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This book explores the governance of city food systems. It serves to highlight, not only the smart, sustainable and inclusive nature of the urban and regional governance, which underpins the growth of infrastructure development, but that also support the solution corridor opening up for city food systems to bridge territorial divisions in the access to and distribution of goods and services produced by the agricultural sector. Highlighting the governance of city food systems in this way, it also offers a series of critical insights into the territorial divisions of urban and regional governance, which underlie the growth of infrastructure developments and that surface as matters relating to the resilience of city food systems.
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Bella Beynon
Bella Beynon is completing a PhD on urban food governance in the School of Planning and Geography at
Cardiff University. Her research focuses on the cases of Cardiff and Bristol.
Damian Maye
Dr. Damian Maye is Reader in Agri-Food Studies at the Countryside and Community Research Institute in the
University of Gloucestershire, England. He has longstanding research interests in the geography and sociology
of alternative and local food networks, food supply chains and food security. He has worked on a number
European Commission Framework-funded projects in this area, including an analysis of learning and
innovation networks in Europe (SOLINSA), a multi-dimensional assessment of global and local food chain
performance in Europe, Peru and Senegal (GLAMUR), an examination of short food supply chains, waste
recycling and multifunctional land use in European city regions (SUPURBFOOD), and an assessment of
sustainable finance strategies for sustainable agriculture and fisheries (SUFISA). He edited (with James Kirwan)
a major special issue of Journal of Rural Studies on food security in 2013. He currently serves on the editorial
boards of Journal of Rural Studies, Moravian Geographical Reports and Frontiers (Veterinary Humanities and
Social Sciences).
Davide Diamantini
Prof. Davide Diamantini is associate professor in sociology (Urban sociology) at the epistemology
department of the University of Milano-Bicocca. Since 1994 he carries out research and teaching in Milan
University. His research activities are aimed at three main areas: the information society and the impact of the
new ICT technologies on the social behaviours and consumption patterns; technological innovation and
scientific transfer related to the dynamics of territorial competitiveness of entrepreneurial activities; the socio-
cognitive analysis of individual and social behaviours. He is Deputy Director of the Interdepartmental
Centre QUA_SI Universiscuola - Quality of Life in the Information Society and he has more than 80 publications.
Some of the most recent publications are Urban civilization from yesterday to the next day with Guido
Martinotti; Società della conoscenza. Territorio, conoscenza e tecnologie with Guido Martinotti e Andrea Pozzali;
and Il manager dell’innovazione.
Dirk M. Wascher
Mr. Dirk M. Wascher holds academic degrees in landscape architecture and planning from Germany and the
United States (University of Washington, Seattle). Focusing on nature conservation and landscape assessment at
the international level, he has been a member of the European Environment Agency Task Force in Brüssels
(1991-1994) and thereafter Programme Officer for biodiversity and landscapes at the European Centre for
Nature Conservation in Tilburg (NL). Since 2001 Mr. Wascher is Senior Researcher for Resource Efficiency and
Food Planning at the landscape level at Alterra of Wageningen UR. Mr. Wascher has a thorough experience at
coordinating international projects on agri-environmental indicators (ELISA, Geoland2, FRAGARIA), landscape
character assessment (ELCAI), food planning in metropolitan regions (SUSMETRO, FOODMETRES, Rotterdam
Food Cluster) as well as Sustainability Impact Assessment (LIAISE and SENSOR). Mr. Wascher has been one of
the lead-authors of the Millennium Assessment (UNEP, WRI), is co-editor of the Journal for Nature
Conservation, board member of the International Urban Food Network (IUFN) and has taught landscape
architecture at the University of Michigan, US (2006) and Wageningen University, as well as international
aspects of environmental policy for the University of Dayton (2012 & 2014).
Guido Sali
Prof. Guido Sali, graduated in the Agricultural Science, is Associate Professor in Agricultural Economics at the
University of Milan where he was Assistant Professor from 1994 to 2001. He is Member of Scientific Commettee
of the Research Centre for Appraisal and Land Economics (Ce.S.E.T.) and member of Scientific Council of Inter-
University Centre for the agri-food and environmental cooperation (CICSAA). He is also member of the
European Association of Agricultural Economists (EAAE) and the Interational Assocation of Agricultural
Economists (IAAE). His research topics focus on agricultural economics and agro-environmental policies, rural
development policies and environmental economics. These issues are addressed through the use of operational
tools, such as optimization methods and systems for decision support. He is author of more than 80 scientific
Ingo Zasada
Dr. Ingo Zasada is post-doctoral researcher at the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF)
in Müncheberg, Germany. He graduated in urban and regional planning and holds a PhD in agricultural science
from the Technical University Munich. Involved in a number of European research projects, Ingo worked in the
fields of multifunctional agricultural and landscape development at the urban-rural interface. He is particularly
interested in topics of urban demand for ecosystem services and food provision as well as governance and
management questions. In this context, he published numerous papers and book sections and contributed to the
development of knowledge transfer and policy support systems.
Mark Deakin
Professor Mark Deakin, School of Engineering and Built Environment, Edinburgh Napier University, UK. As
Professor of Built Environment, Mark’s research is inter-disciplinary, cutting across academic, scientific and
technical boundaries. He researches the role of ICTs in information society and their relationship to the
knowledge economy. This research centres on the development of networked communities as digital platforms
and concentrates on the social informatics, cultural artefacts, environmental attributes and economic
instruments sustaining two such community developments, those known as intelligent and smart cities. His
research assesses the sustainability of these community developments and evaluates the transition from
intelligent to smart cities in Europe, North America and the Middle East.
Nunzia Borrelli
Dr. Nunzia Borrelli is a postdoctoral research fellow at University of Milano-Bicocca. She received bachelor's
degree in Sociology from the University of Naples - Federico II, Italy. She also completed a Master’s degree in
Urban Management at Domus Academy in Milan, and she finished the MA in Planning and policy for city,
territory and environment at IUAV Venice. In 2005 she obtained the Ph.D. in Spatial Planning and Local
Development, at Turin Polytechnic. Since completing Ph.D., she has both taught and been involved in various
research activities. She conduced field research projects pertaining to local development, cultural heritage and
governance processes in Italy, UK and USA, China. She was visiting scholar at Loyola University of Chicago as
fulbrighter; at Portland State University, at University of Newcastle upon tyne; and at Xiamen University
(China). She have published several papers and two books.
Roberta Sonnino
Prof. Roberta Sonnino is a Professor in the School of Planning and Geography at Cardiff University, where
she also directs a Master¹s Programme on Food, Space and Society and a Research Centre for Sustainable Urban
and Regional Food. Professor Sonnino is an expert on urban food systems, public food systems, food security
and local food geographies. She has also served as a consultant or advisor for the European Commission, the
Scottish and Welsh governments and the UN¹s World Food Programme. In 2013, Professor Sonnino was
awarded an Outstanding Impact Prize by the UK¹s Economic and Social Research Council for the impact of her
research on public food policies.
This book explores the governance of city food systems. It serves to highlight, not only the smart, sustainable
and inclusive nature of the urban and regional governance, which underpins the growth of infrastructure
development, but that also support the solution corridor opening up for city food systems to bridge territorial
divisions in the access to and distribution of goods and services produced by the agricultural sector.
Highlighting the governance of city food systems in this way, it also offers a series of critical insights into the
territorial divisions of urban and regional governance, which underlie the growth of infrastructure
developments and that surface as matters relating to the resilience of city food systems.
The Governance of City Food Systems
Edited by
Mark Deakin, Davide Diamantini and Nunzia Borrelli
© 2015 Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli
Via Romagnosi 3, 20121 Milano (MI)
ISBN 978-88-6835-230-1
Prima edizione digitale dicembre 2015
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Segui le attività di Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli:
The Governance of City Food Systems
This book explores the governance of city food systems. It serves to highlight, not
only the smart, sustainable and inclusive nature of the urban and regional governance,
which underpins the growth of infrastructure development, but that also support the
solution corridor opening up for city food systems to bridge territorial divisions in the
access to and distribution of goods and services produced by the agricultural sector.
Highlighting the governance of city food systems in this way, it also offers a series of
critical insights into the territorial divisions of urban and regional governance, which
underlie the growth of infrastructure developments and that surface as matters
relating to the resilience of city food systems.
This serves to:
bottom-out the urban and regional governance of these infrastructure
developments as key resource-based challenges, that not only underpin the
municipal strategies emerging to meet them, but which also support the
capacity-building exercises surfacing to promote city food systems as climate
smart, sustainable and inclusive;
draw attention to the infrastructure developments that are resourceful in
securing the strategies needed for municipalities to build the capacities, which
are required for city food systems to be climate smart in sustaining the
production of goods and services that are not only affordable, but which are also
highlight the potential that climate smart and sustainable city food systems have
to not only produce affordable and nutritious goods, but also be inclusive in
delivering services able to meet the health needs and well-being requirements of
place-based communities. Place-based communities, which otherwise remain
divided, not only because the right to access such goods would be unequal, but
for the reason the distribution of services should also be inequitable.
Composed of four papers, the book captures the state-of-the-art on the urban and
regional governance of infrastructures developments that underpin the resilience of
city food systems and which support municipal strategies as capacity-building
exercises, that are not only climate smart, but which are also sustainable and inclusive
in bridging territorial divisions.
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Exploring food, governance and cities as key themes of the Milan World Expo, the
first paper examines where the governance of city food systems fits into the debate
surrounding the climate smart, sustainable and inclusive growth of infrastructure
developments in Milan. This serves to outline the methodological challenges such
infrastructure-driven service developments lay down for the City of Milan and set out
the contested strategies of experimentation in capacity-building the World Expo stands
on. In overcoming these methodological challenges, it uncovers the interdisciplinary
landscape, which opens up over the contested experimentation of such strategic
exercises in climate smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and reveals the material
needed to test the underlying premise of the infrastructure-driven service
developments that surface from the Expo. In particular, that assertion, which suggests:
the infrastructure-driven service developments underpinning Milan’s World Expo, are
exemplary, because the participatory nature of the food governance system it supports
provides the municipal strategy needed for other cities around the world to build the
capacity also required for them to be smart.
The second paper broadens this exploration of food, governance and cities by
focusing attention on growing concerns surrounding not so much the “smartness”, but
sustainability of the agri-food sector. Concerns the authors suggest amount to nothing
less than a new geography of “food security”, redrawn and mapped out in four
fundamental ways. Firstly, in terms of a food insecurity, which today is simultaneously
a problem of under-, over- and mal-consumption that affects over one quarter of the
world’s population in both developed and developing countries. Secondly, in relation
to the strong political dimension food security displays in terms of the riots that
followed the spike in food prices in 2008 and which demonstrated to governments
across the world the real significance of food. Thirdly, the social division of food and
insecurities emerging across urban territories. Fourthly, with respect to the interrelated
ecological pressures (over and above looming climate change) these territorial
divisions in turn bring to bear on the governance of city food systems.
Set with the insecurities of this new geography and concerns about the
sustainability of the food sector, the third paper argues for the need to have just such a
broad view of what is also meant by “smart cities” and “smart city food governance”.
This paper argues that smart city food governance cannot be accounted for in the
meta-cognitive realm of scientific and technical terminologies, but only in combination
with the social innovation, which smart city food governance systems also relate to as
infrastructure-driven service developments. In developing a “more” critical perspective
on smart city food governance, this paper suggests: the value of smart and sustainable
growth needs to be assessed in terms of the extent to which, the infrastructure
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developments currently taking place are able to secure food and stabilize provision. In
particular, are able to secure food and stabilize provision, by way of the ecosystems
that municipal strategies cultivate to meet these requirements and through the
capacity-building exercises, which cities in turn embark on, to not only be resilient, but
environmentally sustainable in bridging territorial divisions.
The forth paper is set within this resilience debate, perceived need to reduce
ecological footprints and promote self-sufficiency, via local food production and
shorter supply chains. It explores the multitude of social, environmental and economic
benefits that emerge from such a securitization of city food systems. As this paper
stresses, as with other fields of policy-making, food policies also demand a sufficient
information and knowledge base for municipal strategies to be effective in bridging
territorial divisions and as a result, call for tools able to build such capacities. In
meeting this call, the paper offers an account of FOODMETRES (Food Planning and
Innovation for Sustainable Metropolitan Regions) developed from a series of technical
references and decision support tools. Technical references and decision support tools
that allow stakeholders from the agro-food business, civic and governance sectors to
enter into knowledge-driven debates on how to optimize the supply function of
metropolitan areas, by means of innovative food chain planning, which is smart in
having the capacity to promote sustainable development.
These papers were originally presented at a Symposium on the Milan World Expo
entitled: The Governance of the Smart City Food Agenda. Organized by Milan-Bicocca
and Edinburgh Napier Universities, this Symposium formed part of the Milan Expo
Urban Laboratory’s contribution to the Scientific Agreement on the UN Food Charter
and Urban Policy Food Pact, launched by Milan City as part of the World Food Day.
The editors would like to thank the Feltrinelli Foundation for hosting the
Symposium and agreeing to publish the proceedings.
The Editors, November 2015
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Food, Governance and Cities
Mark Deakin, Edinburgh Napier University
Nunzia Borrelli, Bicocca-Milan University
Davide Diamantini, Bicocca-Milan University
Food, governance and cities have all emerged as key themes of the Milan World
Expo. This paper explores these themes by examining food in the governance of the
World Expo as a smart city. In embarking on this examination, it reviews where food
governance fits into the debate over the Expo as a smart city and outlines the
methodological challenges, which the contested and experimental nature of the
interdisciplinary landscape that surrounds this global event pose for policy makers. In
going on to overcome these methodological challenges and map out both the contested
and experimental nature of this interdisciplinary landscape, the paper lays out the
material needed to test the underlying premise of the Expo’s smart city debate. In
particular, that assertion, which surfaces in the media and suggests that Milan’s World
Expo is exemplary, because the exposition of food governance, which it lays down as a
model for the rest of the world to follow, provides the means for other cities to do the
same and be equally smart in “feeding the planet and energizing life”.
The Milan World Expo
Within the Milan World Expo, debates about food, governance and cities relate to
policy actions promoted by the City to champion food. What is particularly smart
about Milan’s championing of food is set out in terms of the:
site Milan assembles for the World Expo;
infrastructures the City develops to service the Expo;
management system the municipality assembles to advise people about the
information this in turn provides to learn about food from the exhibits on
display and knowledge of how to move around the pavilions;
interactive experience this gives visitors and invitation it extends them to
participate in the event;
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governance legacy this leaves behind for others to learn from and go on to
champion in other cities around the world.
The ability of the master plan to coordinate the 110-hectare development and lay
down the infrastructures needed for this to be sustainable is also noted. This draws
particular attention to the ability of the development to meet the event’s mobility
requirements, the site’s water, waste and energy needs, along with the pavilion’s
logistical demands. Here the smart grid, renewable energies this draws on to fuel the
LED lighting, power and heat the instillations, along with the remote sensing systems
controlling their use and ecological footprint of the pavilions’ low carbon buildings,
are all singled out. As too is the application of the internet of things (IoT), adopted to
manage the environment, via cloud computing software systems, able to monitor the
respective microclimates all of this produces.
