Combining the best that urban agriculture and supermarkets offer: A community around abundant, fresh and sustainably produced food.
A first rendered version of the SuperGarden. Author: Stephanie Ningran, 2020.
The SuperGarden is a green oasis in the middle of the city and could look like this:
An inspiring personality: Dona Sebastiana is a community gardener in the socioeconomically weak east of São Paulo. The community gardens created by the Brazilian NGO Cidades Sem Fome (Cities Without Hunger) are the basis of our vision for the city of Berlin: Creating a community experience around food and giving access to healthy and sustainable food for everybody.
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Cities Without Hunger Germany
(STÄDTE OHNE HUNGER Deutschland e.V.)
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Small NGO (under 50 employees)
Website of Legally Registered Entity
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?
Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?
Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?
What country is your selected Place located in?
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
Berlin is the place our organisation Cities Without Hunger Germany is based at. Since our foundation in 2015, we have been building an extensive network in Berlin's urban agriculture sector, including bottom-up initiatives, social enterprises, supermarkets, NGOs, governments, universities, and bottom-up initiatives like the Food Policy Council Berlin.
Our organisation supports the Brazilian NGO Cidades Sem Fome (Cities Without Hunger) who deploy urban agriculture as a way of tackling complex multidimensional social, ecological, economic, and health problems in the megacity São Paulo. Having implemented to date 27 productive vegetable gardens in the socioeconomically weak east of the city, they create jobs and income opportunities for 152 marginalised people as community gardeners. These jobs directly secure the livelihoods of 840 people. The gardens greatly enhance local access to high-quality fresh produce.
Although Berlin and São Paulo are different in many respects, there are striking similarities in how people's socioeconomic background, diets and health relate. Equal access to healthy food is a big challenge. Rising temperatures in combination with the urban heat island effect beg for urban green to enhance the microclimate. Driven and inspired by the example of our Brazilian sister organisation, we have developed a vision tailored to the complex challenges of Berlin's food system: The SuperGardens.
Berlin's thriving urban agriculture and food scene, its open-minded and diverse population, and our broad and well-developed network make Berlin the place where we seek to make our vision become reality.
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
In 2016, Cities Without Hunger Germany called Berliners to participate in the #SaladChallenge. The social media campaign had the objective to raise awareness of sustainable urban food production by our the Brazilian NGO Cidades Sem Fome (Cities Without Hunger) that we support. The enthusiastic responses make us confident that Berlin is ready to embrace this vision!
This is an aerial view of Berlin. Tempelhofer Feld, a former airport that now serves as an urban recreational area, is marked. There are already some urban agriculture activities going on here.
Berlin's cityscape with the famous TV tower at Alexanderplatz.
Berlin is a city state and the capital of Germany. It is surrounded by the rural federal state of Brandenburg. The population density of 4,088 inhabitants per km² is relatively low in comparison to other world metropoles. 44% of the urban area are green spaces. Summer temperatures up to 40°C pull Berliners to the many lakes in and around the city. The winters, in contrast, are notoriously dark and cold.
Berlin's difficult history is well-documented, so I focus on the city's feeling and culture. In my personal perception, Berlin has a heavy soul – you definitely still feel the historical divide between East and West from 1961 to 1989. Loneliness is a big issue due to 'big-city anonymity'. At the same time, Berlin radiates an incredible lightness, allowing for personal freedom and expression. Internationally, it is known as a creative hotspot attracting artists from all over the world. World cultural heritage museums, a famous electronic music scene, and crazy nightlife attract millions of tourists. The German parliament is located here. Berlin has world-renowned universities and a thriving start-up scene with a focus on tech, media, and sustainability.
Berlin is home to people from all over the world: One third of the inhabitants have a migration background. Berlin's foodscape reflects this cultural diversity – from Döner kebap street food and Mexican restaurants to Russian and Asian supermarkets. The many bakeries across the city mirror the Germans' love for bread. Artisanal bread is experiencing a come-back. A steadily rising number of (currently about 120) organic supermarkets is specifically concentrated in wealthier parts of the city. Socioeconomic inequality is high; the risk of poverty is three times higher for people with a migration background (monthly net income lower than 60% of Berliners' average income of 1538 €). Berlin comprises 12 districts, each of which has its own unique character. Berliners strongly identify with the district they live in. The district of Prenzlauer Berg is notorious for young families who love organic food, Mahrzahn for its industrialised apartment blocks, and Neukölln combines all contrasts of Berlin – poor and rich, Arab delicacies and Berlin curry sausage, the calm and spacious green field of the former airport Tempelhof, and busy street life.
Berlin has politically active and opinionated inhabitants hungry for reconnecting with food production. A traditional form of urban farming in Berlin are allotment gardens – they cover about 3% of the urban area. More than 100 urban agriculture initiatives are registered. Roads at the outskirts of Berlin are lined with fruit trees and more school gardens are set up every year. The "We are fed up!" ("Wir haben es satt!") demonstration against industrial farming practices and for more sustainable agriculture attracts up to 30,000 people each year. The bottom-up Food Policy Council founded in 2016 demands sustainable and democratic transformation of Berlin's food system.
What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)
What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
Any challenge we face today will become even more severe if we do not tackle it now.
Diets & Economics. In Germany, 66% of men and 51% of women are overweight. One in five people is obese with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes type II (BMEL, 2019). Whilst half of the German population consumes meat daily, 74% believe that reduced meat consumption helps provide food for a growing world population (BMEL, 2019). Half of the people with a monthly income < €1,500 believe that healthy food is too expensive for them. Fruit and vegetable consumption is lower than the recommended "five a day". To improve human health, the share of plant-based foods in people's diets need to rise.
Environment. Due to climate change, summers get hotter and drier with irregular torrential downpours. Winters become warmer, extending the vegetation period. Until 2050, maximum temperatures will increase by 6.1°C, and the mean annual temperature by 1.8°C (Bastin et al., 2019). Predominantly sandy soils make agricultural production vulnerable to extreme weather (Stefanovic et al., 2016). In Berlin's surrounding rural areas, nitrate for fertilisation threatens water quality and causes ammonia gas emissions. Food waste and waste from food packaging is another big environmental problem.
Culture. Berlin is known for its cultural diversity. About one third of the city's population has a migration background, and the share is rising. Food is intimately related to, and an expression of culture. A 2050 resilient urban food system needs to respect the cultural dimension of food and not fall prey to a merely functionalist approach higlighting food's health and sustainability dimensions. For most, the first contact with food starts in the supermarket, presenting a distorted picture of the reality of food production through "standardised" fruit and vegetables or false health promises by the food industry (Schmitz, 2012). Supermarkets and convenience food do not offer a community around food. Loneliness is as a big issue due to the anonymity of the big city and an individualistic culture (Adli, 2019).
Technology & Economics. More sustainable urban agriculture production practices and technologies do not yet reach a mass market, but target high-price market niches. Regional organic production can't keep up with rapidly growing consumer demand (Doernberg et al., 2016). But start-ups and research projects start to respond to the increasing demand, promising substantial change by 2050.
