Why would anyone bother mapping a food web?


So as you (probably) know, we’re mapping food webs and food flows. In other words, we’re making the invisible information of “who’s got what, where, and trades it with who” visible.

Some people get it, some people ask us why.

From a business perspective this helps relocalise trade and shorten supply chains, leading to higher margins for local reinvestment.

But it gets REALLY fun and powerful when you look at it from a network perspective, because it’s in the connections between us all that the real difference can be made.

Because we’re mapping the the trade links between food businesses we can identify the best ways for them to cooperate to reduce their costs, and to collaborate to increase their opportunities. By analysing the network and its connections we can also determine the opportunities there are for new businesses to get involved in the places they’re needed most. We can even help identify those most catalytic ones which can accelerate the development of robust, resilient, viable local food systems.

So for example if you’re looking for barriers to market in organic dairy production, we drop them all a line and do a quick survey (we might as well ask them directly!), but then importantly we look at the successful areas, and compare with the less successful areas. We can learn, for example, that having a local dairy doesn’t help much, but having locally produced feed does (perhaps effecting the immune system, like local honey for a hayfever sufferer?); or perhaps being within 20 miles of a town so get the margin from more direct sales; or being part of a mid-sized coop… etc.

Pretty cool, huh?

It’s clear that our food system is going to change enormously in the next 20 years. Not only because it should, but because it quite simply has to. We don’t have the luxury of cheap imports any more, and nor do we have the necessary resources to maintain the status quo. So if we’re to effect change and invest our limited resources in the right place, with the goal of creating a resilient, sustainable food system which delivers public and environmental health, then clear information has to drive those decisions.

That’s why we do it.

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Author: Ed

Ed is the founder of Sustaination. He believes that a better world is possibly, desirable, and necessary, and gets rather frustrated by people who aren't prepared to give it a try.

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If we want to keep our world brilliant, we have to change how and what we eat.