The exhibits installed in the pavilions are also attributed the same status by virtue of
demonstrating the potential that high-rise farming techniques have to produce
food, while using natural daylight, solar power and water recycling techniques
to intensify the rotation of crop cycles;
showing the prospects which the genetic modification of stable foods, such as
rice, have to weather global warming and the water shortage this produces;
presenting a vision of a future landscape able to feed the planet and energize
Meeting the demands of over 100,000 visitors each day, these infrastructures,
services and exhibits, offer a leading example of a smart city built from the ground up.
That is, built from a former derelict brownfield site, up into an installation, which not
only champions food, but also exhibits how the world can generate the productive
capacity needed for the governments of nation-states around the world to feed the
planet and energize life.
The governance legacy, which this smart city development lays down, draws
heavily on the World Bank’s (2010) Smart Climate and UN’s (2011) Smart Food
Programmes’, along with the EC’s (2010) articulation of the Smart, Sustainable and
Inclusive Growth Strategy. In particular, the EC’s promotion of the digital
infrastructures, data management techniques and renewable energies for building a
climate smart food system. This legacy system is embodied in the Urban Food Policy
Pact, the C40 Climate Leadership Group and Covenant of Mayors have developed for
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World Food Day (October 16th 2015) and that Milan, along with over 120 other cities
across the world, are co-signees to.
Development of the Expo as a smart city
While the claims for the Expo to be a smart city may appear grand, if we examine
them against the state-of the-art on such developments, they do reflect much of what
is currently know and understood about such matters.
Deakin (2010, 2012a, 2012b, 2013, 2014, 2015a, 2015b) captures this state-of-the-art.
This review of the literature identifies three emerging accounts of smart city
development. Listed chronologically, these accounts are of “smart city rankings,”
“future Internet” developments and “triple helix” models (Giffinger, 2008; Schaffers et
al. 2011; Leydesdorff and Deakin, 2011; Deakin and Leydesdorff, 2013). This state-of-
the-art captures what is one of the most defining features of the ranking, future
Internet and triple helix models of smart cities. Which is, that while the need for some
form of ranking is acknowledged by all three accounts, the future Internet is content to
merely participate in such developments, whereas the triple helix model sees the
governance of smart cities as something integral to their constitution as urban and
regional innovation systems (Deakin, 2014, 2015a, 2015b; Komninos, 2015).
This triple helix model of participatory governance puts store in the statement by
Caragliu et al. (2011: 70) on what it means for cities to be smart and which suggests
that a city may not claim this title unless it is part of an urban and regional innovation
system, whereby:
investments in human and social capital and traditional (transport) and modern (ICT)
communication infrastructure fuel sustainable economic growth and a high quality of life,
with a wise management of natural resources, through participatory government.”
While still performance-based, the holistic nature of this definition nicely balances
the different social, cultural and economic components of smart city developments
without pre-judging either the weight or significance of any specific element. Perhaps
more significantly, it also serves to emphasize the role ICT-related developments play
in sustaining economic growth, underpinning social welfare and supporting cultural
health and well-being, by highlighting the internet as an enabler of participatory
government. The metrics of this future Internet-based governance are set out in the
triple helix model of smart cities advanced by Lombardi et al. (2012) and Kourtit et al.
(2013). This serves to get beyond the empiricism of the smart city ranking and the
collaborative logic of future Internet-based developments. It achieves this by allowing
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those cities pioneering the development of future Internet-based technologies to be
smart by participating in the governance of the infrastructures underlying the social,
cultural and environmental attributes of this urban and regional innovation system.
Hirst et al. (2012) also highlight the growing significance of the internet-based
technologies underpinning this urban and regional innovation system and supporting
the “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth” strategy’s translation of this statement
into the EC’s Smart Cities and Communities Programme. Statements that also serve to
underpin the Smart Specialization Platform, which in turn support territorial
competition and cohesion. Hirst et al. (2012) offer a principal component-based
analysis of smart city developments. This captures the findings of the study
undertaken on smart city developments as instances of where cities have been smart in
underpinning this deep restructuring of the ICT, energy and building sectors and
supporting the contribution such an urban and regional innovation system makes to
the governance of Europe’s Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth Strategy.
Those cities pioneering the participatory governance of Europe’s Smart, Sustainable
and Inclusive Growth Strategy, are Manchester, Amsterdam, Malmo and Barcelona.
Studies of these urban and regional innovation systems reveal how smart cities have
begun to construct their sustainable and inclusive growth strategies around the ICT,
energy and building sectors. In particular, the digital infrastructure, data management,
renewable energy, smart buildings and smart transport components of this innovation
system. These studies also go some way toward tracing the principle legacy systems of
smart city development - namely the ICT and energy sectors and the modulation of
their growth as a “broadband” of digital infrastructure, data management, renewable
energy, smart buildings and smart transport applications.
With the ICT sector, the smart growth of the first two modulations dominate (digital
infrastructures and data management). With the energy sector, attention settles
elsewhere, vis-a-vis on to the sustainable and inclusive growth of the renewable
energy and smart buildings modules. With the ICT sector, the drivers of smart growth
are areas such as high-speed broadband, data collection and storage. Issues that extend
into the energy sector and which include the renewables of combined heat and power,
efficient heating and cooling systems, smart grids and metering of smart buildings.
This configuration also serves to highlight where the integration of these legacy
systems constructs a platform for the governance of smart and sustainable growth. It
also outlines the system boundaries underpinning the digital infrastructures of the data
management technologies and supporting the renewable energies of smart buildings.
Perhaps more significantly, it also illuminates the aim of this “underpinning” as being
to support the sustainable growth of city-districts.
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Figure 1: Milan World Expo as a Climate Smart Food System
Adapted from Hirst et al. (2012) as an urban and regional innovation underpinning the ICTs, energy,
buildings, transport and mobility of the climate smart food system found in the Milan Expo. The
same types of knowledge-based infrastructures supporting the development of smart food city-districts
appear in Manchester, Amsterdam, Malmo and Barcelona
Figure 1 illustrates how the Expo maps onto this these smart city developments. As
can be seen, it is composed of the same developments Hirst et al. (2012) highlight and
Deakin (2013, 2014) draw attention to in terms of the exhibition’s status as an urban
and regional innovation. In particular, as an innovation underpinning the ICT, energy,
building, transport and mobility of a climate smart food system supporting the
knowledge-based infrastructures of smart food city districts.
The New Scientist recently reported on such a climate smart food system. Under the
title of “Vertical Farms”, it draws attention to the potential of such an urban and
regional innovation as a digitally enabled, data gathering and renewable generating set
of buildings, smart in terms of water recycling, energy consumption, carbon emission
and ecological footprint of their transport and mobility networks. They suggest such
farming systems are particularly useful innovations for cities with high population
densities, land use shortages and congested transportation networks, cutting costs by
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as much as 70% and increasing productivity 4-fold, via multiple cycles of crop rotation.
The value of farming rooftops, derelict buildings, vacant land and waterways, has also
been explored by Horwich and Mulloth (2010) and Specht et al. (2014). Orsini et al.
(2014) estimate the innovations underpinning such climate smart food systems; have
the potential to increase productivity by as much as 10%.
While such representations of “participatory governance” are valuable in verifying
the status of the Expo as a smart city and opening up the opportunity there is to
leverage the truly transformative capacities of cities declaring themselves smart, it
appears despite this, very little is known about how to regulate such a process of urban
and regional innovation. The reason for this is simple and rests with the assumption
that smart city ranking and future Internet accounts make about urban and regional
innovation growth being organic in nature, vis-a-vis something, which governance
systems appropriate, by way of digital infrastructures and through data management
techniques found in the renewable energies and smart buildings of the food sector.
These assumptions are far reaching and have the effect of:
undermining the idea of “needing to know about” such urban and regional
innovations, let alone the governance systems by which to regulate these
developments, because it is natural and in that sense follows a given course of
action, stable and secure in terms of any resulting adaptations;
undercutting the public’s interest in smart cities, because the suggestion of such
development being little more than “business-as-usual”, means any governance
issues that arise over either what intelligence such digital infrastructures are
based on, or wealth of data management techniques they create to support the
renewable energies of smart buildings, can be dealt with both way of and
through the normal channels;
allowing the governance of smart cities to become associated with and
dependent on the corporate strategies of an enterprise culture. In particular, of
an enterprise culture, which suggests that as an exercise in business-as-usual,
the governance system which they promote need pay little attention to how the
sustainable and inclusive growth they search for can, not only tackle the digital
divide, or combat fuel poverty, but social exclusion of the area-based deprivation
this in turn cultivates;
managing the expectation of smart cities in such a manner that any resilience
they have to the deprivation, exclusion and poverty of such divisions, firmly
rests on urban and regional innovations in the digital infrastructures, data
management and renewable energies of smart buildings serving the food sector.
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In that sense, on climate smart food systems, which cultivate the enterprise
architecture of business models, able to support sustainable and inclusive
Unfortunately, what this kind an organic, bottom-up growth does is leverage so
much enterprise as to effectively dis-embed itself from the social needs and cultural
requirements it has traditionally been the academic community’s responsibility to not
only uncover, but also leverage the transformational capacities of. This occurs because
of the business community’s tendency to cut the intellectual capital of this governance
system so far back into the cybernetics of wealth creation, that it leaves those cities
claiming to be smart, standing alone on an enterprise culture, which does little more
than sustain the competitive instincts and cohesive virtues of their digital
infrastructures and data management. The downside of relying on such a governance
system as the standard-bearer of “wise management” lies with the tendency, which
developments in renewable energies and smart buildings, have to rest on a governance
system grounded in a notion of resilience that bears no relation to the environment.
The difficulties that emerge from these broken links and dis-connections i.e. to
renewable energies, smart buildings and the environment, are numerous and indicate
the pressing need for any such reference to the enterprise culture of a bottom-up,
organic growth, to account for the:
transformational capacities of climate smart food systems, not in strictly
technical, but wider social, cultural and environmental terms;
ICT, energy and building sectors’ contribution to the transformational capacities
of such food systems;
standards of city governance, which meet the social need for food and cultivate
the environments that are required of them, as a material condition of their
sustainable and inclusive growth.
Where climate smart food systems fit into city governance
This perhaps goes some way to explain why many commentators question where
such climate smart food systems fit in the governance of cities. For dependent on the
qualities of ICTs as general-purpose technologies to drive productivity and energy to
fuel sustainable growth, the need for smart buildings to be included in such an urban
and regional innovation system has up till now been overlooked. While Milan may be
a “really existing” smart city, whose buildings prove to be an exception to this rule,
drawing attention to sustainable growth, still falls short of the mark, because any claim
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for them to be climate smart food systems needs to bottom out this urban and regional
innovation and baseline what it means for city governance.
As Morgan and Sonnino (2010) note, this first means addressing the emerging trend
in urban and regional food systems. They represent these as being the:
food price surge in 20078, when global wheat prices nearly doubled and rice
prices almost tripled, with the long-term trend is for food prices to remain at a
higher plateau than in the past, which means that hitherto unaffected social
classes are now threatened with hunger and malnutrition;
sharp increase in food insecurity: of the world’s 6.6 billion people, some 2 billion
are food insecure, meaning they cannot afford a healthy diet and suffer from
vitamin and micronutrient deficiencies that limit their physical and cognitive
capacities. By 2050, the world’s population is predicted to stabilize at roughly 9
billion. Given currently available technologies, consumption patterns and
climate change, food security for all will become more difficult to achieve unless
food security policies are better calibrated with sustainable development
effect of climate change on agri-food systems around the world. Most serious
predictions suggest that the worst effects (water and heat stress, damaged
ecosystems and rising sea levels) will be in poor countries that have done least
to cause the problem in the first place, exacerbating the problem of food
insecurity and creating an enormous ethical obligation on the global north to
help the global south with both mitigation and adaptation strategies;
growing incidence of land conflicts. With one of the most remarkable features of
the 20th Century being the growth of overseas investment in agriculture as rich,
but food stressed, countries (like Saudi Arabia and South Korea) seek to buy or
lease fertile land in poor countries.
Morgan and Sonnino (2010) propose, these trends mark a transition in the urban and
regional food regime, which, citing Friedmann, (2009: 355), they suggest can perhaps
best be described as “a period of unresolved experimentation and contestation”. For
Morgan and Sonnino (2010: 2) these trends have the effect of raising the question of
city governance to a new level. In particular, to a level where the insecurities
surrounding the provision of food exhorts much greater pressure on municipalities to
develop strategies capable of stabilizing the situation and allowing communities to
participate in the governance of the very capacity building exercises they enter into.
- 20 -
For them investment in the human and social capital of these strategies and
capacity-building exercises, is what gives them the status of being smart, because they
serve to bottom-out the material realities of city governance. Not so much in terms of
digital infrastructures, data management techniques, or set of renewable energies for
smart buildings, but urban and regional food systems. To be exact, as the technological
components of those food systems, which use water, consume energy and emit carbon
from buildings, as part of the agri-business’ search for products that are not only
affordable, but which are also sufficiently nutritious in promoting health and well-
What this new food regime in turn asks is nothing less than:
a redirection of the intellectual capital and wealth creation underlying the
governance of urban and regional innovation, away from the ICTs, energy and
building of smart cities and towards the human and social capital of food;
a focus on how the human and social capital of food can co-exist with urban and
regional innovations in the ICT, energy and building sectors;
an examination of how such urban and regional innovation can generate the
intellectual capital needed for cities to be smart in assembling the means by
which to meet the sustainable growth requirement;
exploration of how municipalities can draw upon this type of innovation to
develop food strategies that are not only capable of stabilizing provision, but
which build the capacities communities also need to participate in the wealth
creation opportunities, both the informatics, energetic and metabolic of this
transformation offers to sustain an inclusive growth.
That is to say, nothing less than study of how the wise management of a sustainable
and inclusive growth strategy can be sufficiently resilient to deliver on the
affordability, nutrition and health, which cities expect from the governance of such
climate smart food systems. For what such a climate smart food system calls for is
anything but organic growth and instead lays down the principle of the need for cities
to know about the governance of that urban and regional innovation, which underpins
it. That urban and regional innovation, which underpins it and in turn supports the
human and social capital of those technological developments, found the ICT, energy,
building and food sectors. Developments in the ICT, energy, building and food sectors,
that are anything other than “business as usual”, but disruptive in the sense, which the
“experiments” they in turn contest the human and social value of, raise public interest
in the subject and channel this in new directions. In particular, towards the
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development of municipal strategies and capacity-building exercises, which pick-up
the creative slack that currently exists in the urban and regional innovation system
and capacity this has to sustain an inclusive growth. That creative slack, which
because of these values is no longer dependent on corporate strategies, but the “civics”
of that social enterprise culture, which rests in the third sector and unlike its
counterparts in either the state, or independent, does offer municipalities the prospect
of wise management. Wise management that in turn sustains this venture, by building
the capacity, which communities need to be inclusive in tackling area-based
deprivation, combating fuel poverty and bridging the digital divide as a material
condition of the resilience also required for the municipal strategies cities adopt to be
smart in sustaining such an inclusive growth.