Policy. Bottom-up initiatives such as the Food Policy Council demand a sustainable transformation of Berlin's food system. Food is regularly the source of consumer outrage and activism. Various forms of urban agriculture are not yet legally rooted in Berlin. The current Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union does not apply yet to urban agriculture and its multifunctionality (Piorr et al., 2018).
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
Diets & Economics. The SuperGarden breaks the link between people's socioeconomic status and the quality of their diet by providing healthy, affordable, and sustainable food for everyone. On-site food production positively contributes to the urban microclimate and biodiversity. The SuperGarden constitutes a social hotspot and creates an inclusive community around food. By 2050, the SuperGarden will have become what supermarkets are today: The main access point for food in urban households. It will, however, have changed the way food is produced and is consumed: More sustainable, socially inclusive, and healthier.
Environment. We embrace climate change. Increasingly warmer temperatures enable the production of mediterranean and tropical food in Berlin, such as bottle gourd or olives. That way, locally sourced ingredients for many typical cultural dishes become available. We pay particular attention to resource-efficient production techniques that close nutrient cycles, minimise agricultural inputs, enhance biodiversity, and preserve and extend urban green to enhance local microclimate.
Culture. We celebrate cultural diversity and make it part and parcel of who we are. We are officially multi-lingual and welcome people in multiple languages including German, English, Arab, Turkish, Polish, Rumanian, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Russian, Italian, French, and Vietnamese. Our staff speaks at least two of these languages to enable a multicultural shopping experience for people from diverse cultural backgrounds. The SuperGarden invites people not only to do their groceries, but also to explore our permaculture garden, participate in cooking workshops, or exchange fruit. This community can reduce loneliness. Via our on-site production, people reconnect with the origins of food through their shopping experience. At our street food stand, we offer traditional cultural dishes, e.g., from Russia, Germany, or Brazil, all of which are made from our locally sourced ingredients.
Technology & Economics. The SuperGarden follows a modular approach for the integration of sustainable food production practices and technologies. For example, hydroponics linked to the urban waste water system or bioreactor façades (algae and energy production) help improve the sustainability and efficiency of food production. By 2050, the SuperGarden is financially and commercially self-sustaining.
Policy. Integrating urban agriculture as a type of land use in urban planning is essential for our vision. Current policy entry points are horticulture, food, or green infrastructure policies. The modular approach can actually help the SuperGarden integrate at policy level by gradually implementing all those modules that are feasible within existing policy frameworks. The increased interest in urban agriculture at multiple policy levels including the municipality of Berlin and the European Union is indicative of future policy development enabling the complete SuperGarden.
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
Healthy and sustainable food has become part of everybody's daily life. Regardless of their socioeconomic background, people do their groceries in the SuperGarden.
The SuperGarden is more than a traditional supermarket. It is a green oasis serving as a meeting point and connecting the local community around food. People wander through the garden, enjoy the cool, fresh microclimate, or just have a chat with their neighbours over a cup of coffee in the café area. You hear laughs and chatters in different languages. Companies book on-site cooking and gardening workshops. School classes visit to learn about food production. In autumn, SuperGardens provide fruit and nuts from all over Berlin and Brandenburg. Further regional supply chains with organic farmers in Brandenburg have developed for grains, legumes, fruit, and specialty vegetables like asparagus. Transportation of these products is almost emission-free, since we use electric cars, cargo bikes and trains.
Thanks to sophisticated production techniques, a wide range of locally grown produce is available throughout the year – also enabled by higher temperatures prolonging the vegetation period. Every season offers a different variety of food. Our creative multi-cultural team offer recipe ideas, prepare delicious meals, and shows visitors how to process seasonal vegetables.
The Food Policy Council and the municipality of Berlin are proud of how the SuperGardens have changed the relation of people to food. Food has become a source of community and health, and contributes to making Berlin a climate resilient city.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
Diets, Economics, and Culture. The SuperGarden is a social enterprise dedicated to its mission of providing access to healthy and sustainable food for all people, irrespective of their socioeconomic background.
By offering an indulging and abundant variety of healthy, tasty, and fresh food, it combines the every-day accessibility, choice and price architecture of supermarkets with environmentally friendly urban agriculture production. Customers no longer have to weigh sustainability, price, and health when making food purchasing choices: All food offered is sustainable, affordable, and part of a healthy, balanced diet.
We see the first SuperGarden in Berlin's districts Kreuzberg or Neukölln. These areas are central, inhabited by people from very diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, and hotspots for tourists so the SuperGarden can really unfold a lighthouse effect. Furthermore, the abandoned airport of Tempelhof is located here, giving space for a big permaculture garden (which we do not intend to cover the whole field, though!). Berliners love that area for its recreational value, and defend it as a natural and cultural spot against construction. Already today, an urban agriculture organisation (Allmende-Kontor) is using parts of it for plant production and community involvement.
The SuperGarden embraces Berlin's cultural diversity. We grow and sell ingredients for many typical cultural dishes, and offer street food such as Russian borschtsch, or Brazilian feijão. One of our signature street food dishes will be the SuperDöner, a Döner with locally sourced ingredients. Cooking workshops teach customers how to create delicious dishes from our local ingredients.
The "BrotMutter" (BreadMother) is our in-house bakery offering home-made bread and other baked goods. We also have a zero-waste area where customers can buy flour, legumes, soap, oils, and other household and food products. The SuperGarden café is opening up to the street and invites people to relax under the green pergola. The street food stand offers healthy and affordable, locally sourced food to stay or take-away.
Cultural connection functions via personal connection. Our employees come from diverse cultural backgrounds. We are officially multi-lingual. The SuperGarden welcomes people in the languages of the nationalities most present in Berlin: German, English, Arab, Turkish, Polish, Rumanian, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Russian, Italian, French, and Vietnamese. We will have a Welcome sign and staff who speak one of more of those languages to enable a multicultural shopping experience for people from diverse cultural backgrounds.
The SuperGarden creates a community around food and transforms the culture of engaging with our food. It does so by:
Making food production visible: The on-site production makes people experience where their food comes from.
Offering educational activities: School classes come and learn about food, companies book cooking or gardening workshops as teambuilding or wellbeing events, and our in-house nutritionists provide information (face-to-face and on screens) to customers about how to prepare food in a way that enhances nutrient content and uptake.
Inviting volunteers: Our business model includes volunteers who can help in the garden or at the prep station to contribute. In exchange, they get food without paying money for it. (We developed this component further in our refined Vision!)
Hosting neighbourhood food events: Three times a year, the SuperGarden hosts a food feƒstival. The occasions are: 1) the start of the vegetation period in early March, 2) the strawberry harvest in June, and 3) the harvest festival in October.
The business model is strongly diversified. We reinvest all profits in the SuperGarden's continuity and upscaling. Additional sources of revenue are targeted at specific customer segments with relatively high purchasing power, e.g., health-at-the-workplace programmes for companies, high-quality catering, nutrition education (online and offline), and home delivery of dishes and groceries by bike.
