flavor to foods. On top of the local Quebecois cuisine, Indian, Italian, Mediterranian, and other cuisines are strongly present in local restaurants. The cultural dynamics of the city include festivals from multiple ethnicities. Diversity in Montreal offers the city a welcoming feel. It is full of out of the box initiatives. It is a city that highly encourages ecological initiatives. It has wide sidewalks with mature trees on almost every street in town. It has two big parks with wild areas to allow people to escape from the city on foot! Montreal's Urban Agriculture is well established with multiple community gardens scattered in different neighborhoods. It also welcomes rooftop greenhouses that are operated by a local company, Lufa Farms, that offers fresh produce to locals all year long.
Diets are as diverse as the make-up of the population. Montreal always sits at or near the top of any list showing restaurants per capita. A little more than half (53%) of the food products bought in supermarkets in Quebec are sourced in the province, with another roughly quarter coming from elsewhere in Canada and 23% coming from international markets. Most (89%) of the food imported from other provinces is transformed into beverages, sugar products and snacks with the remaining 11% fresh fruits and vegetables. Of the internationally-sourced foods, almost three quarters (74%) are transformed and 26% are fresh.
With the severe changes in climate that the people are witnessing, in addition to the problems of wastes (plastics and others), residents are charged with energy to participate in political change.
Governance is complicated. Eight different government entities affect the overall food system: neighbourhood, municipal, county, regional, provincial, federal and international. Neighbourhood governments are the ones most active in daily lives. They directly encourage cooperation, cultural awareness and services in the food sector by nonprofit groups that organize community and school meals, composting, cultural events, festivals, farmers’ markets, food banks, food-oriented events, and urban agriculture projects in public spaces.
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.
Currently, our food system faces multiple challenges in both the way we eat and the way we grow food.
Our climate is in flux, meaning that we face frequent water flooding, decreasing rainfall and growing season instability.
Our multi-levelled governance means little planning, the sale of fertile land for external interests, a loss of agricultural lands, regulations favoring industrial-scale agriculture, the loss of small and family farms, and more arable land covered in concrete. Few funds exist to help small farmers, local producers and landowners to learn about ecological models, set aside land for ecological purposes or transition. High restrictions limit individual homesteading in cities.
Meanwhile, farmers in the area rely on petrol-dependent agriculture, unsustainable fertilization and pest control, a lack of plant diversity, and the overuse of salt and water meaning that soil and foods have less nutritional content over time. The entire culture has no knowledge about current and ancient indigenous Polyculture methods.
Individuals rely heavily on processed-food, long distant imports, single-use plastic packaging, meat over-consumption, chemical ingredients and a lack of seasonal appreciation and good cooking habits. We are unaware of the potential of AI & automation and therefore fear it. There is little knowledge of what happens with food.
Overall, everyone who lives in Greater Montreal eats in a system reliant on consumerism, food alienation, and a diversity of food cultures. We are detached from our natural ecosystem. It’s hard to define innovation given the economic and social pressures. There is an absence of a behavior model in urban farming with few understanding the realities of growing food. We need to develop a concrete image of what an urban farmer does.
In 2050, this is likely to continue with biodiversity loss, acidification of the waters, extinctions, new pests and diseases, ecosystem collapse, extreme weather conditions, natural disasters, land disappearing underwater, a crucial lack of phosphorous and sand and the overall heating of lakes and other water bodies.
As labor costs rise and fertile soils decrease, the challenge will be sourcing healthy ingredients. Goodness knows how diets may be forced to adapt.
In addition, mass migration from threatened countries elsewhere will lead to extreme social problems, especially if the divisions and inequalities of society continues to evolve per current trends.