Studied from this vantage point, any urban and regional innovations in the
governance of smart cites do not stand alone, but alongside one another and as the
ICTs, energy, building and food systems of a wider social, cultural and environmental
agenda targeting the transformational, vis-a-vis sustainable and inclusive capacities of
their stakeholder communities. Stakeholder communities that in this instance take on a
form which is as much corporate, civic, business and citizen-based, in the sense the
sustainable and inclusive interests of this creative commons are now seen to co-inside
with the growth of ICTs in the energy, building and food sector overseeing the drive
towards public consultations and deliberations. Consultations and deliberations in
which, the innovations of this participatory governance system act as wise
management techniques that are content to be piloted as forms of direct democracy. As
forms of direct democracy, which are capable of adapting to external pressure for
change in ways that are ecologically resilient. In ways, that are ecologically resilient in,
not only sustaining the inclusiveness of urban and regional innovation systems, but
also underpinning the trans-national process of competition, which such economies in
turn support.
Methodological challenges
Approaching the governance of smart cities as a question of innovation within the
ICTs, energy, buildings and food of urban and regional systems that sustain their
inclusive qualities and which lean in the direction of a predominately civic, as opposed
to an exclusively corporate exercise, does begin to generate the intellectual capital to
overcome the pre-existing methodological challenges. Methodological challenges,
which until now have not only frustrated the governance of smart cities, leaving it
divided along the corporate and civic, cultivating the virtues of the ICTs, energy,
building and food sectors, either as a technocratic, or democratic system of regulation.
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In that sense, divided along the lines of the corporate and civic, vis-à-vis technocratic
and democratic representations of governance, whose communities stand apart from
one another, isolated as rival constituencies and which compete for recognition. In
particular, compete for recognition as the intellectual capital of a wealth creation
process that: while divided along such lines vis-à-vis, corporate, civic, technocratic and
democratic, offers a governance agenda (on the urbanisation of ICTs, energy, buildings
and food as regional systems), which is sufficiently innovative for cities to claim the
status of being smart.
The inter-disciplinary landscape
Drawing upon the co-ordinates, which the participatory governance system of this
inter-disciplinary landscape maps out, it is possible to set these divisions aside and in
that sense:
challenge the assumption which states the governance of urban and regional
innovation, vis-à-vis of ICTs, energy, buildings and food in smart cities is
organic in nature, bottom-up and institutionally grounded. That is, something
which does not need to be known about, let alone understood, because it is
natural and in that sense allows smart cities to follow a given course of action,
stable and secure in terms of any transformational capacities which it leverages;
tackle the reasoning behind this assumption by drawing attention to the
tendency enterprise culture has to make this governance agenda dependent on
the corporate strategies of business communities, unstable and insecure in terms
of the transformational capacities of the of ICTs, energy, buildings and food
sectors smart cities leverage. In particular, in terms of the transformational
capacities which they leverage from a predominately corporate governance
system and in that sense, technology driven strategy for cultivating an
enterprise architecture, designed to do little more than construct the business
models which such developments currently rest on;
resolve this instability of any such urban and regional innovation by leveraging
the sustainable and inclusive qualities of smart cities founded upon the direct
democracy of a participatory governance system. The innovation of a
participatory governance system that is equally civic and exercise in the
consultative and deliberative agenda of a direct democracy. In that sense, of a
direct democracy, in which cities stand alongside one another as smart in
underpinning the the social, cultural and environmental values they share with
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the ICT, energy, building and food sectors as technical developments supporting
the cohesive virtues of a creative commons;
appropriate the intellectual capital needed to account for the urban and regional
innovations of such smart city developments. In particular, account for the
provision of digital infrastructures, data management techniques, renewable
energy, smart buildings and food, as innovations in the direct democracy of a
participatory governance and in terms of the capacity which their ecosystems
have to index resilience as part of a triple bottom-line, vis-à-vis social, cultural
and environmental assessment;
reveal how innovations in the direct democracy of this participatory governance
system are key in the development of smart cities as centres of digital
infrastructure, data management techniques, renewable energy and smart
buildings in the food sector. Key in the sense, which they offer the only
opportunity to break the stranglehold that corporate enterprise culture holds
over such developments. That is to say, break with the growth of a
predominately-corporate governance system, by replacing the technology
driven strategy this cultivates with the architecture of a participatory
democracy. In particular, with the architecture of a participatory democracy,
whose consultations and deliberations are on a human and social scale, which
take on the status of ecosystems, able in that sense to appropriate the resilience
needed for cities to be smart in meeting the triple bottom-line requirement to
sustain them (the ICT, energy, building and food sectors) as inclusive
From this it follows that any talk of resilience in smart cites is something which is
currently left at the level of corporate rhetoric and called upon to cover up
methodological failings in the governance of the urban and regional innovation
systems forming the technologies of any such transformation.
Given the lack of public trust in the technologies of such transformations (in digital
infrastructures, data management, renewable energy generation and food security) and
growing fragmentation of their governance i.e. divided into their respective
informatics, energetic and metabolic qualities, this leaves the participatory governance
of this interdisciplinary landscape messy. For this suggests any consultations and
deliberations over the matter of resilience is currently still too closely aligned, not so
much with the humanitarianism of a socially inclusive, culturally diverse and
environmental sustainable development of some triple bottom-line, as the biophysical
elements of ecosystems. In particular, in terms of what physics, chemistry and
- 24 -
engineering contribute to climate change adaptation and where a new generation of
digital services; such as IoT, promotes the data management technologies of urban and
regional governance that not only fuel the process, but also feed the transformation,
which smart cities call for.
What is noticeable about these innovations is that many of them are constructed on
digital platforms designed to manage data, save energy from buildings, secure food,
reduce carbon emissions and mitigate global warming, as part of an adaptation, whose
processing of resource endowments makes ecosystems resilient to the natural hazards
of climate change. As regards the biophysical elements of these ecosystems, it might be
fair to say the jury is still out on what physics, chemistry and engineering are
contributing to the resilience of any such sustainable and inclusive development. Many
see this as another exercise in the wise management of resource endowments and
confuse what is meant by resilience and environmental sustainability, by either
studying the former, or ignoring the concept under the assumption the inclusiveness of
such development is captured, albeit in a rather course way, by the latter.
Unfortunately, this ambiguity does have real consequences; to the extent many of the
studies that go under the name of resilience, would be stronger if they were less
“elementary” and more systematic in terms of their ecological-integrity and
contribution this makes to the environmental sustainability of socially inclusive
development. Such studies would be able to capture the biophysics of this tradition as
part of the search for ecosystem integrity, but perhaps more importantly, as a way to
link what this cultivates back to the equity of environmentally sustainable and socially
inclusive development. By contrast, those working on resilience stick very closely to
the biophysics of ecosystems, as distinct and opposed to any sense of their stakeholder
community and consequently, get locked into the type of environmental determinism
common to find associated with matters relating to socially inclusive development.
Much of the research carried out in this anthropological tradition is more open and
has been at pains to clarify the current shortcomings in government policy on social
inclusion and cultivation of an environmentally sustainable community development.
In particular, the tendency for policy to mainstream bottom-up approaches that at best
serve to reproduce the status quo and which, at worst leave the social basis of the low-
income communities they subject to such actions even more impoverished. Even more
impoverished, due to having their prosperity sacrificed, not so much on the biophysics
of ecosystems, or cult of ecological integrity, as wealth created from the governance
system’s mis-management of what the renewable energies and smart building of the
food sectors, otherwise contribute to environmental sustainability as a process of
climate change adaptation.
- 25 -
That process of adaptation, which it is important to note, currently impact worse on
low-income communities than any other. Not because they are any less resilient to
external shocks of this kind, but for precisely the opposite reason. That is for the
reason the humanity of their tightly knit social capital is the very thing, which puts the
demographic of such communities in a culturally unique position. In that culturally
unique position, which allows them to appropriate an environment, which in
ecological terms has the resilience needed for any such adaptation to meet the triple
bottom-line requirement everyone else falls short of. Which everyone else falls short
of, because it is only the human and social demography of such (low-income)
communities that possesses the means to cultivate the capacity, which is needed for
the ecosystem to be resilient in meeting the environmental sustainability requirement
that climate change adaptation lays down. But, which in spite of possessing the
capacities that make them resilient, communities of this kind still find themselves
standing somewhere between “a rock and a hard place”. That is to say, in the most
unfortunate position of being sufficiently resilient to meet this environmentally
sustainable requirement, while still firmly locked into the poverty, social exclusion and
culture of area-based deprivation, which attends this adaptation process.
This is perhaps the reason why we should be particularly wary of the current
resilience debate in the governance of the smart cities food agenda. For it not only asks
the impoverished, excluded and deprived communities, situated in the slow-growth
lane, to pick up the cost of securing the ecological integrity necessary, but meet the
almost super-human task of also realizing the type of environmental sustainability,
which others in the fast lane can only dream of. Which others in the fast lane can
merely dream of, because they are excluded from such growth and yet in spite of this,
the governance system that is currently in place, still expects those who stand
elsewhere, vis-à-vis in the slow lane, to secure on their behalf. Secure on their behalf
and for no other reason than being the most resilient, they unlike others mainstreamed
into the fast lane, do possess the human and social capital by which to carry the
inequalities of the enterprise culture that such a process of wealth creation imposes
upon them. Inequalities, which the enterprise culture of this wealth creation imposes
upon them and the environmentally sustainable development it in turn constructs, also
goes on to augment as a logical outcome of the poor’s systematic exclusion from this
process. In particular, systematically excludes them from, as either the human, social
or the cultural components of a community rightfully constituted as members of a
democracy possessing the legal right to directly participate in the governance of the
ICTs, energy and building making up the smart cities food agenda.
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The point to bear in mind, with what can perhaps best be referred to as the “triple
bottom-bind” of the poverty, exclusion and area-based deprivation such communities
find themselves culturally locked into; is that as a rapidly emerging “top-level” issue,
the search for environmentally sustainable development doesn’t cut deep enough. In
that sense does not cut deep enough into either, the inhumanities of the underlying
social structure, or cultural practices of those impoverished, excluded and deprived
communities supporting the environmental sustainability of such development, to
offer anything other than an index of resilience. This is because such an agenda merely
serves to “scratch the surface” and falls along way short of humans generating either
the social structure or cultural practices needed for their communities to be resilient in
absorbing the cost of any external shocks into the governance system equally and as
an urban and regional innovation capable of adapting to climate change. In particular,
by adapting to climate change by demonstrating the capacity, which is needed to meet
this triple bottom-line requirement. More specifically, meet this triple bottom-line by
transcending the inequalities that are inherent in such notions of resilience and
undercutting the “incapacities”, which the urban governance of such a regional
innovation system otherwise constructs for the smart cities food agenda.
For the capacity building of municipal strategies to mainstream as something, more
significant than a symbol of resilience and excuse for “treating the symptoms” of
poverty and exclusion, vis-a-vis be something other than cultural therapy for
managing area-based deprivation, the governance of the smart cities food agenda has
to cut deeper into the socio-demographic structure of such inequalities. Given the
array of social challenges, cultural discourses and environmental crisis’, let alone
economic stagnation and retrenchment communities currently encounter in embarking
on any such venture, generating the intellectual capital urban governance needs to
build the capacity regional innovation systems require to overcome the human and
social inequalities of these territorial divisions is a tall order.
What is particularly striking about the inter-disciplinary landscape, which this in
turn maps out, is the intensity of the research agenda that it sets those studying
the urban governance of regional innovation systems (Deakin 2013a, 2013b). That
is, the high level of subject-specific and generic, vis-a-vis pedagogical rigour, which
is needed to act upon the critical insights they offer to be innovative. More
specifically, the need for the pedagogy that is not only innovative in building such
capacities, but also able to engage with the stakeholder communities participating
in, what is for all-intents-and-purposes, the systematic construction, vis-à-vis
assembly, articulation and translation of the smart city food governance agenda
into a set of transformational experiences (Deakin, 2014a).
- 27 -
Being transformational in this respect, means it is also a field of research few in the
academic community seem willing to engage with, because as a point of intersection
between fundamental, strategic (applied) and routine (third mission) research, the
material cuts across divisions in the purely scientific, technical and more routine,
every-day knowledge domains. This is because for capacity building to work as
a municipal strategy such structures need to be scaffolded as a joint venture and
in that sense as a collaboration, the design and construction of which in turn
requires to be just as strong, stable and secure as any other material brought to the
exercise (Deakin, 2014b; 2015). Consequently, any effective integration of
these components is challenging to say the least and their potential synthesis
even more demanding. As a counter-point to either, the administrative logic of a
totalising state, or disorganising tendencies of an increasingly privatised and
singularly technologically driven reasoning, such community-based actions do
have great symbolic value. However, in taking on this status they do little more
than merely support the notion of a creative commons and tend instead to act as
supplements to representative governance systems labouring under the voluntarism
and charity of not-for-profits. While these are particular forms of capacity
building, finding their application as municipal strategies all too often falls short of
the mark. Short of the mark in the sense, they fail to confront the poverty, social
exclusion and culture of area-based deprivation, as something to be “rooted out”.
To overcome the impoverishment of exclusion and area-based deprivation, which
such a resilient, safe and secure representation of governance remains locked into,
means urban and regional innovation cultivating a sense of community that is smart
because the ecosystems, which develop possess the capacity that municipal strategies
need for cities to sustain the environment as part of a bottom up construction. It isn’t
any coincidence that many of the most successful capacity building exercises, which
have developed over the past twenty years, be they municipal strategies in either ICT
deployment, energy generation, building design, or food procurement, sustain the
environment on the back of socially inclusive community-based actions. Community-
based actions cultivating governance systems able to tackle poverty and combat the
social exclusion of area-based deprivation these sectors in turn tackle from the bottom
The problem with trying to govern any such urban and regional innovation, lies
with the tendency for this to be of such a fundamental nature they prove
insurmountable for those seeking to capture the human expectations social needs,
cultural requirements and material conditions, vis-à-vis concrete material realities of
the people whose civic status come to symbolize these communities. All too often: as
- 28 -
with cultural identity thinking and the environmental determinism of the green
movement; the subjectivities of the cause i.e. cultural heritage conservation, energy
consumption, carbon emission and waste management, are put before the social needs,
cultural requirements and material realities encountered. Put before the social needs
and cultural requirements of people as the human capital of civil society and in front of
an enterprise culture that not only lies behind such capacity building exercises, but
dynamic of the municipal strategies, which for “all-intents-and-purposes”, serve to do
little more than add insult to injury. That add insult to injury because such
anthropocentric, socially constructive and culturally relevant research exercises
remain very top-heavy, downloaded onto the communities, which they are intended to
serve, so what is done to them and by others, albeit in their name, is insufficiently
organic for any such governance of the smart cities food agenda to be fully resilient.