The SuperGarden can be built from scratch – but it can also serve as an orienting vision for any existing supermarket to transform into a SuperGarden. This transformation is enabled by the stepwise integration of SuperGarden Modules, all of which are explained in the following.
Technology and Environment. The SuperGarden produces food on-site in a sustainable manner. To that end, a variety of production technologies and practices are deployed, many of which fulfil not only the function of food production but also provide ecosystem services and efficiently use/produce energy.
Plant and animal production:
Permaculture: Production of vegetables, fruit and herbs; enhancing the urban microclimate; enhancing biodiversity.
Greenhouse elements: Production of mediterranean and tropical fruit and vegetables; insulating the building.
Vertical farming (green walls; vertical gardens with unified soil, see vision by J. Bizehr): Production of vegetables and herbs.
Aquaponics and hydroponics: Production of fish and salads; closing the nutrient cycle via urban wastewater treatment (e.g., Roof Water Farm technology developed by Technical University Berlin).
Algae tubes/bioreactor façade: Production of spirulina and chlorella for human consumption; algae production for biogas (energy provision).
Indoor mushroom production: Low resource input/high harvest output mushroom production.
Indoor LED-supported micro greens production: Energy for LEDs provided via solar panels and/or bioreactor façade.
Beehives: Production of honey; plant pollination.
Rooftop garden: Vegetable and fruit production; enhancing the microclimate.
Composting: Closing the nutrient cycle for the permaculture garden; provision of highly concentrated nutrient-rich composting liquid for fertilisation. People can also return their household compost to our SuperWaste station and receive a price premium, which functions similar to the bottle return system in conventional supermarkets.
Green roof (pergola): The green roof above the café area enhances the microclimate.
This list is not exhaustive as additional technologies and social innovations can be integrated in the SuperGarden as long as they enhance the productivity, sustainability and variety of food offered to our customers.
Emerging food production technologies that are neither reliant on plants nor on animals like laboratory meat or ferming (bacteria-based: production of nutrients through fermentation processes) are likely to substantially contribute to the nutrient and calory provision by 2050. For two reasons these technologies do not hamper but enhance the need for SuperGardens. First, such technologies do not substitute the multifunctionality of SuperGardens: SuperGardens do not only produce and provide food, but also fulfil social functions like creating a community around food and providing recreational value; and environmental functions like improving the urban microclimate and enhancing biodiversity. Second, those technologies can actually be integrated in SuperGardens to provide a wider choice of sustainably produced food to the local community. SuperGardens as main access points for food in urban households can contribute to enhancing the uptake of these technologies.
The on-site production focusses on vegetables, herbs, fruit, mushrooms, and fish. For grains, legumes, additional fruit, and specialty vegetables like asparagus, the SuperGarden connects to a network of regional organic farms in Brandenburg. Transportation is almost emission-free since we use electric cars, cargo bikes, and trains. With our partner Mundraub e.V. who map fruit trees, we incentivise harvest and consumption of local fruit and nuts so they do not rot away. In autumn, SuperGardens serve as an easy-to-reach access point for fruit and nuts from all over Berlin and Brandenburg against voluntary donation. The SuperGarden will not import food from other climates. The goal is to be CO2 neutral. We seek to make the range of seasonal and local products available as large as possible by re-discovering old and wild varieties, and integrating less-known edible plants such as exploding cucumbers or tamarillo in our production.
There are a number of new and old technologies that help enhance the energy efficiency of the SuperGarden, such as underground natural cooling, or bioreactor façades for energy production. While these technologies will be more challenging to implement in already existing supermarkets (following the modular approach of turning a regular supermarket into a SuperGarden), when built from scratch, the SuperGarden should feature those technologies from the start.
Policy. Urban agriculture land use, practices, production techniques, and food safety regulations for urban agriculture products are integrated in the legal framework at the European level and at the municipal level. This allows for further upscaling of SuperGardens in Berlin and beyond.
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?
A friend who works at FAO Chile indicated the opportunity to me.
Describe how your Vision developed over the course of the Refinement Phase.
Comprehensive stakeholder involvement helped us develop our Vision further by:
1) Scrutinising system boundaries. Stakeholder interviews showed that it is of utmost importance to Berliners and Brandenburgers alike to enhance value and supply chains with organic farms in Brandenburg. As main access point to food, SuperGardens hold a strategic position in supporting farmers to reach their target market.
2) Aligning SuperGardens with Berlin’s 2050 climate goals. SuperGardens are climate-neutral, help balance urban water ecosystems (sponge effect, decentralised wastewater recycling), and cool down the city (green walls, green roofs; new: agroforestry).
3) Detailing the business model. The multiple values exchange system helps decouple food acquisition power from financial income and supports food education for all. Scalable business models per SuperGarden Module will support the stepwise transformation of existing supermarkets into SuperGardens.
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).
Roof Water Farm (Technical University Berlin – Department of Urban and Regional Planning)
Unified Soil Technology
Fundación Arte Bloc
Ernährungsrat Berlin (Food Policy Council Berlin)
There are a number of individuals and organisations that meaningfully partnered with us to develop this latest version of our Vision with a contribution of less than 10 hours through their ideas, critiques, practices or graphic contributions. These individuals and organisations are listed in the attachments.
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.
We mapped organisations and individuals that inspired the SuperGarden Modules and identified further stakeholders through snowballing and the Food Systems Vision Prize platform. Instead of on-site visits (Corona), we conducted a total of 19 video and phone interviews (1-1.5h) with consumers, food educators, NGOs, food innovators, media, policy makers, processors, producers, scientists & researchers, waste recoverers, business consultants and a construction company. Profiles & age are listed in the attachment.
Here we describe consumers and stakeholders that joined our team:
To get further in touch with consumers, we posted our Vision on German social media groups (e.g., “Make a lot out of nothing – the cooking group for the small and the big purse”) and asked for comments, ideas and critique. 10 consumers were invited to do the “Day in the Life, 2050” exercise via messengers, email, calls or video chat. Numerous personal conversations with consumers further informed the development of our Vision. GfK, Germany’s largest market research institute, taught us more about consumer types and attitudes.
Four stakeholders joined our team:
1) Scientists & Researchers – The Roof Water Farm team at Technical University Berlin runs a pilot site for decentralised wastewater reuse with aquaponics and hydroponics, offer a related university education programme, and did feasibility studies on the sociotechnical embedding of the technology in Berlin.
2) NGO – Ackerdemia e.V. runs school garden education programs for children at currently 143 schools in Berlin-Brandenburg. Their spin-off AckerCompany GmbH offers food education for adults at the workplace.
3) Food Innovator – Unified Soil is a vertical soil-based production system innovated 2016 in Georgia by Jacob Bizehr.
4) Policy Maker – The bottom-up Food Policy Council Berlin founded in 2016 has developed a list of demands for the transformation of the food system in Berlin-Brandenburg which is in line with our Vision.
