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HelpFood 4.0 - Food Ecosystem Scalability

Assessing digital and cultural potential of Food Hubs towards sustainable local food systems



"HelpFood 4.0" project aims to study and test the importance of designing sustaining and managing landscape and social infrastructure to make food circular sustainability more shared and practicable. The shortening of the supply chain could be a solution to improve the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the food supply chain. To promote these changes, it is necessary to work with a multiscale and multilevel approach. The project aims to explore agroecological landscapes as places for social innovation, care and transformation in support of sustainable local food policies in RIS countries (Italy, Spain, Portugal).
The project explores the role of food as an element of reconnection between farmers, citizens and “eaters” (i.e. citizens more aware of sustainable food issues) through the promotion of Community-Supported Agriculture models as sustainable examples of production, distribution, and consumption of food as well as care and enhancement of the landscape.

HelpFood 4.0 Food Ecosystems Roadmap

One of the results of the project is HelpFood 4.0 Food Ecosystems Roadmap. The open-access book collects the results of the project by offering an operational manual for supporting the activation of new food hubs based on: responsible and site-specific understanding, literature review, data analysis, good practices knowledge, innovative interactive interventions, field visits, sustainability matrix pillars. This document is targeted for a wider public, including all the active actors in the local food sustainable ecosystems (producers, consumers, citizens, public officers, associations, companies).


The project is structured according to different incremental phases that embrace crosswise the different developing steps of the project idea and it is structured according to five work packages (WPs): WP1 Scale Up, WP2 Scale deep, WP3 Scale Through, WP4 Scale Out, WP5 Management & Communication.
To this end, the research project aims to:

  • enhance and redevelop landscapes through more sustainable and ecosystem-sensitive production;
  • explore possible models for co-design of local food networks among small-scale farmers and local distributors;
  • optimize the local food supply chain with new digital features and services;
  • increase public awareness and understanding of the benefits of local food systems;
  • improve the economic sustainability of local farmers and export the CSA model to other RIS countries;
  • measure and monitor welfare and progress using both quantitative and qualitative research methods and techniques;
  • engage government to make the distribution model more systemic.

WP1 Scale Up

WP1: Scale up - is dedicated to the design of social, technological, and economic innovation scenarios for the food hubs and their integration in the urban context. Particular attention will be dedicated to the design of specific approaches for logistics and supply and to the definition of the specification for a platform dedicated to the hub.

The project HelpFood 4.0 requires considering logistics aspects in the definition of the sustainable community of local food producers and eaters which is the framework of the entire project. Of major importance is the definition of the optimal location of the FoodHubs which are going to be settled and implemented, both in the case of urban spaces dedicated to physical interactions between producers and eaters, as well as technological lockers for automated purchase of the products of such aforementioned communities.

The aim of this task is the development of models able to suggest the best location (e.g., geographical locations) of such Food Hubs considering the multiple implications that this decision has on the logistic aspects of such a network. In particular, the model considers all three pillars of sustainability to identify the most suitable locations and configuration of FoodHubs which ensure the social, environmental and economic viability of this initiative.

A mockup of the Food Hub structure will be created and a suitable strategy for the integration of the dedicated sharing platform with existing initiatives. The development of a digital platform will help in managing the CSA orders, visualize the available products and their characteristics, learning about farmers’ activities and food production processes, creating a network and helping the communication between farmers and eaters, and fostering the relationship of mutual aid and control, which is at the basis of a CSA. We will also plan open innovation actions (eg. innovation contests) to engage a large number of people and investigate new innovation opportunities in a co-creation approach. The outputs of this WP include the actual plan for the implementation of the food up and an innovation strategy.

WP2: Scape deep

WP2: Scale deep - is dedicated to the creation and sharing of knowledge and awareness among current participants and prospective ones.

For this purpose, we will study the economic, social, and environmental impact of CSA, prepare a training and awareness plan, and collect needed materials. CSA will be analysed. through quantitative and qualitative data collection.

  • The economic impact will be studied through qualitative detection of direct CSA revenues and direct CSA costs in the form of living expenses. The selling of production surplus will also be kept in consideration.
  • CSA's social impact will be analysed through the collection of data on welfare, participation, and volunteering.
  • CSA's environmental impact will be detected by analysing its reliance on fossil fuels, agrochemicals and water resources. At least two engagement events will be organised during the year.

WP3: Scale through

WP3: Scale through - is dedicated to put the basis to make the Food Hub viable and sustainable after the end of the project.

We will individualize possible business scenarios, prepare capacity building materials for producers and eaters, engage principal stakeholders including private investors and policymakers, with the aim to foster a structural and systemic change supporting these new forms of collaborations.

In 2022 we will undertake a stakeholder engagement/mapping action connected to the local food hubs but also related to how the model farm system can contribute to the physical Food Hubs and how citizens can participate in the development. HelpFood 4.0 will create opportunities for growing vegetables on public land by studying the Swedish model farm system, building a network of food hubs that provide characteristics of neighbourhood pick up places for CSAs and other business models that directly connects producers and eaters and capacity building and collective knowledge production. Capacity Building methods can help in achieving these objectives. At least two capacity building actions/events connected to the local Food Hubs and the model farm system are foreseen. An analysis, through participatory methods on the process of transforming the model farm at Angereds Gård into the school organization will be carried out to share and explore replicability potentialities in the RIS partners' countries.