This aside, however, it does need to be recognized that leveraging any such bottom-
up transformation of cities into something smart is a matter, which can perhaps best
described as a long-term venture. In particular, a long-term venture that does need to
tap into such a “ground swell” of opinion, but with the foresight required for the
digital technologies, data management, renewable energies and smart buildings of their
transport and mobility to be “wise before the event”. In particular wise before the
event by having the ability to ground any such system in the intellectual capital of a
scientific and technological movement, which is equally capable of integrating the
urban and regional innovation of any such bottom-up construction into the ecosystem
of a sustainable community development. That is to say, a sustainable community
development, which is rooted in and based on the direct democracy of participatory
governance. In that sense, on the direct democracy of a participatory governance,
which is able to cut deep into the triple bottom-line and possibility, such an urban and
regional innovation in turn offers for any socially inclusive and culturally diverse
structure of communication to act as the ecosystem of a post-carbon economy. The
ecosystem of a post-carbon economy, whose climate smart food system does have the
capacities needed for cities to be resilient in not only tackling the inequalities of the
digital divide, or combatting fuel poverty, but insecurities this builds into and
transports back in to system. Those insecurities this builds into and transports back
into the system, as that very thing, which the participatory governance of smart cities
requires to overcome in order for the food agenda to deliver on the
affordability, nutrition, health and well-being that sustainable communities
expect from the inclusiveness of their growth.
- 29 -
While the claims for the Expo to be a smart city may appear grand, if we examine
them against the state-of the-art on such developments, they do reflect much of what
is currently know and understood about such matters. However, while such
representations of their governance are valuable in verifying the status of the Expo as
a smart city and opening up the opportunity there is to leverage the truly
transformative capacities of cities declaring themselves smart, it appears very little is
known about either the experimentation, or contestation surrounding the governance
of the emergent food regime.
The reason for this is simple and lies in the:
need for the transformational capacities of smart city governance, not to be
represented in strictly technical, but wider social, cultural and environmental
requirement for the digital infrastructures, data management, renewable
energies and smart buildings laid out in the Expo for the food sector, to be
something more than a matter of sustainable growth;
pressure to re-direct attention towards a set of standards, which meet the
human expectations and social need for food and that cultivate the
environments required of them, as a material condition of such developments.
To meet these expectations, needs and requirements in turn means mapping out the
inter-disciplinary landscape of the governance system which they set the parameters
of as urban and regional innovations underlying the development of smart cities and
deep restructuring of the ICT, energy, building, transport and food sectors this in turn
supports. Instruments that include the models; networks, analytical frameworks and
metrics, which make it possible to capture the governance of smart cities as the
communicative structures of an ecosystem regulating the urban and regional
innovation of what might be best termed: a fully resilient triple bottom-line.
Having presented the governance of smart cities in the form of such a critical
synthesis, vis-a-vis as the urban and regional innovation of a climate smart food
system, this examination of food, governance and cities has drawn particular attention
to lingering concerns associated with the symbolism of such a master-signifier. In
particular, the tendency there is for much of the research carried out to highlight the
current shortcomings in government policy on the informatics, energetics and
metabolic of sustainable development. More specifically, for policy to mainstream
- 30 -
bottom-up approaches that at best serve to reproduce the status quo and which, at
worst leave the human and social basis of the low-income communities they subject to
such actions even more impoverished. Even more impoverished for having their
prosperity sacrificed on a less than wise management of what the digital
infrastructures, data management, renewable energies, smart buildings, transport and
mobility of food systems, fail to secure in terms of the affordability, nutrition, health
and well-being communities expect from cities.
That process of mis-management, which it is important to note, currently impact
worse on the low-income communities of cities than any other. Not because they are
any less resilient, but for precisely the opposite reason. For the reason their tightly knit
human and social capital is the very thing, which puts the demographics of such
communities in the culturally unique position of being able to secure an environment
that in ecological terms has the resilience needed to meet the triple bottom-line
sustainable development requirement everyone else falls short of. Which everyone else
falls short of, because it is only the social demography of low-income communities that
possess the means to cultivate the capacity needed for the ecosystem of cities to be
resilient in meeting the environmental sustainability requirement of a climate smart
food system. But, which in spite of possessing the capacities that makes strategies of
this type resilient, still leaves the citizens of these communities standing somewhere
between “a rock and a hard place”. That is in the most unfortunate position of being
sufficiently resilient to meet this environmentally sustainable requirement, but firmly
locked into the digital divide of a fuel poverty, which undermines the buildings,
transport and mobility of climate smart food systems.
This aside, the symbolism of such a master-signifier does recognize that leveraging
any such bottom-up transformation is something, which is at best a long-term venture.
In particular, a long-term venture that does need to tap into such a “ground swell” of
opinion, but with the foresight, which is also required by cities for the digital
technologies, data management, renewable energies, buildings, transport and mobility
of climate smart food systems to be “wise before the event”. Wise before the event by
grounding any such system in the intellectual capital of a scientific and technological
movement, which is equally capable of integrating the urban and regional innovation
of any such bottom-up construction into the ecosystem of a sustainable community
development, grounded in and based on the direct democracy of participatory
In this instance, on the direct democracy of a participatory governance able to cut
deep into the triple bottom-line and possibility, which the climate smart food system of
such urban and regional innovation offers for the socially inclusive and culturally
- 31 -
diverse structure of this eco-system to act as a post-carbon economy. Act as a
post-carbon economy, whose climate smart food system is needed for such an
urban and regional innovation to be resilient. Be resilient in not only tackling the
digital divide, combatting fuel poverty, or unlocking the immobility, which
insecurities of this type build into such systems, but in also meeting the
requirement for their participatory governance to be equitable. To be equitable in
delivering the affordability, nutrition, health and well-being communities
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Rethinking Food Governance: Urban Innovations
Roberta Sonnino and Bella Beynon
School of Planning and Geography
Cardiff University, UK
In recent years, burgeoning prices for basic foodstuffs (especially wheat and rice),
growing concerns about the sustainability of the agri-food system under the effects of
climate change, and the growing incidence of land grabbing activities in poor countries
have been redefining the meaning and the geography of “food security” in four
fundamental ways (Sonnino, 2014). First, food insecurity today is simultaneously a
problem of under-, over- and mal-consumption that affects over one quarter of the
world’s population in both developed and developing countries. Second, the problem
has acquired a strong political dimension. The riots that followed the spike in fuel,
food and energy prices of 2008 demonstrated that ensuring that all citizens have
physical and financial access to nutritious food is a matter of national security, as G8
countries acknowledged at their first meeting on agri-food issues held in Italy in 2009
(Morgan and Sonnino, 2010). Third, the variation of food insecurity levels across
different socio-economic groups has become extreme, especially in urban contexts. As
Holt-Gimenez (2008) observed, the food riots that followed the price surge of 2008
exploded not in areas were food was unavailable, ‘but where available food was too
expensive for the poor’ that is, in cities. Fourth, there is a range of interrelated
ecological pressures (over and above looming climate change) on all stages of the food
system. In synthesis, an emerging literature shows that global food consumption
patterns are decreasing the availability of water, which is widely utilised for processing
foods (such as meat and dairy products) that form the basis of the Western diet
(Collette et al. 2011). At the same time, urbanisation is exacerbating the problem of soil
degradation (UNEP 2012), especially in developing countries, where the amount of land
devoted to food production continues to decrease (Chappell and LaValle 2011). Global
food security is further threatened by very high levels of food losses and waste that
occur at different stages of the supply chain and that affect as much as one-third of the
total amount of food that is produced globally (Sonnino et al., 2014).
Mainstream approaches to food security are unable to capture the systemic and
evolutionary nature of this global food security crisis, locked as they are into
oppositional narratives (e.g., sufficiency vs. efficiency) and obsolete dichotomies
(production vs. consumption). As several researchers have argued, there is a need for a
new policy agenda that accounts for the context-dependent manifestations of the new
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geography of food security and, more broadly, for the ‘deeply inter-locking nature of
economic, social and environmental systems’ (Misselhorn et al. 2012: 10). Quoting Lang
(2010: 94), ‘the new era’s policies must assume the connections between environment,
social justice and health’. In practice, this entails a shift from the conventional policy
tendency to address single issues to the adoption of a systemic perspective that takes
into account the interrelatedness of the whole food chain and of the whole food cycle
(Lang and Barling, 2012: 318).
Urban governments are at the forefront of this new policy agenda. At a time when
most of the world’s population is urbanized, “cities have acquired a new role: namely,
to drive the ecological survival of the human species by showing that large
concentrations of people can find more sustainable ways of co-evolving with nature”
(Morgan and Sonnino, 2010: 210). The driving force behind these newly envisaged
roles, we will argue, is predicated upon two factors. Firstly, a desire to harness the
power of established civil society groups and ‘bottom up’ local movements that align
with the wider interpretations of ‘sustainable food security’ (see, for example
Dwiartama and Piatti, 2015 and Allen, 2008). Secondly, the desire at the local level to
fill the policy vacuum that has been left by national policies, entrenched as they are
within a larger scale productivist paradigm (Lawrence et al., 2013; Sage, 2012; and
Godfray et al., 2010). These policies, which follow the mainstream approaches to food
security, have at best little, and at worst negative, impacts upon individual abilities to
provide household food security (see Frankenberger and McCaston, 1998) within their
local foodscape (Dowler and O’Connor, 2012; MacMillan and Dowler, 2012).
The recent proliferation of urban food strategies, charters and plans, and the
establishment of multi-actor partnerships such as food policy councils, show that in
many countries (particularly in the global North) city governments are indeed rising to
this grand challenge, and solidifying their roles as food system actors. Although it is
still too early to assess the tangible impacts of these initiatives, the literature has
highlighted their transformative potential, especially in relation to the new variable
spatial, socio-economic and ecological ‘fixes’ that they are attempting to create
(Marsden and Sonnino 2012).
Much less attention has been paid to the governance innovations associated with the
emergence of urban governments as new scalar food policy actors. This chapter aims
to contribute to fill this gap through an analysis of the narratives of urban food
strategies from the UK and North America. Why do cities perceive the need to break
away from the wider national and global food governance context? How do they relate
themselves with other levels of governance? More broadly: what type of relations do
urban food strategies envision between different food system actors and activities?
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Urban Food Strategies: the Multi-Level Governance Context
Reacting to the atrophy of the global and national policy approaches, urban food
strategies often emphasize the unique role that cities can play in pioneering a systemic
transformation of the food system. The primary step in establishing support within the
multi-level governance context is to embed the urban and local food strategies into the
local institutional fabric and create reciprocal connections between the groups who
have helped produce the documents (such as civil society groups) and the governance
institutions endorsing and championing them. In many cities, the process of
developing food charters and strategies originated with civil society groups and food
activist movements. This is the case, for example, in Cardiff, where the original Food
Charter was developed by a large group of interested parties led by a prominent local
food social enterprise. The process itself led to the formation of a food council
facilitating links between civil society groups and the local administration. In Bristol,
the first food charter was developed by the Bristol Food Network (BFN), a community
interest company that “supports, informs and connects individuals, community
projects, organisations and businesses who share a vision to transform Bristol into a
sustainable food city” (Bristol Food Network, 2014). The local authority also developed
their own internal food charter before the members of both intersected into what
became the Bristol Food Policy Council producing the Bristol Good Food Plan. Plans
such as this one are a symbolic statement of how civil society groups such as the BFN
are assimilating and making connections into their most immediate governance scale:
the local.
The emphasis on the transformative potential associated with the lower governance
scale (the urban) never translates into a defensive, autarkic or self-referential approach
to food system change. Quite the contrary, urban food strategies aim to build capacity
along the vertical governance axis or, in simple terms, to create or strengthen
connections between the urban, regional, national and global scales. Such connections
have a bidirectional flow. On the one hand, cities explicitly re-cast themselves as sites
of experimentation - or, as stated in New York City’s strategy (New York City Council
2010: 3), as models “of how targeted local action can support large scale
improvements”. Similarly, the Englisy city of Sandwell, in its ‘Growing Healthy
Communities Strategy’, recognises its unique position in producing a strategy that was
“the first of its kind in the UK.” Significantly, Sandwell is casting itself as a site of
experimental learning not just internally, but for other urban and local areas following
their lead: “we recognise that implementation of an ambitious strategy for expansion
and coordination of an extended community agriculture initiative will take time,
commitment and resources, and will be a continuing process of listening, learning and
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improving... We will be leaders in the field of community agriculture at a Boroughwide
level, and will have a good deal to learn, but the learning that will take place will be
valuable to other urban authorities that will follow” (Sandwell PCT and Sandwell MBC,
2008: 31).
At the same time, however, urban food strategies raise the need for support at
higher levels of governance. Faced with specific constraints created by a wider
economic context that makes cities ‘net importers of food’ (Manchester City Council
2007), subject to market forces and vulnerable to changing consumer preferences
(London Development Agency 2006: 17), urban governments request targeted forms of
intervention from their national policy-makers. New York City, for example, invokes a
re-orientation of farm subsidies at the federal level to support the production of
healthy food (e.g., fresh fruit and vegetables). The city of Philadelphia, on its part,
turns to its regional government to request the introduction of new tax policies that
incentivize fresh food production for local markets (Sonnino, 2014). In the UK, the
narratives emerging through these novel food strategies takes a more critical tone in
calling for higher level support. The Bristol Good Food Plan, for instance, comments:
“to reform the food system in this integrated way has not yet been built into any UK
local government policy and strategy, in fact on a national level food exists in 19
different government ministries. Nor could a local government achieve such changes
alone. It requires the commitment and proactive participation from a wide range of
city and city region stakeholders”(Bristol Food Policy Council, 2013:9). In County
Durham’s Sustainable Local Food Strategy, there is an acknowledgement that “Any
food strategy sits within wider global, regional and local contexts, which can both limit
and enable what can effectively be achieved. Much of the food we eat in the UK is part
of a highly complex globalised food system where food chains can become long and
not always transparent....” The strategy goes on to note that the national governments
approach food security has fallen short of the required task of “re-connecting people
with food” before stating; “This Strategy attempts to address some of these issues by
encouraging actions that enable more people to become directly involved...” whilst
pertinently remarking that “A local Food Strategy cannot hope to address broader
structural issues causing poverty and ill health” (Charles and Durham Community
Action, 2014). The implications of such statements suggest a need for stronger support
from national governments.
In short, the first important governance novelty that cities are introducing is a
relational approach to localization. Urban food strategies are not designed to create
bounded foodscapes with a local territorial identity. The effort here, as the analysis of
the horizontal governance axis will also show, is to progress a flexible and inclusive
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localism that creates positive and synergistic connection between policy actions at
different scales. As we will argue in the next section, this “new localism” (Sonnino,
2014) has important implications for the ways in which cities attempt to reconnect
with their rural hinterland.
Urban Food Governance: The Horizontal Axis
One of the most significant aspects of the new localism is a broadening up of the
notion of “local” beyond the municipal boundaries. Most urban food strategies
recognise the potential of the ‘local/urban’ (as defined by New York City) in enhancing
food production, and there is widespread support for urban agriculture and community
growing schemes in relation to both food security and sustainability objectives.
