Research project FoodForward

Food Forest

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Jolien Bracke

Jolien Bracke

Onderzoekster ILVO


General introduction

How can we provide food forest farmers and by extension the entire agriculture and horticulture sector with innovative tools to practice a resilient and sustainable earning model that enables the farmer to cope with all kinds of crises? This research question is being addressed in the FoodForward Operational Group. Food forest systems are currently a niche in Flanders and are innovative because they stand on a unique interface between agriculture and nature. By combining this sustainable form of agriculture (perennial plant combinations, minimal input and soil tillage, closed cycles, ...) with innovative cooperation models (short chain, digital marketplace, direct cooperation between links) the Operational Group aims for (greater) economic feasibility.

Research approach

Five work packages are proposed that attempt to address the various current needs. There will be (1) research into/facilitation of a digital marketplace, (2) a financial, logistical and labor-related cost-benefit analysis, (3) work on legislation and regulations, (4) the development of a practical roadmap for designing and building economically efficient food forest systems, and (5) finally, room for communication and knowledge sharing.


By working together with pioneers, we try to lift food forests beyond the niche and hype. We clarify the degree to which food forests can survive as a sustainable and resilient alternative business model. It has become clearer whether this type of model can exist next to conventional production, representing innovative foods for Flanders in combination with many other ecosystem services (experience, biodiversity, carbon storage, water retention, cooling ...).