What signals and trends did you draw from to inform your Vision? Please provide data or examples that back up each signal or trend.
1) People, planet, profit. Organisations increasingly need to create benefits for society and the environment. A 2019 supermarket promo transforms Berlin into a green edible paradise (Penny, 2019). Social and environmental values are made tangible through corresponding indicators – a trend illustrated by ongoing research projects like “Garden Services” measuring the benefits urban green creates in Berlin.
2) The female shift. Women integrating in male-dominated sectors and leadership positions act as accelerators who promote social and environmental values. A signal from Amsterdam encapsulates this: deputy mayor Marieke van Doorninck is embracing the “doughnut economy” (Raworth, 2017) centred around the SDGs.
3) Prosumers, analogue renaissance and return on experience. Increasing digitisation makes people crave a balance in the analogue world. They want to experience physical community and tangible self-efficacy (Mintel, 2019) – desires translated into prosuming and sensual activities clustered around health and sustainability themes with a “return on experience” (Mintel, 2019; PwC, 2019).
4) New work and the knowledge economy. Work and leisure, private and public blur in “third spaces” – neither the workplace nor the private home – such as community gardens. “Personal contact, do-it-yourself – this is what makes the difference”, Connie explains. She participates in a programme teaching Berliners how to grow their own vegetables. Soft skills and personalised learning experiences create value in a world where automation releases human creative potential.
5) Immersive and personalised technology. At the seemingly other end of the analogue-digital spectrum, technology becomes more “human”: Artificial intelligence helps make personalised food choices (PwC, 2019) and creates immersive digital environments generating a return on experience, too – e.g. through augmented reality (Mintel, 2019).
6) Health and the Silver Society. By 2050, more than a quarter of Berliners will be older than 65 (Destatis, 2020). Biohacking and functional food promise ultimate vitality. In an aging society – the silver society – healthy aging is valued more than ever.
7) Catalyst Corona Crisis. The pandemic gives us a taste of what an ultra-connected digitised, localised life feels like. It makes us comprehend what is means to have a resilient food system in a society where imported potatoes hide dire harvests in drought-plagued Brandenburg. It showcases the crucial role food workers play from farm to plate – and it drives prosumer innovations to support the food system. Farmers and consumers self-organise to compensate for a lack of seasonal workers via online platforms. Brandenburg’s horticulture usually depends on the help of about 15,000 seasonal workers from neighbouring countries (Troegel & Schulz, 2018). An asparagus farmer’s call for support was shared over 18,000 times on Facebook; several hundred people submitted their applications to help out (Leopold, 2020).
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.).
This is how Annette, a SuperGarden contributor and prosumer, spends her Saturday in 2050. Artist: Antonia Bañados, 2020.
Hello, I am Annette, 73 years old. Berlin is my hometown. I moved here as a student, then worked in a biotechnology lab my whole life. I’ve seen the city change quite a bit... 2020 was a turning point in our lives with the Corona crisis happening and summer temperatures hitting a record high. People died – from Corona and from the heat. It was our wake-up call to make the city livable again. Part of this was implementing SuperGardens, and yepp, that’s where I am going this Saturday morning! It’s my favorite day of the week because I spend it with my grandchildren.
The teenagers are already waiting for the cooking class I teach. “Hello Marie, Leo, … wow, you are numerous today!”, I smile as I see about ten youngsters gathering at the prep station. “What’s on the menu today, Annette?”, Leo asks. “Cherry pie – it’s the season. Thank you for helping with my friend's cherry harvest”, I add, “She told me you did a great job!” Two hours later, six delicious cherry pies are on the table.
Time to do my groceries. Chickpeas, buckwheat, walnuts… I fill my bag with some kitchen essentials. My pension doesn’t allow for luxuries, but the value exchange system gives me a year-round subscription to apples and nuts (I chose that because I they are the main ingredients for my muesli) for teaching weekly cooking classes and I can be sure to get delicious produce in the SuperGarden. “Oma! Oma!” I look up. “Look what I got! A caterpillar!” I smile as the small curly-haired boy runs towards me with the little critter in his hand. For dinner, we meet my friend Klara on the rooftop. Good night, and see you soon – in the SuperGarden!
Environment | How will your food system of 2050 adapt to climate change and remain resilient?
SuperGardens mitigate the effect of climate change locally and help Berlin achieve its goal of becoming a climate-neutral city by 2050 (Reusswig et al., 2014).
One of the most vulnerable regions in Germany, Berlin and the surrounding federal state of Brandenburg will experience heavy effects of climate change. Mean annual temperatures have been rising from 7.7°C in 1881 to an extreme of 10.8°C in 2018. By 2050, temperatures up to 40°C in summer will have become frequent. Up to 15 “tropical nights” per year with temperatures above 20°C will prevent the human organism from cooling down and resting at night, costing the lives of thousands of people (IfW, 2007). The number of frost days will have decreased from about about 89 days (1971 - 2000) to about 63 days by 2050. Extreme weather events such as heavy storms and rainfalls are already on the rise. The overall amount of rainfall will have decreased only slightly to around 650 mm per year by 2050, but winters will have become wetter and summers dryer. This means that plants get water when they don’t need it. Uncovered winter soils carry a higher rainwater erosion risk – not least because rainfalls will be more torrential and thus more destructive. What is worse, drought-compacted soil cannot absorb rain quickly. Due to rising temperatures and a decreasing number of frost days, however, the vegetation period will be prolonged by almost a month, starting in the beginning rather than in the middle of March, and ending in the middle rather than in the beginning of November (rbb, 2019).
SuperGardens adapt to the changes in temperature and water household and remain resilient, following four principles:
1) Adapt plants and growing conditions. We produce an incredible range of climate-adapted varieties. Whether they are rediscovered old and local varieties like “Teltower Rübchen” (Brassica rapa L. subsp. rapa f. teltowiensis) or originate from other climate zones such as Armenian cucumbers, bottle gourd, kiwis and figs – SuperGarden plants are adapted to 2050’s conditions. But it is not only the plants that are adapted to the local climate – it is also the growing conditions that are adapted to the plants. Rainwater storage and smart irrigation technology distribute uneven rainfalls evenly throughout the year both to indoor and outdoor growing systems. The prolonged vegetation period enables higher yearly yields in open-air plant production than current climatic conditions. Greenhouse elements and LED-lit growing systems enable plant growth and harvest year-round.
2) Close nutrient cycles. Our resource-efficient production techniques are embedded in the urban metabolism and close nutrient cycles: Aquaponics and hydroponics are connected to and clean urban wastewater flows; our SuperWaste composting system enables the recycling of organic matter into SuperGarden plant production; mushroom growth media consist of urban organic waste materials; and algae require little more than pure sunlight as growth input. Part of the food production is decoupled from plants and animals altogether: Ultra-sustainable ferming technology provides the base for a wide range of home-made protein-enriched products.
