Mon 16 Dec

Live Case 3: Focusing on Sustainable Food Synergies

The Ljubljana Urban Region Living Lab regional workshop took place on 10 October 2019 in Trzin and was organized like a talk club. Follow-up interviews on the same topics were conducted with interested individuals who had other commitments and could not attend the workshop in person. The workshop participants were mostly from the agricultural sector, including researchers. One of the largest Local Action Groups also participated and a young entrepreneur provided insights on entrepreneurship related to cultural heritage.

The regional workshop was organised to explore and discuss the nature and characteristics of cross-sectoral interactions between stakeholders within and across the the thematic fields prioritized in the Living Lab (sustainable food systems, new business models and labour markets, and public infrastructure and social services). The main topic of discussion was sustainable food systems, however other thematic fields were discussed as well in this context.

One of the main lessons learned from the workshop is that while public procurement of locally produced food in public institutions is strongly supported, it is marred by administrative burden and there is no evidence of its impact.

No analysis has been made yet of the supply chains, their effectiveness and their actual impact on local farming and rural development in general. The public procurement process is a repetitive administrative burden both for the the public institutions and farmers who weigh between undergoing small income losses and a tedious preparation process for the required documentation with high failure risk.

It was observed that increasingly the bidders are commercial entities who might succeed due to pooling the produce from large number of farmers or repackaging imported produce. As a result, it was agreed that mapping the supply chains in public procurement in schools will be the focus of further research of Ljubljana LL in ROBUST project.

Another lesson learned is that the supply of locally produced food is limited by technical difficulties and lack of skills. There is high appreciation for local produce in the region and consumers are willing to pay higher price at least for some products. The production costs are high because of the small size of farms and natural characteristics (Less Favoured Areas), but also due to weak business models and fragmented logistics.

Many farmers are content with their own network of small-scale buyers as they fear the demand oscillations and cannot handle the risk management of bolder initiatives. These would require improved capacity for handling and storing the produce, improved and enlarged storage capacities, more attention to standardization, and improved logistics.

Nevertheless, ambitious farmers and farmers’ associations are spearheading initiatives to establish joint storage capacities and joint produce marketing, which would simplify purchasing and logistics.

Local identity is strong and it appears that often the municipalities and/or LAGs provide the initiative and infrastructure for some traditional or locally specific activities that can then develop into new business initiatives. Although small-scale, they can create jobs based on individual entrepreneurship and can increase motivation and awareness of the opportunities. The example of the Straw Hat Museum in Domžale and newly established boutique production of straw hats is an example of local craftsmanship as cultural heritage that evolved into niche business marketed through social media, tourist information and participation at various events.

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Thu 23 May

Live Case 2: Short Food Supply Chain Speed Dating

The Living Lab of Ljubljana Urban Region is focusing on establishing a functional collaborative partnership/platform to co-design and operate short food supply chains in Ljubljana’s rural-urban relations.

We would like to identify the success factors that enable shortening the food supply chain. In the context of the characteristics and trends in the region, factors such as purchasing power, consumers’ needs, supply capacity of local producers, impact of local chains on the environment, social inclusion and internationalisations are just some of the ones to be considered.

The Living Lab performed a mapping exercise in order to identify various stakeholders, particularly the key “players” in the food supply chains in the region. These included producers focused on the local market, local producers’ initiatives/groups, LAGs, public institutions, restaurants, specialized shops and similar. The mapping built on the work of Municipality of Ljubljana on public procurement of locally produced food and expanded it to the whole region and beyond just public procurement.

As a result, a database was set up, which will be expanded throughout the project when also new tools for data collection will be used. The role and interest of the stakeholders were identified and this will be followed by focus groups and interviews with a range of types of the stakeholders. Such approach will enable us to verify the findings and create an internal partnership among stakeholders.

The interest and potential for participating in public food procurement was noted and factors that influence this will be researched in the following stages, including the legal requirements for procurement procedures that might inhibit publicly procuring local food. Past work is already yielding some results.

On 21 May 2019, the third marketplace meeting will be organized. It is an event for pairing local food producers and consumers together that is a mixture of a stock exchange and quick pairing meetings (business “speed dating”). The previous two events took place in 2018 and attracted a number of producers and mainly public institutions. The event is organized in cooperation with the Municipality of Ljubljana, Tourist Office Ljubljana, Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry and EKOmeter. The interest and number of participants is growing and we plan to attract more businesses, too.

Photo by Urša Peršič , RRA LUR

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Fri 18 Jan

Live Case 1: Shortening the Food Supply Chain in the Ljubljana URA

Living Lab Ljubljana urban region partners have a history of collaboration. Public institutions, restaurants and smaller food producers have been trying to meet their interests and to collect data on food demand in public institutions and on food supply in the region for past two years. This cooperation started in the capital city of Ljubljana, but the intention of the Living Lab is to widen this cooperation throughout the whole region of half a million inhabitants.

Research and other preparatory work in the Living Lab will be therefore focused on collecting additional data on the food demand and potential supply over the territory of the whole region. In parallel we will run co-design processes to build internal partnerships among stakeholders. With their help, we will look into legal requirements on procurement procedures concerning the local food supply chains with the goal to increase the use of locally-produced food in public institutions. In order to show differences between the traditional approach to food purchase in public institutions and the localized one, we will evaluate the impact to the economy, environment and social inclusion.

Several activities have already been implemented in the region within the context of the ROBUST project. As an experiment, we started to organise events for pairing local food producers and consumers (mainly public institutions). Two of these events took place in 2018, in the spring and in the autumn. The participants welcomed the idea of pairing and have expressed enthusiasm over doing it regularly.

Photo credit: Aleš Rosa

As the research and cooperation in this field is rather new in Slovenia and there are no examples of larger scale (regional or national) to local food chains, the Living Lab will also engage other stakeholders - from the national and regional policy level to the municipalities - to help identify potential partners in the process.

To close the information gap we are facing about short food supply chains, the Living Lab will test different methods of data collection and sharing using are variety of participatory methods (e.g., participatory GIS mapping, co-design of processes and products, co-design school diet). This will help build the community around the local food chain and improve the value for all participants.

Challenges to a Regional Approach

This process makes the Living Lab process experimental and a catalyst for the future food chains in the region, but the (lack of a) regional governance structure may be one of the obstacles in the process. The regions in Slovenia have no governance structures at this scale and a lot of work will need to be invested in cooperation with municipalities and stakeholders to gain project and policy support. The goal of the Living Lab is to adopt the idea of supporting short food supply chains by all the partners in the Ljubljana urban region.

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News about Rural-Urban Europe and the ROBUST project is published regularly in the INFORMED CITIES newsletter.

ROBUST is a European research project involving 24 partners from 11 countries. ROBUST receives funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 727988.

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