General Levers for scaling organic and sustainable food systems


FOODLEVERS aims to identify levers to further develop and scale up innovative organic food systems. This should promote a more efficient use of resources, identify inefficiencies, uncover the motives in the decision-making processes that have led to the current configuration of food systems, identify configurations that 'work' and explore how to scale them up.

bunches of radishes at market

The transition to more sustainable food systems is a major societal challenge. The European FOODLEVERS, with ILVO as 1 of the 8 partners, uses systems thinking to investigate the potential leverage in food systems. This focuses on products, production technologies, marketing practices and actors. Instead of considering each link in a food system separately, FOODLEVERS takes into account their interdependencies. Changes in the behavior of actors in the different links, when brought together, can thus bring about systemic change. To build such a holistic vision of food systems, this project follows a multidisciplinary and multi-actor approach. In innovative case studies of organic and sustainable food systems, the different behaviors are followed up 'from cradle to grave', to identify potential levers for greater sustainability.

FOODLEVERS first searches for characteristic elements of food systems, innovative case studies across the EU and data needed for a common reference system. Then, food systems are characterized through their ecosystem services, life cycle assessment, socio-economic value and consumer behavior, to understand potential sources of change. These may be practices, technologies, products or other actor-level factors. The effectiveness of those sources is then studied in different models: actor decision-making scenarios, Agent-Based Modeling and qualitative scenario modeling.

From the analysis of innovative organic and sustainable food systems and from the simulations, good practices are identified to use resources more efficiently and reduce trade-offs between production/distribution phases. Based on this, levers are formulated to reconnect, restructure and rethink food systems.

ILVO, as Flemish partner in the project, receives financial support from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries within the ERA-nets SUSFOOD2-CORE ORGANIC Co-fund joint call. The project will run until 2023.


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