However, the main focus of the urban food narratives is what New York City Council
defines as the ‘local/regional food system’, which is seen as crucial to address food
security concerns. As stated in Los Angeles’ food strategy: “while the benefits of urban
agriculture are significant to individuals and neighbourhoods, poverty and hunger...
exist on such a massive scale that supporting urban agriculture should only be viewed
as a supplement, not a replacement, strategy to solve food insecurity and improve food
access” (Los Angeles Food Policy Task Force 2010, 26).
Regions, and the connections between municipal organisations within them, are also
given prominence in many strategies in the UK. The surrounding ‘South West
England’ region, for example, is an important feature of the Bristol Good Food Plan.
Indeed, one of the strategy’s key objectives is to “increase procurement of regional
staples, and establish more markets for local producers.” (Bristol Food Policy Council,
2013: 22)This objective recognises the role of the wider region in shaping the local
foodscape for the better and suggests support through “an established network of retail
markets could provide fresh, seasonal, local & regional foods throughout the city.”
(ibid.: 23).
Significantly, many North American cities utilize the term “foodshed” to broaden the
definition of local food, taking into account, as stated in San Francisco’s food strategy,
not just territoriality, but also a series of quality attributes such as agricultural
production methods, fair farm labour practices and animal welfare (Thompson et al.
2008: 4). Likewise, Los Angeles associates the concept of ‘foodshed’ not just with food
production and consumption, but also with a range of regional economic, employment,
demographic and environmental indicators (Los Angeles Food Policy Task Force 2010).
As Toronto’s food strategy states, “the strategic challenge is to build the links within
this common foodshed” (Toronto Public Health Department 2010: 7) - a refashioned
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foodscape in which the city, the countryside and all different actors and stakeholders
that occupy their spaces are reconnected, physically, culturally, environmentally,
socially and economically. Quoting Manchester’s food strategy (Manchester City
Council, 2007: 19): “At present... the model is a chain in which food is produced outside
the city, brought in, sold, consumed and the waste and packaging disposed of,
generally outside the city again... There is considerable scope for... creating a closed
loop system [that] would attempt to reconnect the city to the food it consumes and
reduce the environmental impact of food consumption”.
Further to expanding the productive and consumptive foodscape beyond the local
municipal boundaries, strategies are creating governance connections at the regional
level to enable horizontal integration. Coming back to Bristol, the Good Food Plan
states that their “... approach to food is both daring in scope and ambition; its aim is a
Sustainable and resilient Food plan integrated on a regional level.” (Bristol Food Policy
Council, 2013:7). This statement of commitment to the wider hinterland to which the
city belongs is echoed in the Bristol Food Policy Council’s efforts to work with their
surrounding unitary authorities. One of these is the Bath and North East Somerset
authority, which has produced its own local food strategy. Significantly, this document
alsomakes a commitment to “engage with West of England Partners to address gaps in
local infrastructure and to co-ordinate opportunities for local food supply” (Bath and
North East Somerset Council, 2014:18).
As with the calls for vertical support described above, strategies in the UK note that
the absence of institutional frameworks does not and should not interfere with a more
enlightened perspective on the local/regional foodscape. Durham, for example, makes
explicit the need to create regional links for the good of local food even where regions
lack formal relations: “Although the English Regions lost powers and investment with
the demise of the Regional Government Offices and the Local Development Agencies
in 2011 the North East continues as a constituency for the European Parliament and
retains a strong local identity. Local food does not recognise administrative boundaries
and it is important that we maintain close links with other areas in the region.
(Charles and Durham Community Action, 2014:7).
At the other end of the scale, these strategies are both ratifying action on the
local/regional foodscape, whilst also recognising their role in the wider system and the
impact and potential impact they have on global food security. Strategies and charters
such as in Cardiff include a moral and ethical dimension, as illustrated in one of their
principles of fair food: “Good working conditions and fair pay: Workers throughout
the food chain, both in Wales and abroad, should have good working conditions and be
paid fairly for their work and produce.” (Food Cardiff, 2014:2). Comparably,
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Manchester’s food strategy includes ethically and fairly traded and produced food,
emphasising that: “Food production and trading should only use fair pricing and
ethical employment for and by producers, in the UK or overseas.” (Manchester City
Council, 2007:17). Such statements incorporate the appreciation that these cities hold
for the wider implications of food security and not just how it impacts upon the local
people and foodscape, but how it in turn can have repercussions in other, often
geographically distant, locations. The examples described demonstrate an implicit
recognition of cities’ role in global food security. In this sense, a more explicit
expression is found in Birmingham’s (UK) food charter, which lists global food security
amongst their four priorities -- a significant development in comparison to the
examples mentioned above. As proclaimed in their website, “although Birminghamcan
do next to nowt about global food security in terms of food production, we citizens still
have a significant role to play as consumers, and our Council in setting up
infrastructures that promote certain kinds of behaviour...” and promotes ways in which
its citizens can “ and encourage research into global food security, and
encourage infrastructures that enable all of us to do the best we can to mitigate against
famine, hunger and malnutrition.” (Birmingham Food Council, 2015).
Terms such as “connection” and “reconnection” are quite pervasive in the narratives
of urban food strategies, and introduce us to two other significant governance
novelties that are emerging at the urban level. The first is an effort to connect food to
wider sets of public goods. Concepts such as “freshness” and “healthiness”, which are
widely deployed in the narratives of urban food strategies, are never discussed in
isolation. Rather, there is a widespread attempt to connect them directly with other
sustainability goals. Brighton and Hove was one of the earliest cities to stress in its
food strategy the relationships that the food system has with ‘social equity, economic
prosperity, environmental sustainability, global fair trade and the health and well
being of all residents’ (Brighton and Hove Food Partnership 2006: 1). Similarly,
Toronto envisions a “health-focused food system” that “nourishes the environment,
protects against climate change, promotes social justice, creates local and diverse
economic development, builds community” (Toronto Public Health Department 2010:
6). Los Angeles uses the notion of ‘good food’ to frame its vision for a food system that
‘prioritizes the health and wellbeing of our residents [and] makes healthy, high-quality
food affordable’, while also contributing to enhance the urban environment, create a
thriving economy and protect and strengthen regional biodiversity and natural
resources (Los Angeles Food Policy Task Force 2010: 11). Conversely, Bristol has
developed the notion of ‘Good Food’, which is described in the Bristol Good Food
Charter as “good for people, good for places and good for the planet” (Bristol Food
Policy Council, 2012:3). Using this cross cutting concept of ‘good food’ is important to
- 41 -
highlight the inherent links in the food system as well as its wider positive outcomes,
showing how food can encompass all three hallmarks. Cardiff’s food charter similarly
notes that “good food means fair food: it should be good for people, good for the place
we live in, and good for our planet, as well as being affordable and nutritious”; at the
same time, it also makes explicit the potential of food to bring a multitude of positive
community benefits: “The food we consume has a huge impact on life in Cardiffnot
just on our health, but also on our communities, businesses and the environment.”
(Food Cardiff, 2014:1). A further example of this holistic interpretation of the benefits
provided by a more secure and sustainable food system is provided by the
Philadelphia’s plan, which emphasizes the potential of food in terms of “strengthening
the agricultural sector, improving public health, protecting soil and water resources’
and, more broadly, ‘encouraging diversity, innovation and collaboration” (DVRPC
In practice, urban efforts to connect food to other public goods have originated the
emergence of what Brighton and Hove (2006) calls “an integrated, cross-sectoral
approach to food policy”. There are two main examples of food policy integration that
need to be mentioned here. The first is a conscious effort to connect food with other
policies and sectors. Los Angeles, for example, raises the need for “integrating local
food system planning into our region’s Climate Action Plans, Regional Transportation
Plans and other regional planning documents” (Food Policy Task Force 2010);
Newquay’s food strategy argues that the development of “reliable markets for local
food growers, fishing communities, processors, caterers and retailers” can make a
significant contribution to the objectives of its sustainability strategy namely,
limiting the population’s greenhouse gas emissions and ecological footprint and
enhancing regional economic development (Duchy of Cornwall and SUSTAIN 2007: 7
8).Cities that have realised this integration include Brighton and Hove. Indeed, the
aims stated in its food strategy include supporting “networking opportunities to
encourage links between sectors” and ensuring “local policy and planning decisions
take into account food issues” (Brighton and Hove Food Partnership, 2012:4). This long
standing dedication to “ensure that food work is prioritised in strategy at a city level”
(ibid.) has been fruitful, as food, in its various secure forms, has been included in a
number of city wide policies. For example, local food is included in the City’s local
planning framework; local and sustainable food is one of the 10 key principles of the
‘One Planet Living Strategy and Action Plan’ (Brighton and Hove City Council, 2013;
and, as of 2014, there was a dedicated food section added to the overarching
Sustainable Communities Strategy, which makes specific reference to the food strategy
as an achievement for the city: “Spade to Spoon Digging Deeper, the refreshed food
strategy, was adopted with cross-party political support in 2012” (Brighton and Hove
- 42 -
City Council, 2014). Similarly, since launching the Food Charter in Cardiff, the council
has formally signed up and adopted it, integrating the key messages strategically
across their own strategies. The ‘One Planet Cardiff’ sustainability strategy for the city
includes a section on food that lists one of their actions as supporting “the Cardiff Food
Charter and the Cardiff Food Council and promote healthy sustainable and ethical food
as part of thriving local economy” (Cardiff Sustainable Development Unit, 2013:4)
The second example of policy integration has to do with the establishment of new
institutional arrangements that aim to facilitate coordination at the implementation
stage. Chicago, for instance, advocates the establishment of a specific non-profit
regional food entity that “should be represented by a variety of members (economic,
environmental, transport, agricultural, public health, etc.) to analyse and support food
policy issues from a comprehensive perspective and coordinate federal grants and loan
programs” (Chicago Metropolitan Area for Planning 2010: 156). Los Angeles also
suggests the establishment of a “regional food policy council” (Los Angeles Food Policy
Task Force 2010: 28).
The Bristol Good Food Plan describes how a similar group was established following
recommendations of research that underpinned the development of the plan: “The
Bristol Food Policy Council was launched in March 2011, in order to help drive
forward the recommendations from the Who Feeds Bristol report. Bristol is the first
city in the UK to have a Food Policy Council. The Council members are drawn from
different sectors of the food system, and give their time voluntarily. Administrative
support is provided by Bristol City Council.” (Bristol Food Policy Council, 2013:32)
The novelty here has to do with an explicit focus on enhancing participation in the
design and implementation of food policy. As stated in New York City’s food strategy,
food policy councils can play an important role in eliciting “non-governmental input
on policy changes” (New York City Council 2010: 75). This quote echoes recent work
on food security governance by Candel (2014), who has emphasized importance of
involving civil society in food security governance contexts. As he argues, civil society
is in a unique position to identify local problems and response gaps, to enhance public
support for food policy intervention and to build capacity across institutions, policy
sectors and governance scales. Moreover, the strategies show a unique comprehension
that as well as requiring civil society and ‘non-governmental’ support to recognise the
local needs and gaps, multi-stakeholder involvement is essential in ensuring the long
term success of these local initiatives. As outlined in Sandwell’s Community
Agriculture Strategy: “Political and organisational leadership and robust partnership
working between Sandwell’s local authorities and voluntary and community
organisations will be essential in achieving the aims of the Strategy. This will be a
- 43 -
shared endeavour but responsibilities for key steps will be clearly identified. Strategic
and service level commissioning which values shared outcomes such as improved
public health, social inclusion, and community cohesion will be required.” (Sandwell
PCT and Sandwell MBC, 2008:27). This represents the view that connections with a
wider set of actors beyond the traditional policy setting are also bidirectional and that
a reciprocal relationships contribute to the capacity building between and within these
various sectors and actors.
A final way in which these urban innovations are creating horizontal connections is
geopolitically, linking across the translocal scale to form a network of cities who
collectively gain the capacity to span larger geographical and higher political scales.
Examples of these include the Milan Urgban Food Policy Pact, the Sustainable Food
Cities Network in the UK, the FAO’s Food for Cities global network and the Food
Policy Networks project currently being developed by the Centre for a Liveable Future
at Johns Hopkins University in North America. The latter project has been described as
developing “effective and robust food policy at the state and local levels by working
with existing food policy councils, national organizations and other interested groups.”
Recently conducting a review of partnerships and strategies across North America,
“The Food Policy Networks is poised to enhance and amplify the impact... by building
the capacity of local, state, regional, and tribal food policy organizations to forge
working partnerships and to become more effective policy players.” (Center for a
Liveable Future, 2015).
In a similar vein, The Sustainable Food Cities Network in the UK aims to provide
support to cities and urban areas who are developing strategies and charters and
associated partnerships to govern them. Membership of the network is open to “Any
town, city, borough, district orcountycan join the Sustainable Food Cities Network as
long as it has a cross-sector food partnership working to create a better food system.
The key is that you are willing to share your successes (and your failures!) and are
interested in learning from others” (SFCN, 2013). Emphasising the peer to peer leaning
and knowledge exchange is at the heart of the network. Further, the network also
provides support and advice for localities seeking to drive the three positive changes of
“establishing an effective cross-sector food partnership; embedding healthy and
sustainable food in policy, and developing and delivering a food strategy and action
plan” (SFCN, 2013), which in effect reinforces the horizontal connections analysed
above. In short, knowledge exchange and capacity building are key mechanisms
through which these translocal networks are developing to create horizontal
connections and a more relational approach to this renewed vision of a ‘local
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Urban governments, in short, are reframing food security as a “polycentric
governance arena that is fostering an inclusive and more collaborative political
sensitivity within and between cities. At the urban level, we are witnessing the
emergence of much needed examples of policy integration that are fostering the
multifunctional potential of food in relation to human and environmental health, social
and spatial justice and economic equity the main domains affected by the unfolding
of a new geography of food security. Globally, initiatives such as the Sustainable Food
Cities Network in the UK, the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact and FAO’s Food for Cities
network show that the re-ordering of food rights, governance and assets in one place
leads to cross-over of learning and reflexivity in others. For both policy-makers and
researchers, there are new important questions that need to be raised about the
mechanisms needed to consolidate these emerging “translocal assemblages”
(McFarlane, 2009) and enable them to continue to scale up, scale out and scale down
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Smart Cities Food Governance: Critical Perspectives From Innovation
Theory And Urban Food System Planning
Damian Maye
Countryside and Community Research Institute,
University of Gloucestershire, UK
The ‘smart’ concept has become significant in recent years in urban, rural and
regional development contexts, epitomised by smart growth, smart specialisation and
smart city and regional planning (Naldi et al. 2015). The smart growth concept is not
new, with a fairly well established literature in regional planning, particularly in the
United States. Within Europe, smart growth has become an important policy-
orientated concept. In the Europe 2020 growth strategy, for example, smart,
sustainable, and inclusive growth are key objectives that are central and also viewed as
mutually reinforcing if Europe is to reach its stated growth targets (European
Commission 2011). One of the underlying features of this smart growth agenda is the
idea that you build policy models that favour local competencies and regional
advantages. As Naldi et al. (2015: 91) note, the discussion of how smart growth
concepts ‘should be applied and understood in a regional context is far from settled’.
