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Distributed Responsibility for Food Security in Montreal

Establishing a permanent bond between people and their food by connecting space owners, consumers, and permaculture practitioners.

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Lead Applicant Organization Name

PraxEco

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.

SENSORICA GrowSense Precious Plastic Montreal

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.praxeco.com

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

  • 1-3 years

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

Montreal, Quebec

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Canada

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

Greater Montreal Area, covers an area close to 4,250 km^2.

What country is your selected Place located in?

Canada

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

We are a group of locals and immigrants that are privileged to reside in Montreal.

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.

Montreal is 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 is packed with 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. 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 change. The ingredients in the supermarkets are less and less fresh, less and less tasty, and more and more expensive.

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

4000000

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

Current challenges Environment: The climate in Quebec is unstable. The last two growing seasons had record-breaking hot and dry conditions. On our farm, summer of 2018, we lost a big part of our crops due to that. Spring and Fall came with unpredictable surprises and summer was very long, hot, and dry. Diets: The diversity of ethnicity brings a diversity of diets. Different cultures are used to different ingredients, so the demand for diverse ingredients is high. This makes local production of goods challenging and meeting the demand close to impossible. Economics: The current state of food transportation from all around the world comes with great expenses. As the current economic system focuses on competition, smaller local producers are slowly quitting the game and unethical large scale producers remain in power. Culture: The toughest challenge we face thus far is cultural. People are detached from the need to produce their food as they live in a general culture of consumerism, despite their ethnicity. A lot of education needs to be done to allow people to reduce their consumption habits and increase their production capacity. Technology: The challenge with technology is that we are always looking for the next big discovery and we are refusing to look back at ancient technologies and techniques that allowed us to thrive and make it this far. Policy: Not enough funds are dedicated for local producers. Future challenges: Environment: Biodiversity loss, ecosystems collapse, natural disasters, climate change... We are all aware of the big threats coming. Diets: As price for labor rises and fertile soils decrease, the challenge will be sourcing ingredients that require a lot of labor to be processed. Economics: As inflation continues, the "rat race" will make things a lot tougher on the whole. Culture: With advanced communication tools, cultural challenges are minimal. Technology: The pathway to hell is paved with good intentions. The urgency for action may rush us into a solution that ends up being destructive. Policy: A transparent, inclusive, and engaging debate/feedback system would make political issues minimal and constructive.

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

Our ideal objectives are: 1. Provide fresh and organic goods grown locally all year round. 2. Offer diverse ingredients to satisfy the multi-ethnic demands. 3. Minimize the costs of goods. To address these objects, we need a systematic solution. A solution that offers all of us an opportunity to participate in its creation. Part 1: Education Spread awareness on the urgent need and get people familiar with the proposed solution. Release a product that focuses on indoor growing. The purpose would be to expose the possibilities and joys of indoor growing. It allows people to experience the rewards of living with edibles at reach. Part 2: Greenhouses Research and development on greenhouses that host food forests from different climates. Wouldn't it be nice if lemons and figs sold in Montreal are grown organic locally? Part 3: The platform What if people could invest in their available spaces? Land, backyard, front yard balcony, window... There are hundreds of permaculture designers in our city. Why don't we give them the opportunity to profit from their valuable knowledge? Consumers demand ingredients. Connect space-owners with permaculture designers and let the magic begin.

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.

Consumption optimization: Half of all food produced in Canada is wasted, and a large portion of that waste happens in the home. The first dimension of the solution is producing less food but of higher quality while empowering the psychological effects of engaging people in the responsibility. It will significantly reduce food waste and the environmental impacts of an inflated food production strategy. Moreover, distributed responsibility strengthens the communal spirit. Communities will grow stronger as they collaborate towards their own food security and share harvests, techniques and lessons learners. Also, working with soil is an effective form of meditation and inner therapy. Growing food has also been shown to reduce stress levels and loneliness - being the threat that it is becoming. Finally, we will have to compromise with our diets. Our diets will be focused on perennials plants, mainly wild and native species that require least labor to grow. Greenhouses hosting food forests from different climates would give us the luxury to continue enjoying fruits from other climates such as lemons, figs, avocados, bananas... Annual crops would become sacred and more expensive due to their labor costs. However, they will still be present as whenever a new greenhouse node is established, annuals can be grown for up to 10 years until the food forest is mature enough to maintain itself. Standardized meat production will be obsolete as the animals become collaborators towards food sovereignty. Grazing animals will continue grazing. Farm animals will take their original role of working the land and fertilizing it. Our share of meat eating will be limited to balancing the population of fellow animals and hunting wild animals. In short, 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. Our diet would be mostly vegetarian with focus on wild species.

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

We, as a society, demand a tremendous amount from our technology, our cars and our clothes but it is worrisome to realize that we would have nothing left to eat if we demanded healthier, tastier food. We tend to aim for standardized large scale solutions that often include high tech machines, chemicals and processes to deliver food to the table. The reality is, efficient food production does not require sophisticated technologies nor chemically processed fertilizers and pesticides. Organic micro-production has the potential to empower individuals and communities to reach into the soil and produce their own sustenance. Techniques of maintaining and enhancing soil fertility are abundant: no-till gardening, sheet mulching, huglekulture, bio-intensive growing, food foresting... Compartmentalization of food production and diversity of plant species will reduce the spread of pests and increase the yield of the limited space as multiple layers of plant species can reside it simultaneously. The most advanced form of technology we need is a few simple controllers to automate a greenhouse in our freezing winters. Those include soil moisture, temperature, humidity, fans, pumps... all of which are open sourced and readily available. Our project will serve to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture by distributing food production (greenhouses and outdoor spaces) over a large collective area of private spaces. Users will be taught basic permaculture practices and encouraged to participate in their local “fields”. Agriculture done in a sustainable manner will reduce the greenhouse gasses emitted by the transportation of said produce. As chemical fertilizers and pesticides become obsolete, there will be less residues of toxicity flowing through water ways and damaging ecosystems on its way. On the contrary, water running off fertile soil would have a constructive impact over the lands it reach. All food grown by the community will be eaten in the community. There will be many occasions to exchange with others seeds that we have bred or young seedlings that we have sprouted. This miniaturization of agricultural cells will allow certain plants to be used where the environment suits them and experimentation will be encouraged with economic credit given in exchange for effort.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Email

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