3) Maximise local and regional food production. Highly efficient local production further lowers the risk of suffering from food system shocks in other areas of the world. Berlin’s 2020 food system is deeply embedded in a globalised food system with long supply chains. This “delocalisation” of food makes Berlin highly dependent on external factors (Hönle et al., 2017). The city’s food system is vulnerable to climate-related shocks that affect imports from other countries, or cuts in global supply chains such as those caused by 2020’s Corona pandemic. Maximising local production will help buffer such shocks and help the region Berlin-Brandenburg reach its full potential of self-supply (Hönle et al., 2017; Zasada et al., 2019).
4) Mitigate climate change. SuperGardens extend urban green to enhance the local microclimate. They counteract the urban heat island effect and balance out the urban water household: Green roofs, green walls and agroforestry cool down the city and absorb rainwater. Furthermore, SuperGardens are climate-neutral themselves and thus contribute to supporting Berlin’s objective of climate-neutrality by 2050.
Diets | How will your food system of 2050 address malnutrition in all its forms (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, metabolic disease) for the people living there?
Metabolic diseases due to unbalanced diets are the prevailing type of malnutrition in Germany: More than half of the adult population is overweight and a quarter is obese. Six percent of children are obese, and obesity prevalence amongst young people has been rising (RKI, 2015). On average, people in Germany eat less fruits and vegetables than the recommended “five a day”, consume only about 18-19 g of non-caloric fibres per day (recommendation: at least 30 g), and eat more meat than recommended. According to the Eat Lancet report (2019), those types of malnutrition will be rising in the future, not only jeopardising the population’s health but also the planet’s health. Tackling this sort of malnutrition requires a systemic approach, since dietary choices strongly relate with societal factors, such as people’s socioeconomic background (Ingram & Zurek, 2019): People with an income below the poverty line as well as unemployed people are more often overweight and obese than men and women with a higher socioeconomic status (RKI, 2015). Children from families with a low socioeconomic status consume even less fruit, vegetables, whole grain products and more lemonades, sweets, sausage, and meat than children from middle to high socioeconomic status (RKI, 2015). At the same time, the request for convenience food and meals for take-away has been rising due to increased mobility (BVE, 2019), challenging food education and preparation skills especially among younger generations.
Therefore, SuperGardens address the challenge of balanced diets through a two-pronged approach: Firstly, they offer a choice architecture that makes nutritious food an easy and affordable choice. Secondly, they systematically address the intersection of socioeconomic backgrounds and food choices through a comprehensive programme of nutritional coaching and food education. This approach is reflected in the following characteristics of SuperGardens:
1) A personalised shopping experience – based on people’s dietary needs. Our staff, the SuperGardeners, are knowledgeable about the food that is offered. Clients can find advise not only on any food or gardening-related question but also on special dietary requirements and food recommendations. Just approach one of our nutritionists to obtain personalised dietary advice. We offer recommendations based on your DNA or simply your personal taste preferences. Or walk up to one of the SuperGardeners and tell her or him what you’re looking for and, if applicable, what your dietary requirements are. Ingredients for a meal for your loved ones, but you are interested in low-carb diet? A children’s birthday? Your gluten-allergic grandma is coming over and you want to impress her with a homemade apple pie? You got only five minutes and one contribution coin? Whatever your wishes are, you leave the SuperGarden with satisfying, nutritious, and delicious food tailored to your needs.
2) Food education. In-house screens show our food and how to prepare it in ways that are easy, preserve nutrients, and make a delicious meal. Weekly seasonal specials are highlighted, providing background information on the product and its origin. You can participate in our cooking workshops with overdue fresh fruit and vegetables to save them from going to waste, or simply exchange recipe with other SuperGarden visitors as you meet in the garden or on the online platforms.
3) Catering for convenience. SuperGardens offer convenience food to make access to healthy and nutritious food as easy as possible. This includes delicious street food such as the SuperDöner, fresh micro-greens you can sprinkle over freshly baked bread from the traditional bakery, or some help in pre-chopping a bulky pumpkin in winter. But be assured that we also offer plenty of “inconvenience” food you can slowly and passionately prepare yourself!
Last but not least, SuperGardens follow a highly inclusive business model: As a social enterprise, the SuperGarden is dedicated to its mission of providing healthy and nutritious food to everybody. For this, SuperGardens work with a multiple values exchange system. This system offers ways of giving different forms of value back to the SuperGarden so it can thrive. These values are translated into contribution coins for activities such as gardening or technical maintenance services; offering cooking classes and workshops; preparing meals (bakery, café, street food stand); preparing or delivering food for the catering and delivery service; contributing harvests from public fruit or nut trees. Contributions can be made at different levels of expertise and involvement, and the coins can be exchanged for food or activities. The SuperGarden implements a training-of-trainers system that allows community involvement to quickly scale up. That way, SuperGardens make sure to systemically and inclusively shape healthier diets for a thriving planet!
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?
Jobs in our 2050 food system will be mostly based in Berlin and Brandenburg. The regional supply network connects SuperGardens with a generation of farmers who specialise in complex systems agriculture including permaculture and agroforestry.
High demand for regional and organic products from Berlin’s 4 million inhabitants and a general shift in the perception of health and sustainability have made the agricultural sector more attractive. Structural change peaked in 2020 with only 1.3 percent of the German population working in agriculture (DBV, 2019). The 2050 food system is characterised by a high level of automation facilitated by artificial intelligence. Large- and small-scale precision farming are standard, e.g. in the management of labour-intense cultivation forms like mixed culture and permaculture.
Professional and leisure activities will merge. Due to the fact that jobs and much interpersonal communication in general is digital, people experience a deep desire for nature and offline time to balance out tech-heavy jobs, experience analogue communication and physical contact. Besides full-time SuperGardeners and farmers, a third of SuperGarden activities are conducted by prosumers: Consumers take on a hybrid role of consumers and producers through occasional or regular contributions (Bürgow et al., 2012; Piorr et al., 2018; Scharf et al., 2019). Employment structures will be more fluid both within individual’s working patterns and across society. A desire to reconnect with nature will be especially pronounced in the new middle class. As a result, “fifty-fifty” jobs to “one-two” jobs will be very popular amongst those people: Fifty percent or one third of working hours are spent on creative and/or nature-based production. Many people choose to spend these hours in local food production due to its “double nourishing effect” – grow what you eat and recharge through hands-on activities in a soothing, green environment. Due to automation, jobs such as cashiers, harvesters, or telephonists will be erased. Purely technical functions are fulfilled by machines. Human interaction is highly valued: Vocational training focuses increasingly on soft skills.
Jobs in the SuperGarden itself range from traditional occupations such as bakers, gardeners, and chefs to educational jobs for different target groups (e.g., students, prosumers, or companies). Nutritionists are present as customer consultants and offer workshops to companies as part of occupational health programs; our IT team makes sure everything runs smoothly – from logistics to the digital marketplace and production systems. Equipped through gardening, food and nutrition classes as part of the standard primary and secondary education, it is common among teenagers and university students to work part-time or on a mini job base in the SuperGarden.