I suggest here that a similar case can be made regarding smart city planning,
particularly as it relates to food production and provisioning. In a recent article about
‘big data and the internet of things’, Bernard Marr (2015) suggests ‘smart city’ is a term
we will be hearing a lot more about in the coming years. The basic idea is to embed
advances in technology and data collection into the infrastructures of the
environments where we live. They potentially provide strategies and pathways that
are more resource efficient and sustainable. Marr’s article provides several examples of
data-driven systems for transport, waste management and energy use, including a
future where refuse collection lorries are directed to locations where rubbish needs
collecting and lighting in streets is controlled by intelligent street lighting.
Smart cities are linked then to the wider smart growth agenda but their discussion
also warrants specific analysis and critique. In this short paper I argue for the need to
have a broad view of what we mean by ‘smart’, particularly in relation to emergent
discussions about ‘smart cities’ and ‘smart city food governance’. The paper argues
that we must account for more than smart technological developments and techno-
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scientific solutions, recognising also the important role and value of social innovation
practices, as well as smart forms of food governance. Ideas from innovation theory,
transition theory and critiques of sustainability science are used to develop this more
critical perspective. Reflections will be informed also by recent empirical work
examining agri-food dynamics and innovation in city-region contexts. At the end of
the paper I will conclude that it may be best to talk about ‘resilient urban food system
governance’, with smart technology as part of but not the only solution.
What makes a city smart? The smart city concept and emerging critiques
In a recent review, Rob Kitchin (2014)suggests the term ‘smart city’ is divided into
two distinct but related understandings. First, the smart city concept refers to the
increasing extent to which cities are composed of so-called ‘everyware’ (Kitchin, 2014),
meaning the increasingly pervasive use of computing and digitally instrumented
environments that are now embedded into the urban environment (e.g., fixed and
wireless telecom networks, sensor and camera networks). These technologies are used
to monitor, manage and regulate city flows and processes. Mobile forms of computing
are also increasingly used by citizens who live and navigate the city and which
themselves also produce data. By connecting and analysing this ‘everyware’ data it is
possible to provide ‘a more cohesive and smart understanding of the city...[and] rich
seams of data that can be used to better depict, model and predict urban processes and
simulate the likely outcomes of future urban developments’ (Kitchin, 2014: 2).
Everyware makes the city more knowable via more fine-grained, interconnected and
often real-time flows of data. It can provide the supporting infrastructure for business
activity and growth, as well as stimulating new forms of entrepreneurship.
The second conception of smart city is about the development of a knowledge
economy within a city-region. In this context, a smart city is ‘one whose economy and
governance is being driven by innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, enacted by
smart people’ (Kitchin, 2014: 2). ICT is critically important here too: it provides the
platform to mobilise and realise innovative ideas. However, as Kitchin explains, simply
embedding smart technology into a city fabric is not what makes it ‘smart’. Here it is
about how ICT is used in combination with human and social capital to enable and
manage growth that makes it ‘smart’. In the first interpretation then ‘smart’ is largely
technocratic and technological, defined by ICT and its use to manage and regulate city
flows. In the second interpretation it is about how ICT can enhance policies and
governance that relate to economic development and education; in other words, ICT
are enablers and provide the platform for innovation and creativity, which in turn
facilitate socio-economic and environmental development.
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The thing that unites these two smart city interpretations is ‘an underlying
neoliberal ethos that prioritises market-led and technological solutions to city
governance and development’ (Kitchin, 2014: 2). For example, many who support
smart city development are big business (e.g., IBM, Mircosoft), keen to promote their
new technologies and advocate deregulation and more open economies. For city
officials and governments ‘smart cities offer the enticing potential of socio-economic
progress’ (ibid., p. 4), promising, for example, more liveable and sustainable cities and
hubs for innovation. Hollands (2008), cited in Kitchin (2014), conducted a review of
industry and government literature on smart cities and identified five characteristics:
embedding ICT into the urban landscape; a neoliberal approach to governance and a
business-led urban development mantra; a focus on human and social dimensions of
the city from a creative perspective; adoption of a smarter communities agenda; a
focus on social and environmental sustainability. Hollands (2008) suggests there is a
tension in the smart city agenda between: serving global/mobile capital and stationary
ordinary citizens, attracting/retaining an elite class and serving other classes, and top-
down, corporatized development and bottom-up, diffuse approaches.
Another key feature that joins different interpretations of ‘smart city’ is the
prioritisation of data capture and analysis to underpin policy development and enable
new forms of technocratic governance (Kitchin et al. 2015). Such data are viewed as
neutral, objective measures. To date there has not been much analysis of the new
forms of data being produced in cities, including how they are mobilised by
governments and business, although Kitchin et al (2015) have recently published
papers on the new phenomena of ‘big data’. As they note in their review of this area,
there is much belief and hype that ‘big data’ will lead to a transformation in the
knowledge and governance of cities, providing, for example, fine-grained, real-time
understanding of urban processes. We are talking here about ‘massive, dynamic,
varied, detailed, inter-related, low cost datasets that can be connected and utilised in
diverse ways (Kitchin, 2014: 3). Big data sources are divided into three categories:
directed (generated via traditional forms of surveillance, such as CCTV), automated
(where data are produced automatically by a device or system, such as a check-out till,
for example) and volunteered (where data are gifted by users, such as interactions
across social media). Automated forms of data have attracted particular attention from
those concerned with managing cities, which includes things like surveillance and also
sensors, for example. Linked to this we have seen the emergence of real-time analytics
by city governments, including, for example, the movement of vehicles around a
transport network and, more recently, attempts to collate different forms of
surveillance and real-time analysis into a single hub (Office of Policy and Strategic
Planning for New York city, for example). In cities such as London we see too the
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creation of ‘city dashboards’ (see Figure 1), which provide citizens with real-time data
about various aspects of the city, such as weather, air pollution, and complemented by
visualisation sites that create real-time maps, etc. (London Dashboard).
Figure 1: The London City Dashboard (Source:
Such ‘big data’ mechanisms provide ‘a powerful means of making sense of,
managing and living in the city in the here-and-now’ (Kitchin, 2014: p7). These big
data instruments provide the basis for developing a more efficient, competitive and
arguably sustainable and transparent city, but they also raise concerns about, for
example, the politics of big urban data, technocratic governance and city development
(assuming that all aspects of a city can be measured and monitored which is clearly
narrow in scope and reductionist/functionalist), the corporatisation of governance and
a technological lock-in, buggy, brittle and hackable cities, and the creation of panoptic
In their study of recent urban projects that measure and monitor cities using
indicators, benchmarks and real-time dashboards, Kitchin et al (2015) suggest they are
narrowly conceived but represent powerful realist epistemologies (framing the city as
visualised facts) that are significantly reshaping how citizens and managers view and
manage the city. Despite the best intentions of such initiatives, which aspire to make
the city more transparent and governable, they are open to manipulation by vested
interests and are underpinned by what they call ‘naïve instrumental rationality’. They
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prefer to view such data projects as data assemblages that are complex and politically-
infused socio-technical systems.
Smart agriculture: the precision agriculture revolution
The critique of smart city projects is important to bear in mind, especially when we
consider how urban food provisioning and urban food systems can be described and
developed under a ‘smart city food governance’ framework. As well as ‘smart city’, the
smart concept is also present in agri-food sustainability discourses, particularly the
emergence of ‘smart agriculture’ or so-called ‘climate smart agriculture’ as a framing
concept for a set of agriculture technologies now coming on stream, many of them
linked to precision agriculture. This discourse is evident in the UK, for example, where
a strategy for agricultural technologies has been developed to improve the
productivity, competiveness and resilience of the food industry (Department for
Business Innovation and Skills 2013). The ‘Agri-Tech strategy’ and Agri-Tech Strategy
blog have a number of interesting examples and features that explain how the
government and food industry partnership can work together to develop smarter food
production systems through technology and science innovation. There was an
interesting post on the blog recently, for example, by Stephen Bee (2015), describing
the precision agriculture revolution. He started the blog post by referring to the 2050
forecast that 60% more food will need to be produced for the world’s population. The
basic argument was that new forms of technology, including unmanned aerial systems
(UAS) and agricultural ‘big data’ metrics have the potential to ensure the production of
enough food, as well as addressing the problems of land degradation, water shortage
and climate change.
There is a number of Agri-tech Catalyst projects, funded under the Agri-tech
Catalyst funding scheme, that are supporting businesses and researchers to develop
new innovative solutions to address the global food security challenge (notice the
emphasis on the global scale of the problem). Some examples include (Bee, 2015):
Big Datain general terms this is about, as Kitchin (2014) explained, collating
very large and very varied datasets which can then be analysed to reveal
patterns in real world interactions. For instance, the Produce World Group (a
very large fresh produce business in the UK) are leading the Soli-for-life
Beta project which will collate and analyse ‘big data’ within the supply chain
and farm systems, including, for example, soil analyses, crop rotations and
fertiliser records, with the datasets integrated into an aggregated data holding.
These aggregated data could eventually be used by producers to better
understand the drivers behind farm system performance.
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Robotic Farming agricultural robotics are now been developed to do a range
of tasks, including driving tractors, milking cows, killing weeds with chemicals
(to avoid using chemicals), picking and grading strawberries, mowing grass, and
searching for weeds, pests and diseases (from both the air and the ground).
These ‘smart machines’, using something called ‘intelligently targeted inputs’,
have the potential to revolutionise the way crops are grown. The Agri-Tech
scheme is funding a Robotic Broccoli Harvesting project, for example, which is
testing 3D camera technology that will better identify when broccoli are ready
for harvest and has the potential to significantly reduce production costs.
Drones (Unmanned Aerial Systems) drones are now being used and
developed to improve crop management, including pest and herbicide control,
application of fertilisers, etc. There is a drone to tractor process fly the drone
over a field for in-field analysis, the field is scanned and field data downloaded
to a map on iPad, a prescription is then generated and values generated (in the
office – a field application map is generated), and data are then taken and
inputted into the tractor (e.g., fertiliser, spraying or planting prescriptions) (for
more on this sort of technology see a video called ‘Sensefly’ PepsiCo, who make Quaker Oats amongst other things, are
also leading a project in the UK to turn data from drones into data
measurements so that growers can optimise yield and quality across fields. The
measurements will be fed into an Oat Crop Model that will then guide farmers
to decide when they can achieve best results for their crops. The predicted
output is that the tools could increase average yields by over 1 tonne per
hectare, whilst contributing to sustainable intensification, and reducing imports.
Agriculture is also applying and trialling ‘internet of things’ (IoT) technologies,
including sensor-controlled rooms to grow lettuce and automated heaters for bees.
From a food production perspective, IoT makes a lot of sense, as it can potentially cut
costs and boost food production, but sensors can also improve animal welfare and
reduce the use of resources such as water (Kobie, 2015, The Guardian, 5th August,
2015). For Kobie, agriculture is an area where IoTs have ‘little downside, and a host of
benefits’. Some of the sensor technologies are potentially very smart. For example,
Fujitsu and Microsoft have worked together to grow high-tech lettuce, aimed for
consumers with kidney problems (lettuce is high in potassium). The sensors can help
agricultural plants to grow faster and can create higher yields, as well as
specialisations. Using building sensors, they have fine-tuned conditions to grow low-
potassium lettuce (by controlling CO2, temperature, humidity, light intensity and other
factors that affect growth). You also have web-connected cows. In this case, sensors are
tracking dairy cows so that farmers can detect illnesses earlier (lameness and mastitis
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costs the UK dairy industry £100 million annually), which reduce suffering for the cow
and increases milk yields. The blight of the bee population is well documented, with
numbers in sharp decline and linked to a range of possible factors, including colony
collapse disorder. Researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed sensor
technology to attack the mites that cause colony collapse disorder (Kobie 2015). The
sensors enable heat to be targeted at specific parts of the hive at specific times to target
the mites which can be interrupted by temperature changes. The electronics monitors
the temperature and produces heat to kill the mites without harming the bees.
In urban agriculture contexts, the most talked about example of high-tech
agriculture is vertical farming. This concept was first popularised by Dickson
Despommier (2010) in his book, The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the
21st Century. There are vertical farms in Asia, Europe and North America. Plants
grown in long, narrow beds that are staked in layers and are under LED grow lights,
with roots covered in nutrient-rich mist. These systems use smart technologies, with
the light, temperature and nutrients the plants receive closed monitored by sensors.
Such technologies are advocated by some because they use less energy to transport
food to markets (with them often grown on sites close to urban consumers), requiring
also less water and pesticides than traditional agricultural practices would require.
Some, however, are critical of the reliance on LED lights, with new farms emerging
that use natural sunlight (a free source of energy) (Rose 2015). We can think of other
applications of smart technology to the food chain: using sensors and integrating data
systems to improve food chain performance in terms of energy use during distribution,
improving logistics systems, improving food waste management, etc.
There is clearly some smart and potentially very useful agri-tech solutions being
develop to respond to food system pressures, including vertical farming technologies
that are prominent in urban agriculture contexts. Most examples cited above are
selected from the UK but similar initiatives are taking place in other European
countries too (e.g., Germany and The Netherlands). This type of ‘smart agriculture’
talk is framed around ‘sustainable intensification’, a term which was first applied in a
developing world context to describe processes of sustainable agricultural
intensification that produce more output from the same area whilst reducing the
negative environmental impacts and increasing the flow of environmental services
(Pretty et al. 2011). The term has become a powerful instrument in discussions about
global food security (Garnett et al. 2013; Maye and Kirwan 2013). One might say it has
been appropriated from its original developing world contexts to articulate a techno-
science response to sustainability problems within agriculture. The general definition
is the same in terms of needing to produce more food from less land, resources, energy,
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water, etc. Most of the sustainable intensification literature in relation to global food
security then advocates using a mix of ‘eco-efficiency’ approaches that include things
like genetic modification, nanotechnology, genomics and computerisation(Foresight
2011). A further indication of the prominence of this term in food security policy is
reflected in the final report from the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and
Climate Change (Beddington et al. 2012), with Recommendation 3 of that report
entitled: ‘Sustainably intensify agricultural production while reducing greenhouse gas
emissions and other negative environmental impacts of agriculture’.
Such documents symbolise a techno-scientific approach to sustainable food security
and the global food crisis. Similar to the critiques of smart city technologies and big
data analytics which raise concerns about the politics of urban data and an overly
technocractic approach to governance and city development, critiques of sustainability
science within agri-food studies are emerging. Freidberg’s (2014) work on Life Cycle
Analysis (LCA) methodologies, which have been designed to measure environmental
performance, shows, for instance, how they have been turned into techno-political
instruments that the food industry can use to demonstrate certain environmental
performance credentials. Defining what counts as ‘sustainable food’ in terms of a
footprint can become highly political, technical and self-serving. This argument
extends too to ‘smart cities’, ‘sustainable intensification’ and ‘smart city food
governance’. The technopolitics critique calls, therefore, for methodologies and
governance mechanisms that democratise knowledge and reflect values and
perceptions in addition to scientific approaches and knowledge claims, reflecting, in
other words, the values of post-normal science(Funtowicz and Ravetz 1994), wherein
complexity, uncertainty, incomplete data and multiple stakeholder perspectives are
explicitly acknowledged.