We will have unrealistic debts. As inflation continues, the "rat race" will continue to get more challenging. People are blind to what they vote for with consumption behavior. Externalities (value beyond economic) are not included in the prices we see. A lack of indexing technologies to 'indigenous' or 'nature' criteria. The urgency for action may rush us into a technological solutions that ends up being destructive. Regulations favor the biggest players, many of whom are global entities based elsewhere.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
Restoration of natural ecosystems, especially flooding planes and river banks, studying landscapes and hydrological systems to build natural irrigation and water catchment systems, focus on small scale agriculture, let grazing animals graze, organic waste to fertilizer management, phytoremediation and mycoremediation, remediation and expanded protection of natural environments, reforestation and food foresting to improve climate resilience and revive water cycles, intensive polyculture guilds for high productivity through diversity of plants and animals, raising animals and fish in natural environments, use of diverse heirlooms and open-pollinated seeds and breeds, affordable and sustainable greenhouse structures, efficient heating techniques, tropical and Mediterranean food foresting in controlled greenhouses, promoting diets of minimally processed foods with local and diverse ingredients, research on the effects of foods and ingredients on the body and mind, certified collective kitchens for sustainable and healthy food transformation and packaging, development of public dining halls and markets adjacent to the collective kitchens, encouraging diets around seasonal ingredient availabilities... Create opportunities for exchange outside the conventional monetary system to slow down inflation. Launch a crowd-led and crowd-funded incubator for sustainable and collaborative entrepreneurship with a fair distribution of ownership. Develop a web-based, open-source, open-data, to bring 'economy' (Greek 'oikos' = 'home' + 'namein' = 'care-&-nurture') back to its intergenerational-interdisciplinary, female-male, critical-mass economies-of-scale roots. An online Human Resource Catalogues, Resource-mapping & Accounting in Community, Contribution, Assets, Investments & Exchange Systems. A space for community-supported entrepreneurship that gives rising project visibility, networking opportunities, and access to funds. Enrich trust between people and businesses through transparency. Compete with consumerism through promoting holistically sustainable technologies and materials that promote self-sustainability. Products such as greenhouse kits, indoor growing kits, food foresting drones, environment control, and automation hardware and software… Services such as permaculture design, organizing bulk purchasing, waste management nodes: collection, shredding, transformation, production and sale of recycled material, plant fertilizer, and natural byproducts (such as methane). Spread awareness of the possibilities of the food system through educational workshops on relevant topics. Empower a culture of connection, collaboration, feedback, trust, and curiosity for self-sustainability. Democratize the certification & regulation industry through crowd-approved certification systems (eg. Basal). Evidence-based certifications and regulations which are accountable, transparent, collectively agreed-upon. Certifications that are earned and not purchased.
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.
Imagine a network of nodes (or community points) engaging the diverse people of Montreal around the different elements of their food system. Educational community points spread awareness of the urgent need and get people familiar with the proposed solutions offered by their local community. Social community spaces for networking, events and workshops. Such spaces could include zero-waste coffee shops and zero-waste grocery stores (as Cafe le 5e). Certified collective kitchens serve as community points for food innovation, sustainable transformation and packaging. Public dining halls promote community cohesion through collective cooking and meal sharing. Waste management nodes bring together individuals interested in closing the nutrient cycle and innovating with sustainable materials (as Precious Plastic Montreal).
What if people could invest in their available spaces? Land, backyard, front yard, balcony... There are hundreds of permaculture designers in our city not using their precious knowledge. Do you see the opportunity? An Uber or Airbnb-style collaboration to connect space-owners with permaculture designers and practitioners. Such collaboration could give rise to the equivalence of community gardens at private properties. A network of empowered local growers exchange information and resources and practice the most sustainable techniques to produce a healthy abundance of local ingredients. No more noisy land mowers and glyphosate. Instead, uplifting green-scapes and appetizing looks and smells of fresh and healthy abundance.
The cherry on top of the cake is an online platform to connect, collaborate, and share resources. A gateway for local innovation and co-creation of organizations (products and services) that take concrete roles in facilitating the transition to a self-sustainable future. Encouraging the birth of organizations that close further loops in our system.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
High-level objectives of our 2050 vision:
- To build a resilient food system providing fresh, organic and diverse food grown locally all year round.
