AMS Evidence-based Food System Design

Mapping the metropolitan food system

The food sector faces growing challenges. Urbanisation, land degradation and climate change all require a rethink of how the MRA meets its food demand. However, there is little insight into the current situation, or vision on the region’s food future. The EFSD project aims to fills these gaps. Through smart use of data,  we create an accurate up-to-date picture of (potential for) food production, the food footprint, food supply chain actors and food logistics flows in the MRA. Through scenarios and designs, we engage stakeholders in exploring what a sustainable metropolitan food system might look like.

Big challenges for the MRA food sector

The food sector is faced with a number of growing challenges: logistical issues, pressure on space and mobility infrastructure and challenges around sustaining industry in highly urbanised areas. These issues are ever more acute in the face of growing resident and visitor numbers in Amsterdam and its surrounds, the steep increase in on-line shopping and growing demand for convenience food. Moreover, the food system places enormous burdens on local and global ecosystems, and is a major contributor to climate change.

Major opportunities for the food sector, but insight is missing

At the same time, the food system also offers major opportunities for economic growth, transition to a circular economy, increased health and wellbeing and attractiveness of the region. But insights on which to base interventions in the food system are largely lacking, as are visions on what the region’s future food system might look like: What will the MRA eat in 20 years’ time? How will this food be produced, supplied, consumed and disposed of?

Creating an evidence base on which to shape the future food system

The Evidence-Based Food System Design project addresses these gaps. The overall goal is to support policymakers and entrepreneurs in their efforts to shape a future sustainable metropolitan food system. On the one hand, we do this by building an evidence base for their decision-making. On the other hand, we offer inspiring glimpses of what such a food system could look like. The goal is broken down into three concrete objectives:

  1. To establish baseline data on the urban flows relevant for the MRA food system and the spatial characteristics underpinning these flows (i.e. availability of production space, location of food actors, infrastructure, flows)
  2. To develop appropriate methodologies and tools for monitoring the food system. Besides delivering an interactive on-line map of food actors, we test methodologies for mapping food flows between these actors, in three case studies:
    1. Zaanstad: mapping flows to and from food industry along the Zaan river
    2. Almere: tracking flows of agricultural produce and their link to retail in the city
    3. Amsterdam: building a data model to predict food deliveries to food service enterprises in the city
  3. To develop scenarios and design solutions for meeting current and future challenges in the MRA food system. ‘Smart food district’ designs illustrate the possibilities in specific locations. In the process, we bring together stakeholders and foster a shared vision on the region’s food future
  4. To build partnerships between stakeholders from different sectors, including logistics companies, policymakers, food enterprises, developers and others, as a springboard for future research and interventions towards a sustainable MRA food system

  • Project duration: July 2017 to June 2018


  • Partners: Research consortium: Wageningen Environmental Research (WEnR), Hogeschool van Amsterdam (HvA), Aeres Hogeschool. Other partners and funders: AMS, Flevocampus, Gemeente Zaanstad, Gemeente Almere, Vervoerregio Amsterdam, Food Center Amsterdam, Port of Amsterdam, S.A.D.C. , Ministry of Economic Affairs, SiA



  • Contact person(s):
    • Evidence-base: food actors, flows and logistics: Melika Levelt, project leader sustainable urban food systems HvA, T +31 6 21156213,