Urban food systems: general trends and conditions
Smart technologies have much to offer city planners and food chain actors,
including how we grow food in cities to the efficient management of supply chains
that deliver food to cities. The purpose of this paper is not to discredit or disregard
such technologies. It aims instead to provide a broader view of innovation and smart
city governance that incorporates technology, but is not seen as the only solution, thus
building on the critiques of techno-politics summarised above and designed to reflect
urban agriculture practices on the ground.
To build this more democratised view of smart urban food governance it is useful to
first summarise what we know about urban food systems, as summarised in a recent
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review by Wiskerke (2015). In mid-2009 the world’s population became more urban
than rural. By 2050, projections suggest 66% of the world’s population will be living in
urban areas. There are significant differences in patterns of urbanisation between
regions. Asia and Africa is predominantly rural while Europe and America are more
urbanised. Urbanization through mega cities is widely talked about, but the majority of
population growth will occur in smaller cities and towns: both face several
development, governance and sustainability challenges. A major challenge in all cities
is resource use. The majority of resources used by a city come from and are produced
in places outside cities’ borders (Steel 2008), which is typically referred to as the ‘urban
ecological footprint’ (Rees and Wackernagel 1996). The urban ecological footprint,
expressed in terms of the annual demand for land and water per capita, has increased
as a consequence of urbanization. Cities also face other challenges, including growing
inequalities in wealth, health, access to resources, availability and affordability of
services, and environmental pollution (Wiskerke, 2015).
An urban challenge which has been ignored for some time in urban studies but is
now gaining attention in urban policies and planning is food provisioning. The reason
for this dichotomy is linked to urban and rural policy orientations, with food often
seen as linked to agriculture and thus belonging to rural policy, which has meant that
food provisioning has been linked to rural and regional policy, food security defined as
a production failure and food policy promoted as a non-urban strategy (Sonnino 2009).
Food’s significance in urban development and in improving quality of life has also
been ignored. As discussions around urban agriculture and urban food systems grow
there is now more and more urgency to what these terms mean in practice. As
Wiskerke (2015) explains, an urban food system refers to the different modes of urban
food provisioning, which refers to the different ways food that is eaten in cities is
produced, processed, distributed and retailed. We are referring then to foods that may
be produced using industrial processes and packaged many miles away from the city,
to food (e.g., cereal crops) grown in the countryside surrounding the city, to food
grown on an urban agriculture project within the city boundary. The food
provisioning system in a city is a hybrid food system. An urban food system is not just
shaped by the immediate conditions in the surrounding city-region; it is also shaped by
dynamics at a global distance (Steel, 2008).
There are in fact a number of external conditions currently shaping urban food
systems that have attracted much attention and are shaping food policy debate,
including the above mentioned discussions linked to food security and sustainable
intensification. Wiskerke (2015) usefully identified the following conditions, the key
elements of which are summarised below:
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Population growth, urbanisation and changing diets: alongside population growth
and urbanisation a changing diet, also described as the ‘nutrition transition’, is
occurring. This process relates to an increase in energy intake and a change in
the composition of diets. The growth and pressured applied by an urbanising
world population is particularly pressing here, although food scholars rightly
note the need to be cautious of the discourse describing a need to double food
production (Tomlinson 2013). We know too that 40% of the food produced is not
consumed due to harvest losses on the farm and post-harvest losses further up
the chain. Thus reducing harvest and post-harvest losses could be just as
important as increasing production yields. 33% of food purchased in the UK is
thrown away (Lang 2010).
Scarcity and depletion of resources: food provisioning activities (from production
to eating) need natural and human resources, including energy, nutrients, water,
land and labour. Key resources for food provisioning are depleting. Changes in
the use of resources to secure urban food provisioning is therefore essential,
including fossil fuels, water (water footprint of food products), and land. For
example, energy, water and land constraints have been identified by New York’s
City Council as potential threats to their food supply and they have developed a
strategy (FoodWorks) to address these issues, including encouraging the
development of urban agriculture.
Climate change: this condition will impact on urban food systems in terms of
impacting the productive capacity of agriculture around the world and, within
cities, in terms of urban heats islands. Urban agriculture is increasingly valued
for its role in climate change adaptation and mitigation (Dubbeling 2014)
through the creation and maintenance of green open spaces and increasing
vegetation cover in the city, thus helping to reduce urban heat islands by
providing shade and increasing evapotranspiration. These spaces can also help
to store excess rainfall and thereby reduce flood risks in cities. Urban agriculture
can also play a key role in the productive reuse of urban organic waste and
wastewater that can help to reduce energy use in fertilizer production and
organic waste collection and disposal, as well as lowering emissions from
wastewater treatment.
Public health: Of the 7 billion people in the world 2 billion suffer from diet-
related ill-health (obesity, malnutrition and hunger). Obesity rates in Europe
range from 10% to 38% of the population. Particularly alarming is the rapidly
rising prevalence of overweight children. Child malnutrition is a significant
problem in developing countries. In a number of cities diet-related ill-health is a
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key driver of change in urban systems. In Toronto, for instance, the formation of
the Toronto Food Policy Council is linked to the city’s Department of Health
(Blay-Palmer 2009). The London Food Strategy was also linked to a public health
Urban food systems, innovation theory and transformative capacity
The confluence of ‘intensifying circumstances’ (Hinrichs 2014) or conditions
described above has created a sense of urgency to re-examine the sustainability of
urban food systems. Wiskerke (2015) suggests that they create a significant challenge
to create, what he terms, ‘resilient urban food systems’. This raises the wider question
about what might ‘smart’ or ‘resilient’ urban food systems look like. A key response
here is that smart forms of food governance for more resilient urban food systems
cannot rely only on techno-scientific solutions, accounting also for cultural and social
practices. To answer this question more fully it is useful to explain how we define and
what we mean by ‘innovation’. This section of the paper addresses this question. Using
these ideas it will then introduce some principles for designing and developing ‘smart’,
or as preferred here, more resilient urban food systems, as described by Wiskerke
The innovation literature draws two useful distinctions. The first is a distinction
between technological and social innovations (Bock 2012):
Technological innovations include consumer goods like the iPhone or Dyson
hoover. Examples within farming could be a tractor or more controversial bio-
economic technologies such as Genetically Modified Organisms or some of the
other smart technology applications described above. In simple terms, these
examples are material, economic, technical, science and technology-orientated
Social innovations might be changes in consumer behaviour e.g. carrier bags use,
recycling behaviours, or innovations in consumption practices. We are talking
here then about changes in social practice in terms of attitude, behaviour, and/or
perceptions. It might also be a change in the way society is governed e.g.
enabling more civic involvement. We are referring then to innovations that lead
to, as Neumeier (2012) puts it, “[c]hanges of attitudes, behaviour or perceptions
of a group of people joined in a network of aligned interests that in relation to
the group’s horizon of experiences lead to new and improved ways of
collaborative action within the group and beyond” (ibid.: 55).
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Innovation is central to transition processes: it provides the means to ‘unlock’ old
styles of thinking and to develop resources and pathways to greater sustainability. The
second important distinction then is between incremental and radical innovations:
Incremental innovationsThese are also referred to as ‘first order’ innovations in
the literature. They are basically innovations (technological or social) that
maintain the status quo. In other words, they don’t challenge the rules about
how a system (e.g. the agri-food system) operates or how we behave as
Radical innovationsThese are also referred to as ‘second order’ innovations in
the literature. They refer to innovations that change the regime or system.
Things like organic agriculture in its early days were radical. Debates about
GMOs now are also radical.
Radical innovations (whether technological or social) are most likely to influence a
regime when it is under pressure. Sustainability transitions take place when the old
techno-economic principles are replaced by new ones. There are a number of studies
on urban sustainability transitions, concerning food, energy, transport, etc. We know
from this literature that transition to a new regime is highly contingent on a range of
different processes and multiple levels (Smith 2006; Wiskerke 2003). This has
important implications for smart city food governance agenda, because it implies a
need to consider technological and social innovations as ‘smart approaches’ to urban
food growing and provisioning, including too analysis of practices at multiple scales.
Recent work with urban agriculture projects in city regions as part of an EU project
called SUPURBFOOD, for example, has examined innovation practices at the project /
firm level. The study involved working in 7 city regions and firm-level cases included
short food chain cases, energy, waste and nutrient recycling cases, and multifunctional
land use cases. One of the key findings to emerge from this work was the need to
better understand social practices as they take place at a local level. Within the social
practice theory literature a ‘systems of practice’ perspective is developing (Watson
2012). One of the insights from Watson’s work on cycling, for example, is the idea that
transitions can gather momentum around relatively ‘soft changes’ (e.g. increasing
recruitment of cyclists) that become normalised and change how roads are designed,
for example. This work is starting to look at opportunities to change the practices of
associated systems (e.g. legislation governing the food regime). Through this sort of
social practice theory approach, context is also inserted back into the centre of
analysis. A recent study by Langendahl et al. (2014) examined a medium-sized
processing firm in the UK this work examined the sustainable innovation journey in
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a firm as a bundle of practices that are developed and redeveloped over time, which
can mean developing new practices, redeveloping existing practices and dropping
problematic practices. In the Supurbfood work, we have extended this approach,
arguing that to understand ‘transition processes’ one needs also identify ‘alignments of
interest’ and to examine transformative capacity.
Transformation then is another important concept to add into the discussion of
‘smart city food governance’, especially when those discussions are aligned, as they
need to be, with wider understandings of sustainability transition and an appreciation
of social and socio-technical practices that can influence change at local ways and in
soft ways that, although less obvious in some cases, may collectively amount to
significant change within the associated system. We need, in other words, to determine
what type and level of change is happening; this could be a change in practices within
a business, but it can extend to a change in government legislation, for example.
Transformative capacity is defined in the grassroots innovations literature as
‘intrinsic benefits’ (positive changes at the community level but doesn’t alter the wider
regime) and ‘diffusion benefits’ (ideological and seek to affect the regime) (Seyfang and
Smith 2007). A practice approach is now advocated in innovation theory because it
allows a more horizontal appreciation of transformation, including the gradual
influence of soft changes. In SUPURBFOOD, what we have started to focus on then is
examining practices, institutions and the environment in which something takes
places. This includes, for example, analysis of alignments of interest between food
entrepreneurs in a firm and policymakers in a city. Such alignments enable things to
happen. This was evidenced in some of the early food chain transition papers (e.g.
Wiskerke’s (2003) analysis of the Dutch wheat regime) but is only now gaining the full
attention and consideration it deserves. We can look then at how firms / projects have
developed interactions and influenced change across domains.
One might ask why this social practice approach is important in relation to smart
city food governance debates. The argument presented here is that it helps to better
reflect some of the important non-tangible, non-material social innovations that take
place through food and related food organisations and governance structures (which
are equally ‘smart’ I would argue). Smart city food governance needs to be framed in a
way that captures technological, social and socio-technological innovation at a range
of levels, including firm and household scales. A recent evaluation of the Local Food
(LF) programme in England involved the author and colleagues (Kirwan et al. 2013;
Kirwan et al. 2014) helps to further justify this perspective. Launched in 2007 as part of
the Big Lottery’s ‘Changing Spaces’ programme, the £60 million LF programme
distributed lottery grants to more than 500 food related projects, with the aim of
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helping to make locally grown food accessible and affordable to local communities. It
opened for applications in March 2008 and ran until March 2014. The overarching aim
was to make locally grown food accessible and affordable to local communities. The
evaluation findings showed that the majority of LF projects (including those with a
short chain element) were urban. 88 projects were funded in London, for example. In
our evaluation of the LF programme we assessed programme success in terms of
material outputs (volume of fresh food produced, for example). If such projects and
schemes are evaluated only in those standard ways they fail to do well. What the
evaluation showed very clearly was that in fact, most LF projects were not really about
food, and are probably best described as community projects with food as the pretext
and a vector for social agency and the development of community capacity.
Community projects like the ones described here form a crucial part of a city’s urban
food fabric. These examples of social grassroots social innovation could easily be
marginalised in ‘smart food city governance’ frameworks but they make important,
non-material contributions.
Resilient urban food systems
Given the above concerns around linking the ‘smart city’ concept to urban food
governance, particularly the tendency towards technocratic city development,
corporatized forms of governance and technological lock-ins which may not match
well or reflect the diversity of urban food practices and innovations, the preference
here is to talk more in terms of enabling ‘resilient urban food systems’, which can
include but not exclusively smart city innovations. In a recent contribution, Wiskerke
(2015) outlines a series of principles for designing more resilient urban food systems.
Adopt a city-region perspective: A city region perspective to urban food systems
argues that the city region is the most appropriate scale to develop and
implement an integrated and holistic approach to plan urban food systems. Each
city-region has specific features and constraints so this needs to be done to
reflect contextual specificities, with a variety of channels identified to enable a
city to procure food. New York’s food vision, FoodWorks, for example, is based
on a detailed analysis of the city’s food system. With the wider decentralisation
of policy responsibilities to local government this approach has value. Whether
the city-region scale is adopted explicitly or not, there is certainly evidence to
suggest cities around the world are starting to think strategically beyond the
confines of their city boundary. In Europe and North America, for example,
public health concerns and concerns about the ecological footprint of urban food
systems have been drivers for municipal and regional authorities to consider
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food now part of the urban agenda. Prompted by the food price spikes in
2007/2008 urban and peri-urban agriculture have been adopted in municipal and
a few national policies, particularly in developing countries where the focus is
on enhancing food security.
Connect flows: The idea here is to connect urban flows so that resources in waste
are recovered for flows that create value. The sanitary-environmental approach
to urban waste management has meant that flows have become disconnected
(pigs in cities feeding on organic waste, for e.g.). For food waste, The
Netherlands have an approach, called Moerman’s Ladder, that is useful and
starts with preventing food waste (e.g., use for human food food banks),
followed by a range of options for optimising residual food waste streams (use
as animal feed, transforming into fertiliser through composting). Circular
metabolism is a concept now featuring in debates about creating more
sustainable cities, which is all about cities shifting from a linear model to a
circular model of metabolism, whereby different outputs are recycled back into
the system so that they become inputs. There are different ways that this can be
done, including centralised high-tech systems, such as metropolitan food
clusters and agro-parks using ideas from industrial ecology, but also low-tech
systems, such as agro-ecological production that produce compost from
household waste, for example. Which system is used, or the combination of
systems and technologies, will depend on specific city-region characteristics.
Create synergies: this principle is all about spatial synergies (the flows principle
is about connecting resources in circular ways. The basic idea is to achieve
multiple benefits from the same place, with synergies created by using food as
the vector to link different urban policy objectives together. For instance,
developing multifunctional urban and peri-urban agroforestry and agriculture
spaces in city-regions can serve different purposes simultaneously. Rooftop
farming, for example, creates food but it also combats urban heat islands,
generates biodiversity in a city and can used for storm water containment.