The SuperGarden employs people purely based on their education, talents, and interests. Jobs and job roles in the SuperGarden help dissolve 2020 gender perceptions such as associating care work with women or IT systems work with men (Crößmann & Günther, 2018). Voluntary internal staff and job rotations – including a bi-monthly “free-ride on your colleague’s shoulders” experience – invite employees and contributors to develop their talents and explore new interests. SuperGardens offer vocational training and educational activities for all age groups and genders; digital and on-site learning activities empower even older prosumers in Berlin’s ageing population to make the contribution they wish to make. Our digital task distribution platform enables flexible task coordination respecting people’s availability and capabilities. We offer on-site childcare for employees and families from the neighbourhood, which support gender equality among staff and prosumers.
Living wages are not paid in money only. Financial wealth is no longer decisive for participation in a prosuming, tech-savvy and digitally connected society. The value exchange system has evolved; besides monetary exchange it includes data and direct contributions. This allows for greater value acquisition and creation power across society. Organisations constitute value exchange systems within which direct contributions are traded as contribution coins (CCs). CCs are earned through actions or material contributions that enable or support an organisation’s continuity, e.g., gardening activities, teaching cooking classes, sharing harvests from public or private orchards, engaging in management and maintenance of production systems, etc. The operation is enabled by smart monitoring and coordination technology that empowers people to contribute to the SuperGarden at different levels of involvement. The SuperGarden thus enables people to get access to healthy and nutritious food and interact with a local community independently of their socioeconomic background.
Culture | How will your 2050 food system ensure that the cultural, spiritual and community traditions and/or practices in your Place flourish?
The SuperGarden values the everyday experience of eating, harvesting, preparing and sharing food. We offer a space for people to connect to each other and to food; a space where new food traditions are formed and old traditions are preserved.
The cultural diversity of Berlin’s inhabitants finds its reflection in the food we grow and offer: Our production systems allow for the cultivation of a wide range of ethnic produce, e.g., pak choi, Armenian cucumbers, cassava, or Andes potatoes. Our staff reflects Berlin’s cultural diversity, and this enables people who come to the SuperGarden to get information in a language they understand. The dishes we offer at the street food stand include traditional cultural dishes such as Russian borscht or Brazilian feijão, all made from locally sourced ingredients from the SuperGarden and our regional supply network. Every week, we put one culinary tradition centre stage: Take a look at the screen at the entrance – this week, it is phở chay prepared by Duy who is leading our company health program. Next week it will be home-made sauerkraut and potatoes with plant-based grilled sausages, suggested by Annette. On our digital marketing platform, we have a section where people can sign up for the dish they would like to make “dish of the week”; and users can upvote the dish they like (there is also a nudging mechanism included to make sure people's palates get the chance to explore tastes beyond their edge of the plate, as a German saying goes).
SuperGardens offer a space for all sorts of food-related events and celebrations. Upcoming is the strawberry harvest festival in June. Especially children love this festival, but we have come to realise that the strawberry seems to be popular among all age groups, attracting literally the whole neighbourhood. The edible maize-based invitations created by five local school classes are sent to the whole neighbourhood. In October, we will celebrate Thanksgiving partnering with the House of One (a house of prayer for three religions, containing a church, a mosque, and a synagogue). Next year in the beginning of March we will celebrate the start of the outdoor vegetation period.
More events are likely to happen because we offer the permaculture and the rooftop garden for events organised by the local community.
Food education offers another opportunity for the SuperGarden to connect people with and around food. This education is a co-creation of SuperGarden staff such as our nutritionists and the SuperGardeners, but also collaborations with schools and dedicated organisations like Ackerdemia who specialise in agricultural education for children aged 2 to 18, or AckerPause who offer food and nutrition workshops for companies. Furthermore, everybody who wants to contribute by offering a workshop, helping out, or teaching others a skill related to food can do so by signing up on our digital marketplace. This feature is used quite a lot specifically by people like Annette. Berlin’s population has a high share of elderly people – more than a quarter are older than 65. Thanks to healthy lifestyles and medical advances, though, the majority enjoys an active golden age. For many, spending time in the SuperGarden is part of their daily life: It is here that they meet friends, connect with younger generations, and share their knowledge with the local community. That way, the SuperGarden contributes substantially to reducing the risk of loneliness. It is normal to have meals together in the SuperGarden: You often see people of all ages simply walking up to a table and joining others for lunch even if they are only acquaintances (note that this is something Berliners did not use to do much back in 2020!).
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?
Our goal for 2050 is to offer an abundant variety of truly sustainable food. We see it as our responsibility to create a food production system that minimises unsustainable impacts of food production and consumption and maximises the benefits for people and the environment. This means: no net greenhouse gas emissions, no (agro-)toxins that are harmful to human and planetary health, no non-biodegradable waste. The SuperGarden contributes to closing nutrient and material cycles at city level; makes efficient use of urban land resources; enhances the urban microclimate; and balances out the on-site water household. It makes food production a visible, hands-on experience.
The SuperGarden uses high-tech and low-tech elements that are either at pilot stage or do not yet reach a broad market. It also revamps “old” technologies like underground cooling systems. Advances needed thus concern technological upscaling and infrastructural integration at city level. The SuperGarden’s modular approach supports the gradual implementation of these technologies at a broader scale until 2050.
1) Closing nutrient cycles. A network of researchers, designers and practitioners are currently developing a technology toolbox to capture, treat and reuse urban waste water (rainwater, greywater and blackwater) for future food production in Berlin (Roof Water Farm technology). The system is designed for the integration in different types of buildings (residential, industrial, commercial), and combines decentralised wastewater treatment and reuse with light-weight hydroponics and aquaponics. An inner city pilot site has been successful in generating high-quality irrigation water, urban fertilizer and energy which can be used for greenhouse production including hydroponic and aquaponic cultures.
In order to meet the long-term demand for organic and mineral soil for the soil-based SuperGarden production modules in a sustainable way, Berlin’s composting system needs to become more effective in being fed with compostables without impurities, and SuperGardens need to get integrated in that system. Additionally, the SuperWaste station will include anaerobic Bokashi composting to generate compost with high nutrient concentrations.
Achieving zero waste is mainly a question of implementing user-friendly logistical infrastructures (such as a system of returnable or deposit recipients). Biodegradable packaging will help us meet our goal of avoiding net greenhouse gas emissions and waste.
2) Passive house technologies. By 2050, passive house technology will be standard. Energy demand is met through a bi-modular approach: SuperGarden biogas produced from algae (bioreactor façade), plant and food residues supply the baseload for electricity and heat demand year-round, while sun-tracking monocrystalline photovoltaic panels and small-scale Darrieus wind energy turbines (ideal for low wind velocities in urban areas) on the rooftop cover short-time peaks in electricity demand. Given this fluctuating electric supply, all applicable shop devices, like augmented reality glasses, blenders, juicers, ovens, and dishwashers operate demand-controlled. Occasional oversupply is used for charging the electric cargo bike fleet. Currently, Berlin-Brandenburg is a pilot region for electromobility, but large-scale implementation is still lacking. SuperGardens contribute to changing this.
