Main research question
The main objective of the FoodForward operational group is to investigate and promote the economic feasibility of food forests as an alternative business model. The research question is "how can we provide food forest farmers, and by extension the entire agricultural and horticultural sector, with innovative tools to put into practice a resilient and sustainable business model that enables the farmer to cope with all kinds of crises?".
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.
Food forest systems are currently a niche in Flanders and are innovative because they stand at a unique crossroads between agriculture and nature. By combining this sustainable form of agriculture (perennial plant combinations, minimal input and soil tillage, closed nutrient cycles, etc.) with an innovative economic form (short chain, digital market place, direct cooperation), the Operational Group hopes to inspire other farmers. By working together with pioneers, we try to lift food forests beyond the niche and hype. We clarify the detree to which food forests can survive as a sustainable and resilient alternative business model. It will 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 ...).