Renting et al. (2013) have examples in their study, including synergies between
food provisioning, green urban infrastructure and biodiversity conservation in
Cape Town, South Africa. Clever redesign of systems of urban food provisioning
can therefore meet several policy domains at the same time (e.g., reduce food
and nutrition security, enhance environmental quality, create employment, and
improve community cohesion and health education).
Plan for resilient urban food systems: a number of cities are now developing food
strategies and policies in Europe and North America, for example, but also in
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developing countries and emerging market economies, with well-known
examples in Peru (Lima) and Bogota (Columbia), for example. Urban food
strategies differ enormously but the key is that cities develop and plan for food
system resilience. Developing comprehensive food strategies is not easy,
dependent on local factors, including the political and democratic system, but it
is possible, as seen in Toronto (Blay-Palmer, 2009). The key is to develop these
systems at a city region level, which does seem to be gaining traction with local
authorities, as evidence by the 2013 Bonn Declaration of Mayors at the 4th
Global Forum on Urban Resilience and Adaptation. As urban food strategies
span policy domains a key challenge is to organise administrative and political
responsibility for the strategy, which might be done by forming a municipal
department of food, giving the planning department responsibility for food or
setting up a food policy council (the latter, if funded properly, may be preferable
as it combines stakeholders from the public, private and civic sphere).
This paper has provided a critical perspective on what we mean by the term ‘smart
city’ and how that form of policy thinking, with its associated politics, strategies and
technologies, might be aligned with urban food agriculture and systems of
provisioning. In other words, what do we mean by the term ‘smart city food
governance’? To answer this question I have made two general arguments. First, I have
highlighted the dangers of ‘technopolitics’ and argued for an approach to urban food
chain sustainability that, informed by post-normal science (Funtowicz and Ravetz
1993) and reflexive governance (Stirling 2006), allows multiple realities and stakeholder
perceptions to be acknowledged and accounted for. This helps to overcome so-called
‘hypocognition’ (Lakoff 2004), whereby urban food system sustainability and resilience
is linked to one single issue (e.g. climate change, food security) or mode response
(techno-science solutions) that ignore other equally important issues and forms of
innovation (social innovations/capacities). In building this case I have argued that
‘smart cities’ is an emerging concept but techno-innovation driven and that we need to
recognise social and civic forms of innovation, in keeping with urban food system
traditions (epitomised by social practices, soft changes and associated systems,
transformation and alignments of interest). Building on from this argument my second
key argument is a preference to talk about the governance of resilient urban food
systems. This involves a city-region perspective as a useful planning principle to adopt.
This can help to overcome the silo nature of planning and achieve more multi-level
forms of urban food governance.
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Tools For Metropolitan Food Planning - A New View On The Food Security
Of Cities
Dirk Wascher, Alterra, Wageningen UR, Wageningen Campus, Droevendaalsesteeg 3,
6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Ingo Zasada, Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape research (ZALF), Institute of
Socio-Economics, Eberswalder Str. 84, 15374 Müncheberg, Germany.
Guido Sali, University of Milan, Department of Agricultural and Environmental
Sciences, Via Celoria 2, 20133 Milano, Italy.
1. Introduction
Given the simultaneous presence of several factors affecting the agricultural
potential of metropolitan regions, and considering the recent societal debate on food
autonomy in the context of food security and sustainability, the ‘reconnection’
between food demand and supply emerges at policy agendas at both the national and
international level. Tackling this phenomenon, FOODMETRES has put forward the
concept of Metropolitan Agro-Food Systems as the space where urbanisation processes
related to urban (food) consumption, recreational behaviour and preferences,
infrastructure and urbanisation meet within a distinct eco-functional and socio-
political context. Metropolitan regions must therefore, be considered as extremely
dynamic in terms of extension, land use changes and landscape character. In order to
frame, communicate and manage the impacts of urban food consumption on
metropolitan regions, we develop a string of successive, yet complementary footprint
assessment tools:
(1) the Metropolitan Economic Balance Assessment (MEBA), a measure for framing
aspects of food security and supply at the statistical meta level of urban metropoles;
(2) the regional Metropolitan Area Profiles and Scenario (MAPS) demand tool, for
producing scenarios at the level of administrative units;
(3) the European Metropolitan Foodscape Planner (MFP) supply tool, an interactive,
spatially dynamic approach at the land use level based on GIS-technology.
Used apart or in combination, this new generation of tools operates at both the
Europeans as well as the national-regional level, offering analytical, comparative and
communicative support to food planning. This paper explores the tools’ capacity to
contribute to informed food policy making at the examples of three metropolitan
regions, namely Berlin, London, Milan and Rotterdam.
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1.1. Assessment of Metropolitan Agri-food system
Within the debate of urban resilience and metabolism, reduction of ecological
footprint and self-sufficiency (Wackernagel et al. 2006; Grewal and Grewal 2012;
Barthel and Isendahl 2013), local food production, regionalized food systems and the
shortening of supply chains, have gained increasing importance (Goodman and
Goodman 2009; Sonnino 2009). Here manifold benefits, such as the reduction of urban
food insecurity (Opitz et al. 2015) and disruption to global food supply (Godfray et al.
2010), are coupled with greater resource efficiency (Mundler and Rumpus, 2012) and
competitiveness (Sage 2003; Nousiainen et al. 2009; Kneafsey et al. 2013). Benefits that
have in turn encouraged many metropolitan jurisdictions, e.g. London (Reynolds,
2009), Toronto (Blay-Palmer 2009) and Belo Horizonte (Rocha and Lessa 2009), to
develop food policies, which aim to foster local systems and reconnect cities with their
food sheds (Pothukuchi and Kaufman 1999; Jarosz 2008). Such as with other fields of
policymaking, food policies also require a sufficient informational and knowledge base
to carry out effective actions (De Smedt 2010). Consequently, questions regarding the
local and regional food production and consumption, economic viability and the food
chain organisation arise (Ilbery et al. 2005; Mok et al. 2014). Essentially an accounting
tool and not a forecasting tool, Ecological Footprint assessments rely on ex-post input
variables when measuring the spatial impacts of current food consumption (CEC 2008).
They do not contain feedback loops that would link today’s decisions with resource
consumption in the future, or today’s resource consumption to impacts occurring in
the future. At the same time, in reconnecting territorially food production and
consumption, the need for analysis tools has grown. Several studies focus on defined
areas and deepen the topic of the relations between demand and supply, in relation to
the capacity of the local system in providing required amounts of food, i.e. the
assessment of a simplified food balance expressing food self-sufficiency and reliance
(Timmons et al. 2008; Mok et al. 2014). A rich literature concerns this kind of
assessment in several contexts according to different, though interrelated, models of
analysis (Murdoch et al. 2000; Hinrichs 2003; Illbery et al. 2005; Qazi and Selfa 2005;
Barham et al. 2005; Porter et al. 2014). They refer to the assessment of potentialities or
the quantification of the current capacities of agro-food systems and can be grouped
into three main categories:
(1) Demand-based models: models that evaluate, based on population needs, the
theoretic supply in terms of quantities needed or land required (footprint);
(2) Supply-based models: models that, starting from the production capacity of the
territory, estimate how many people can be fed (potentialities);
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(3) Demand-supply models: in this case, based on the real consumption and the real
production of a region, rates of self-sufficiency are obtained.
Demand-based models analyses data and information about food consumption and
dietary patterns, in terms of either quantities or nutritional value, and quantify the
supply needed to potentially meet food demand (see for examples Gerbens-Leenes and
Nonhebel 2002; Billen et al. 2009; Desjardin et al. 2010; Zhen et al. 2010; Darrot et al.
2014). Supply-based models indicate the number of people that can be fed with current
or future food supply and provision. Realistically, being a city not able to provide
resources within its own boundaries, Porter et al. (2013) considered the necessity for a
city to depend on productions from remote landscapes. More recently, Cassidy et al.
(2013) re-thought the issue of agricultural productivity, shifting the focus from tonnes
per hectare to people fed per hectare, and demonstrated that calories produced by an
agriculture exclusively directed to human consumption would potentially increase by
70% and feed additional 4 billion people. Demand-supply models are based on the
comparison between actual/current food supply and actual/current demand, expressing
this relation either in quantitatively and in relative terms, through an index of self-
reliance, defined as the ratio between the amounts. Different studies operate by
developing self-sufficiency indexes themselves, as in the case of Ostry and Morrison
(2013). Other studies conduct comparisons between offered daily (or annual) servings
of food in relation to the total recommended dietary requirements per head of
population (Giombolini et al. 2011). As well as those between food requirements and
actual production of food grains (Mohanty et al. 2010) or combined food availability
data at household level, with country-specific land use data for food items, by
determining the required cropland associated with dietary patterns (de Ruiter et al.
1.2. Contribution by FOODMETRES Approach
Funded by the European Union and running over a period of three years, the
FOODMETRES (Food Planning and Innovation for Sustainable Metropolitan Regions)
has involved 18 academic and business partners who engaged in a variety of research,
tool and capacity-building exercises. The project incorporated an international
dimension as well as focussing on concrete cases at the regional level in and around
the cities of Rotterdam, Berlin, London, Milano, Ljubljana, Rotterdam and
Nairobi. FOODMETRES has developed a series of technical references and decision
support tools allowing stakeholders from agro-food business, governance and civil
society organisations to enter a knowledge-driven debate on how to optimize the
regional supply function of metropolitan areas around cities, by means of sustainable
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and innovative food chain planning and governance initiatives. The project’s novel
approach lies in the combination of two distinct yet closely interrelated strands of
metropolitan agro-food systems; namely the spatially explicit dimension of regionally
grown food in terms of ‘local footprint hectares’ necessary to feed the respective urban
populations on the one hand, and the concrete innovation potentials for short food
supply chains linking consumers with regional producers on the other (Wascher et al.
2015). The modelling approach addressed in the FOODMETRES project particularly
focusses on the spatiality of metropolitan agri-food systems (AFS). It elaborates the
question of area-wise relevance of food demand and food supply (Which relation is
there between demand and supply?). The Metropolitan Economic Balance Assessment
(MEBA) tool represents the starting point of a comprehensive cascade of
complementary models. The MEBA applies an economic approach to assess the food
demand-supply balance within a metropolitan region. Based on the calculation of
quantitative elements expressing the relation between food production and
consumption at staple food level, such an approach reveals the chances of getting them
closer and serves as a tool for the assessment of performances of regional agro-food
systems. The Metropolitan Area Profile and Scenario (MAPS) tool adopts a
straightforward data-driven approach of connecting regional food demand (local
hectares) with the regional area productivity. The tool’s objective is to assess the
spatial extent of the agricultural area required for food production (“How much area is
needed?”). Its main strengths are (1) the spatial representation (mapping approach), (2)
model differentiation of commodity types, (3) the ability to apply different food
production regimes (e.g. organic farming, food loss) and consumption patterns (e.g.
vegetarian, healthy diets) or population scenarios, and (4) the analysis of theoretical
self-sufficiency levels at different administrative levels. The Metropolitan Foodscape
Planner (MFP), in addition, addresses the question of the spatial distribution of the
various land use types, which are required for the production of specific crops (“Where
to produce”?). This tool offers:
(1) hands-on assessment allowing stakeholders to re-allocate commodities on a
digital maptable;
(2) quantification and geo-referencing of up to 10 commodity types at the scale of 1
(3) the analysis of self-sufficiency based on a regional concept consisting of four
metropolitan food zones;
(4) landscape-ecological allocation rules to base land use decisions on sustainable
(5) European data such as EFSA, LANMAP, HSMU and CORINE Land Cover to allow
future top-down tool applications for all metropolitan regions throughout the EU.
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The described modelling approaches differ not only in terms of methodologies, but
also regarding the input data (national/European), modelling rational (demand-
/supply-oriented) and the degree of stakeholder interaction (maptable interaction only
in case of MFP). However, the models apply a common spatial understanding of how
to minimize the distance between food production and consumption location (urban
core), resulting in an idealized circular representation of food zones, comparable to the
renowned model by Heinrich von Thünen (1826) about the spatial distribution of
agricultural commodities as a function of transportation cost to the central market. In
this paper, we will introduce three modelling approaches (MEBA, MAPS, MFP), which
have been developed in the FOODMETRES project and show their applicability in the
four case study regions. Our central research question is to what extent food security
of urban metropoles can rely on the surrounding metropolitan agricultural food
systems (AFS). In other words, we want to find out the degree to which, the
metropolitan Agro-Food System is able to feed the population of its urban core and
adjacent agglomeration. In the second part of the paper, we aim at approach the
question of regional self-sufficiency in food supply from a more practical side by
exploring the opportunities and requirements for a strengthened metropolitan AFS by
the implementation of innovative food chains. We shed light on the required setting of
political and economic framework conditions to encourage short food supply.
2. Methodology and Modelling Approach
2.1. Footprint basics: demand and supply
Food demand and supply are the two key dimensions of tools for metropolitan food
planning. Food demand results from the average feeding habits of the urban population
expressed in the dietary energy, protein and fat consumption per person. Typically,
such data is only available as the national average and not per city. Given the size and
biogeographic range of most European countries France covering North-Atlantic
influences, Alpine and the Mediterranean zone being probably the only exception
average figures can be considered as acceptable. Food habit surveys provide
information resulting from the combination between qualitative (What is consumed?)
and quantitative (How much is consumed?) aspects of food consumption. It
particularly varies according to geographical area and country, economic, social and
cultural aspects, population diets, available food items. FAO statistics (FAO, 2015) give
a first response to this issue, summarizing and making easily comparable daily
consumption for countries all over the world. Food supply can be referred to land use
and available agricultural area in a specific territory or in relation to the amount of
obtained raw products (quantities or productivity). This does not mean, however, that
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these productions still remain confined to only local regions, since large proportions of
our food products derive from the global market. This condition restricts the
possibility to limit food supply to the local sphere, as it is more precisely affected by all
the components of commercial balance, from productions and stocks, to imports and
2.2. Case Study Regions
For the purpose of illustrating the methodologies of the different metropolitan
footprint assessment tools, what follows shall focus on a subset of the project’s original
six case study regions; namely Berlin, London, Milano and Rotterdam. The
metropolitan areas of Nairobi have been left out here to reduce complexity when
developing the key messages and because both cities deviate in terms of biogeographic
location (Africa) and size (Ljubljana) from the others.
Table 1 illustrates the differences between the four selected CSA in terms of
population size for the urban core, as well as the wider metropolitan region, the area
size in square kilometres, the proportion of agricultural land in both square kilometres
and percentage. London is by far the largest city, followed by Berlin. Rotterdam City
Region and Milano are almost of equal population size, but differ substantially in term
of the metropolitan region’s territory and agricultural land.
Table 1: Population and agricultural area of the four case study regions
Case Study Regions
Core city
Administrative region Berlin &
London, South-
& East England Lombardy
City Region
Population core city 2015, in 1000
inhabitants 3,502 8,174. 1,242 1,209
Population region 2015, in 1000. inh.
Total area, in km²
Utilisable Agricultural Area (UAA),
in km² 14,576 26,566 4,892 1,685
Share UAA, in %
- 73 -
2.3. The Metropolitan Economic Balance Assessment (MEBA)
The MEBA model aims at assessing the potentialities for the reconnection of