- We envision a distributed food production network (greenhouses and outdoor spaces) supplying local areas. Healthy food grown with less land, less heavy (fossil-fuel powered) machinery, less chemical inputs, and less technical complexity.
- Techniques of maintaining and enhancing soil fertility are abundant: no-till gardening, sheet mulching, hugelkultur, bio-intensive growing, food foresting, etc.
- Polyculture Orchards growing 100 times (10000%) more produce of food, materials, energy & water-cycle, with much higher nutrient qualities than today’s 2-D 'agriculture'
- The envisioned system will provide very fresh produce coming from various sources, making our diets healthier. Perennial plants offering all the nutrients their sturdier nature allows them to build. Ancestral, open pollination breads of annuals abundant in diversity, providing increased nutrition compared conventional hybrid varieties, and offering maximum flavor.
- Greenhouses hosting food forests would give us the luxury to keep enjoying fruits from warmer climates. It will also provide better quality produce and an increased diversity in the offer since the product won’t need to be shipped from thousands of kilometers away.
- End of animal exploitation. Conventional meat production becoming obsolete as the animals become collaborators towards food sovereignty. Farm animals will take their original role of working the land and fertilizing it.
- Analyzing geographic and geologic information of the region will allow working with natural contour and water bodies to plan natural irrigation channels.
- Growing food on flooding planes through adapted systems (ex. Chinampas)
- Restoration of water bodies and installation of nature inspired aquaculture systems.
- In urban settings, maximize rainwater harvesting and filtration from buildings (with proper roofing). Better plan waterflow in urban settings.
- Increase in planting of big trees to increase surface humidity (increasing the amount of rain), break wind, trap running water and fetch deep nutrients.
- Abandoned buildings of bankrupt conventional businesses becoming urban farms. That every bureau has an outdoor space and wild spaces as wild corridors throughout the territory for flora and fauna.
- More policies and grants encouraging the establishment of polyculture gardens on front yards and backyards.
- In the case of having a surplus, sharing food with other communities will allow to build a more resilient global system.
- We look forward to seeing Stade Olympique being turned into a greenhouse hosting mediterranian or tropical (or both?) food forests to supply the people’s demand for exotic fruits and forein ingredients.
- To work towards repairing the damages caused that have been caused to the ecosystem to increase resiliency.
- As chemical fertilizers and pesticides become obsolete, there will be less residues of toxicity flowing through waterways, damaging ecosystems.
- Install phytoremediation and mycoremediation systems to clean and revive contaminated or depreciated soil and water.
- Restore as much of wildlife habitat as possible to allow capturing as much CO2 as possible while providing habitat for wildlife and improve global resilience.
- Liberating the land that are close to the waterways through renaturalization, especially natural floodplains to avoid damage by flooding.
- Collaborate on remediating agricultural land and installing food forests.
- To minimize the costs of goods by cutting down the supply chain and using appropriate technology.
- We see future residents of Montreal taking responsibility of small parts of their food diets such as growing herbs on windows and some greens and vegetables on balconies or yards. Some of them may build grow closet or even dedicate whole rooms for gardening more of the family’s food indoors.
- Affordable DIY greenhouse kits and indoor/closet kits
- Rentable drones that plant food forests.
- The rize of community gardens on private-lands.
- A platform to connect land-owners (including residential lands) with Permaculture designers and practitioners that optimize their recommendation per neighbourhood.
- The place where people get recommendations on their available urban spaces and connect them with their surroundings.
- Distributing plants and trees systematically in the urban setting.
- A map or resource catalogue of the food system and its local partners
- Replacing machinery and production techniques will create many urban agriculture jobs.
- Numerous smaller holdings will produce a wider variety of foods, will conserve and increase biodiversity, and it will be more economically viable for farmers, especially for new farmers seeking to buy land.