To meet our objective of avoiding net greenhouse gas emissions, underground cooling systems are implemented. This traditional storage technology needs a revamp to become future-proof and get structurally integrated in the SuperGarden.
3) Digitisation. SuperGardens use a digital marketplace to efficiently organise supply and demand and coordinate the activities of SuperGarden contributors. Apps showing real-time availability of products fed with data by producers, employees and customers alike have become popular during the 2020 Corona crisis. By 2050, even more sophisticated tracking systems will be used to provide information.
To monitor, maintain, and manage our production systems – from aquaponics to green walls – small robotics and sensors allow for managing even labour intensive vegetable production (Piorr et al., 2018).
4) Augmented reality for food education. Imagine looking at a vegetable and seeing suggestions for preparation, nutrient information, and even its biological development stages around it. Augmented reality is both part of our marketing and education strategy. It can be implemented in onboarding trainings for staff and contributors. Augmented reality can also be used to quickly scale up learning activities such as showing how to prune an apple tree or how to pickle cucumbers when looking at them.
Policy | What types of policies are needed to enable your future food system?
A coherent trans-sectoral policy framework anchored at all relevant governance levels is needed; one that acknowledges, enables and supports the different forms of urban agriculture present in the SuperGarden and strengthens regional value chains with farmers in Brandenburg.
Policies that enable the multifunctional productive SuperGarden system concern and need to be integrated at several administrative and government scales (FPC, 2017; Piorr et al., 2018). SuperGardens combine different forms of urban agriculture: Rooftop gardens, greenhouses, aquaponics, hydroponics, LED-supported micro-greens production, agroforestry, green walls, vertical gardens, ground level beds, ferming, and more. Most of these forms of urban agriculture are multifunctional since they do not only produce food, but also provide ecosystem services. Furthermore, SuperGardens process and prepare food. It is this multifunctionality that makes it difficult to assign urban agriculture to one specific government sector and level.
Berlin signed the Milan Food Policy Pact in 2015, committing to a number of food policy reforms, and is one of the C40 cities that support urban development to foster health and sustainability. These commitments, however, yet need to be translated into a holistic food policy framework integrated at European, national, federal state, and municipal level. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union and related regulations of the European Parliament and Council do not mention urban and peri-urban agriculture yet. In Berlin, urban nutrition is a quasi untouched topic, but the Food Policy Council, a bottom-up initiative active since 2016, seeks to co-create a food strategy for Berlin together with the Berlin Senate and Berlin’s citizen. Policies needed concern:
1) Berlin’s urban land use and development plans. The different forms of urban agriculture need to be integrated in urban development plans to secure long-term planning security for SuperGardens. The 1,000 Green Roofs Program is a step in the right direction.
2) Food-water-energy nexus. Current national legislation forbids wastewater re- or up-cycling. In most cases, this is associated with compulsory connection to and use of the local central sewage disposal system. To enable the decentralised aquaponics and hydroponics water circulation system, future policies need to enable the use and recycling of urban greywater and blackwater resources. Renewable energy creation in the bioreactor façade and on the rooftop needs to be embedded equally.
3) Food education integration in basic curriculum. Every child needs to get granted access to food education and be empowered to make a contribution to their food system. Continuing food education for adults is enabled through health policies at the workplace or as a prevention measure offered by public health insurances.
4) Strengthening regional value chains and organic agriculture in Brandenburg. Regarding agricultural policies, Berlin and Brandenburg work together based on a common treaty, limiting Berlin’s scope of action because most responsibilities are passed on to Brandenburg’s agricultural administration. A couple of policy factors (CAP, the German Renewable Energy Sources Act and a failed approval policy) have led to a focus on factory farming and bioenergy in Brandenburg, resulting in Brandenburg’s inability to meet the high demand of regional and organic produce in Berlin-Brandenburg. Currently, only about 15% of organic food offered in Berlin comes from the region (FPC, 2017). The regional supply chain needs to be strengthened to enable regional value creation.
5) CAP “Pillar III" support and incentives for urban agriculture. Whether CAP supports urban agriculture is currently decided on a case-by-case basis. Urban agriculture is often “too small and diffuse for Pillar I”, and by definition is excluded from rural Pillar II funding (FPC, 2017). An additional integrative Pillar III for urban agriculture would facilitate the implementation of SuperGardens and provide a coherent policy base for further national, federal state, and municipal level policies.
6) Supportive food safety regulations. The marketisation of urban agriculture produce needs to be regulated as well as on-site composting systems.
Describe how these 6 Themes connect with and influence one another in your food system.
Just like supermarkets today, SuperGardens have a strong direct and indirect influence on the food economy, food culture, people's diets and the environment; all enabled and/or restricted by specific policies and technologies.
SuperGardens break the link between people’s diet-related health and their socioeconomic background. In a prosuming society, food acquisition power is more evenly distributed. The multiple values exchange system together with target-group specific education and involvement empowers people to directly contribute to the food system.
Technology enables crucial components or our 2050 food system. Many forms of climate-resilient food production require a small-scale approach. Demand, supply and logistics are coordinated via a regional digital marketplace; SuperGarden production systems are managed and monitored digitally; prosumers coordinate their contributions via a digital platform; and food-related education experiences a boost through the integration of augmented reality in the experiential SuperGarden environment.
People’s wish to consume sustainable, healthy and high-quality food tailored to their individual and (socio-)cultural preferences is catered to by SuperGarden production systems and farms in Brandenburg.
The region Berlin-Brandenburg is mainly self-supplying through urban agricultural production in SuperGardens and organic farms in Brandenburg, directly benefitting the local environment through ecosystem services, and indirectly by reducing food transport emissions, packaging, and food waste. Long global food supply chains are a back-up to buffer unexpected challenges rather than the standard go-to.
Environmental benefits are considered in economic and policy decision making, especially because they help the food system remain resilient in the face of climate-change. For example, urban land use plans explicitly consider the integration of green roofs, and multilevel agricultural policies support farmers transition to organic farming including the development of regional value and supply chains.
Being a farmer, a SuperGardener, or a food educator has become more attractive for reasons ranging from the professions’ high reputation to technologies that make the efficient management of complex agricultural systems less laborious. Automatisation of repetitive tasks in food retail and production enables people to take a more active part in food production and preparation, to engage with food in more sensual ways. It is the personal contact – the “human factor” – that makes the difference in creating a lively community around food.
Describe any trade-offs you may have to make within your system to attain your Vision by 2050.
