FoodForward is a partnership between farmers and researchers. The focus is on food forests as an inspiring and innovative business model that can generate a wide range of ecosystem services within an agricultural context.

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), we want to inspire the entire agricultural sector. By working together with pioneers, we try to lift food forests beyond the niche and hype and make them known as a sustainable and resilient alternative business model that, besides food production of conventional and for Flanders innovative food, also offers numerous other ecosystem services (recreation, biodiversity, carbon storage, water retention, cooling ...).

Our network starts from a number of challenges and current needs. Specifically, we are planning (1) a market study into an interactive online platform where market opportunities, supply and demand can come together. We are taking into account the exchange of end products but also services, processing options, raw materials, planting material and knowledge; (2) an economic analysis, by quantifying and sharing insights in the field of logistics, labour, costs and benefits; (3) to further map and address bottlenecks and ambiguities in the field of legislation and regulations on food forests together with the actors involved; (4) to develop a practical manual/roadmap and provide professional guidance to practitioners in drawing up concrete plans for setting up and managing a food forest system (min. 3 during the project period); (5) to use the principles of food forests as a source of inspiration for diversification for a wider group of farmers, through farm visits and communication.

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