- Given the networking potential of the Internet, the AI platform could access local, regional, national and international information sources, databases, microservices, etc.
- With Machine Learning, these expert systems help us document and learn about their environment/situation. It evolves to be intuitive, and provide us with intelligent advice backed by evidence.
- Automation will be useful for greenhousing plants and conserving foods: sensors and actuators to control temperature, humidity, and so on.
- We see an internal accounting system (network resource planning) to enable community partners to discover local opportunities, collaborate on shared objectives, invest time and/or money, exchange, buy and sell internally. A minimalistic, transparent, and peer-reviewed value-based equivalency to account for all inputs and outputs of the network.
- Why not also build robots that help us cook the sourdough bread in the morning or make seasoned tofu for lunch.
- All food grown by the community will be eaten in the community. All food waste will be recycled locally into plant fertilizer for the community gardens.
- An established network of local waste management nodes focused on tackling components of the waste stream locally. Collection nodes sorts and stores the local wastes. Shredding stations reduce the volume of the materials before transportation. Channel the shredded waste to local nodes of waste processing: Organic wastes is processed (composting, biodigestion…) and distributed to local farms. Plastics channel the Precious Plastic Montreal (PPM) stream. PPM network is composed of local experts in different types of plastics and different semi-industrial machines to make a wide range of products. Some could be experts in sheet press, others in making beam, others in injection molding, or 3D printing. Let us launch a program to support the creation of hyper-sustainable products made of recycled materials that will last us hundreds if not thousands of years.
- Live a culture of health, transparency, trust, collaboration and responsibility.
- A healthy and nutritious diet means to us a seasonal, aboriginal, diversified, primarily plant-based and minimally processed, organic, fresh and locally-grown food diet. A healthy and nutritious diet also includes its process; collaborative production, distribution and consumption (cultivating with your local farmer, sharing with your neighbours, taking time to cook and eat with your family and friends). Defining healthy and nourishing foods; by supporting more neutral objective studies on food diets. Educating the population; by vulgarizing data from the studies, making the information inspirational and accessible, by democratizing access to specialists.
- Increased drive of taking responsibility for our own health and well-being.
- Food growing becoming as normal and widespread as riding a bicycle. Taking responsibility for growing food locally will lower the pressure on more vulnerable ecosystems abroad.
- Surplus will be shared with other communities (locally and internationally) in support when deficit can be observed.
- A global network of local food production can be developed to empower communities all around the world and develop global resilience and ecosystems’ protection.
- Communities will grow stronger as they collaborate towards their own food security and share harvests, techniques and lessons learners.
- In addition, working with soil is an effective form of meditation and inner therapy. Growing food has been shown to reduce stress levels and loneliness - being the threat that it is becoming.
- A distributed agriculture model would erode the idea that food does not need to be fresh or organic to be edible through awareness, engagement and shared responsibility.
- We envision the revival of recurrent illustrative 'debates' (French 'de' = 'undo' + 'bate' = 'the-fight') about priorities as that of the ancient indigenous Council-Process of collaborative-research. We see recurrent workshops that spread awareness and educates the public of the challenges and innovations of the local food system.
- An established collaborative network of communities grows wealthier than any of today’s large corporations.
- Different mindset: Simply put, one that doesn’t depend on money. We envision an enterprises being open and more collaborative. A transition from “Employer-employee” to “partner.” A competition to give more not to take more.
- Centralized to decentralized to distributed (for reduced risks - resilience against extreme weather).
- Decentralized sewage, decentralized economy, decentralized education….
- Partners weaving around different industries and following excitement.
- Revival of apprenticeship: Learning through practice.
- Systems thinking and permaculture taught at a young age and becoming common sense.
- Teaching from youth about resilient. Openness to disruption and change. Leave room for adaptability. Create an emergent system. In 1990, no one predicted how phones influence our lives today.
- The birth of new exchange formula: Being, giving, and having.
- True peace: No war or fight for resources. Ethical and collaborative resolution of conflicts.
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?