The most challenging trade-offs concern the food system transformation phase from 2020 to 2050. We have identified six areas that need careful stakeholder dialogues and policy support:
1) Conversion to organic farming and diversification of agricultural production vs. current structures. The region Berlin-Brandenburg is able to self-supply with organic production without needing to expand its agricultural areas (Zasada et al., 2019), but this means a shift in production patterns. In 2016, 12.5% of Brandenburg’s 5318 farms produced organically on 10.5% of the total arable land. Most farms (37%) are specialised in fodder crops production, 35.5% cultivate mainly arable crops. Only about 10% engaged in horticultural production in 2016, including ornamental plants and flowers (Troegel & Schulz, 2018). Berlin's high demand makes organic agriculture an economic opportunity for Brandenburg (FOEL, 2020) and becoming a farmer becomes more attractive for young adults (BLE, 2020).
2) Transforming incumbent retailers vs. attaining the SuperGarden “ideal”. Our modular approach allows basically any type of supermarket or discounter to transform into a SuperGarden. Getting there needs a carefully planned business strategy and investment model, anchored in long-term commitment to not fall prey to short-term thinking and “greenwashing”.
3) Integrating SuperGarden production systems at multiple governance levels vs. current policy structures. The development of the needed policy framework will take time. We do, however, see an increasingly strong interest in developing adequate policies at all levels – from urban agriculture research project funded by the European Union to civil society organisations like the Food Policy Council Berlin.
4) Integration of SuperGarden technology in Berlin’s water infrastructure vs. existing water system. Despite proven feasibility (Million et al., 2018), large-scale implementation of the decentralised water circulation system will take time and might not take place in all SuperGardens/transforming supermarkets.
5) Adapting the urban land use plan. Urban agriculture needs to be integrated via the urban land use plan which can be a struggle as the examples of current urban agriculture projects show. Berlin’s urban development plan 2050, though, indicates that SuperGardens are aligned with Berlin’s vision of a climate-resilient future (Reusswig et al., 2014) as multifunctional green areas that cool down the city and climate-neutral food system actors.
6) Redefining our relationship with food vs. current urban lifestyles. The SuperGarden creates a community around food. Prosumers engage with the food they consume more intensely. This means a transformation in urban lifestyles. We believe that in order to achieve its mission of being an inclusive space, SuperGardens need to be co-created from the start with the local community to convey a sense of ownership. These participatory processes can be challenging.
3 Years | Describe 3 key milestones that you would need to achieve within the next three years for your Vision to be on track?
1) Establishing the SuperGarden Consultancy (2021). Partnerships with stakeholders including urban agriculture startups, incumbent retailers, and farmers in Brandenburg will be consolidated and expanded.
2) Developing SuperGarden Business Model Modules (2021 to 2022). Together with these partners, SuperGarden Business Model Modules are elaborated – ready-made SuperGarden building blocks designed for the integration in existing retail stores.
3) Growing Roots – Starting Transformation Pilots in Berlin (2022 to 2023). In 2022, selected Business Model Elements are implemented in five pilot retail stores with different target groups: one discounter, two supermarkets, and one organic retailer. Possible elements to start with include, but are not restricted to: shelf-grown micro-greens and leafy greens; rooftop open air beds; green edible walls; green pergola for the café area; fruit & nuts station; the establishment of regional supply chains with farmers from Brandenburg; inviting nutritionists to the store to support customers; and/or the implementation of a zero waste section.
To be present on-site, in 2023, a SuperGarden office is set up, e.g. just next to Tempelhofer Feld in a former industrial building complex which is currently being transformed into a hub for sustainability-oriented organisations (BUFA Fabrik). One of the SuperGarden partners, Stadtbienen e.V., is already working here, and other partners like Ackerdemia e.V. and AckerPause GmbH are located in the immediate neighbourhood. The area also offers space for the development, monitoring and evaluation of SuperGarden Module prototypes. A permaculture garden with agroforestry is implemented through hands-on community involvement. Last but not least, the first SuperGarden food festival is celebrated!
10 Years | What progress will you need to make—by 2030—that would set your Vision up to become a reality by 2050?
By 2030, the key enabling conditions for the SuperGardens will have been created so that a process of accelerated upscaling can be initiated:
- The policy framework needed is in place, enabling the implementation of different forms of urban agriculture, decentralised wastewater recycling, and supporting regional value and supply chains.
- A strong and extensive SuperGarden network with regional farmers in Brandenburg through partnerships e.g. with the FOEL (association in support of organic farmers in Brandenburg) is established.
- Experience in implementing SuperGarden Business Model Modules in 100 retail stores across Berlin is gathered and lessons learnt are integrated in the concept. A proof of concept is created.
- A network of committed retail partners accelerates the implementation of the Vision through positive competition.
- The supply-and-demand DigitalMarketplace app has 300,000 downloads and 100,000 active users.
- The development of the first SuperGarden “from scratch” has started with a team of architects, community workers, farmers, and other local and regional food system stakeholders.
If awarded the $200,000 prize what would you do with it?
The prize would allow for the implementation of the three key milestones of the next three years (2021 to 2023) to make sure the Vision is on track.
The expected cost structures are:
In 2021, $10,000 support the establishment of a SuperGarden Consultancy including setting up a website and defining the corporate design.
2021 through 2023, $20,000 would be budgeted for concept development and community co-creation activities. This includes the design of Business Model Modules, prototyping, communication technology (supply-and-demand app), SuperGarden Modules visualisations, and public relations.
In 2023 and in 2024, $80,000 would ensure the continuous development and first implementation of the Vision supporting 24 person months plus $30,000 office rent for two years (available from $100/month). Further $60,000 would be used exclusively for the development of on-site prototypes, the refinement of SuperGarden Business Model Modules, and support the set-up, monitoring and evaluation of transformation pilots.
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?
SuperGardens combine the best that urban agriculture and supermarkets can offer: A community around abundant, fresh and sustainably produced food.
Every supermarket and every urban agriculture organisation can be transformed into or become part of a SuperGarden. The SuperGarden Modules already exist now in 2020 – it is a question of community effort and stakeholder will to bring them together to create a food system that fosters human health, benefits the environment, and helps level out socioeconomic inequality affecting people's diets.
Supermarkets are the main access points to food and thus have a huge impact on how we consume, what we consume, and how we relate to food. They also determine to a large extent how producers are remunerated and the quality criteria food needs to fulfil to be sold via the supermarket channel.
SuperGardens follow the logic of supermarkets in creating a compelling environment for food acquisition – but they are more than a conventional supermarket: They are green oases that build a community around food, buffer the impacts of climate change and make our cities greener.
Please share a visual that communicates the structure and operation of your food system in 2050. Describe the visual.
The SuperGarden Food System 2050 connects stakeholders from Berlin and Brandenburg. SuperGardens are nodal points through which social, environmental and economic values flow, connecting and involving food system stakeholders. The system closes material and energy flows and is driven by the learning experience and growth of each and every stakeholder that contributes to it. Author: Tim Nebert, 2020.
The food system closes material and energy flows and is driven by the learning experience and growth of each and every stakeholder that contributes to the system. Culinary Culture and Community Modules (top) circulate knowledge and create hands-on food and community experiences, Production and Climate Modules (middle) help the food system adapt to climate change and remain resilient, and Exchange Modules (bottom) enable people to participate in the SuperGarden in a prosuming manner.