WP4: Scale out

WP4: Scale out - is dedicated to the preliminary studies for the replication of the CSA approach in other countries.

The main needs of target regions will be studied and the approach customized according to main peculiarities and expectations. UNITN will drive the replication activities of CSA in Italy and outline the activities to measure the social innovation and acceptance at citizens’ level of the model.

Local partners in Spain and Portugal will start a stakeholder identification and engagement process learning from the Trentino experience. With this aim, participatory workshops will be organized with both local producers and consumers in which their needs and expectations for the CSA can be gathered. These workshops will also be a tool to involve these actors in the implementation process of the next phase of the project, e.g. by collecting expressions of interest and contact details.

WP5: Management and comunication

WP5: Management and Communication - will be dedicated to project management, communication, dissemination and to the preparation of a sustainability plan for the project results.

We foresee 2 milestones for 2022:

  1. the definition of a dissemination and communication plan by April 30, 2022;
  2. the validation of the Food Hub design with main stakeholders on November 30, 2022.

In order to reach the foreseen impact, we expect to engage in 2022 up to 50 people in co-creation activities and 50 people involved in awareness-raising activities:

  • we will improve the CSA-based food ecosystem and start the set up of two more local ecosystems in Spain and Portugal;
  • we will design a new technology solution to improve supply chain efficiency and integrity and optimize logistics.


The University of Trento (UNITN) was founded in 1962. It has more than 16,000 students, and about 600 professors and researchers. UniTN is the Leader of the consortium, as well as the coordinator of WP5. The Activity Leader is Sara Favargiotti - Associate Professor of Landscape Design in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Mechanical Engineering. It coordinates WP5.

BIOAZUL (BIO)is an SME located in Malaga, Spain. It provides technical and business solutions in the environmental, energy engineering, and water fields. It acts as a catalyst, promoter, and facilitator of business and research relationships between Spanish companies and research centres, and their equivalents from across the world. It coordinates WP4.

Building Global Innovators (BGI) is an innovation global accelerator based in Lisbon (Portugal). It supports entrepreneurs and Innovators (startups / spin-outs under 5 years old), working on 4 market- verticals: (i) Medical Devices & Health IT, (ii) Smart cities & Industry 4.0 Solutions, (iii) Enterprise IT & Smart Data, (iii) Water Economy. It coordinates WP1.

City of Göteborg (GK) is represented here by Martin Berg - Planning Officer at the Property Management Department. This department works on farming-related issues in urban and peri-urban contexts, focusing on creating commercial opportunities for farmers in Gothenburg by developing models for land lease, educational projects, etc. It coordinates WP3.

Fondazione Hub Innovazione Trentino (HIT) is the instrumental body of the Autonomous Province of Trento, and an organization to research and distribute knowledge pursuant to European Union regulations. HIT promotes and enhances the scientific-technological research activities and results of its founders: University of Trento, Edmund Mach Foundation, Bruno Kessler Foundation and Trentino Sviluppo. It is a member of the consortium and a partner of EIT Food since 2020. HIT will support the whole consortium and will coordinate the activities of open innovation, in which other members are directly involved.

The Edmund Mach Foundation (FEM) is an agricultural institute founded in 1874. It carries out activities of research, education, and training, as well as provides technical assistance and services for companies. FEM will coordinate WP2. This WP covers the activities of scale deep, with the aim of empowering consumers and producers and increasing their engagement.

The Ruralia Institute - Università di Helsinki (RI) utilizes the competence of the entire University of Helsinki in applying research information. It employs 50 or so experts, engaging in international, national, and regional cooperation activities. RI examines sustainable development and the changing relationship between global and local issues from the perspective of rural areas.

Spindox Labs (SPXL) is the R&D department of Spindox Spa, focused on innovation projects related to Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Vision, the Internet of Things, and 3D modelling. SPXL will coordinate the sub-activities on ICT/new technologies for food production, distribution, and consumption, leveraging on already developed technological solutions applied to the smart retail sector. Those solutions could potentially be replicated and tested in Italy and Spain in collaboration with BIO.

Local communities

L'Ortazzo, Trentino (IT)

Orto San Marco - Setàp, Trentino (IT)

CSA Naturalmente in Trentino, Trentino (IT)

Edera - Emporio di Comunità, Trentino (IT)

Guadalhorce Ecologico, Malaga (ES)

Huerta Gaïa, Malaga (ES)

Merkaetico el cenacho, Andalusian consumer cooperative, Malaga (ES)

Farming incubator, Gothenburg (SE)

Model farm, Gothenburg (SE)

Neighborhood Pick-Up Places, Gothenburg (SE)


HelpFood 4.0 - Food Ecosystem Scalability

Video production Aringa Studio, 2022

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