The cooperating partners in the Belgian pilot are EROV, the Economic Council of East Flanders, Vives University College, Inagro, an organisation for agriculture research and advice in agriculture, and PCG, a vegetable lab and research centre. The pilot is located in Roeselare and Oudenaarde (60.000 and 30.000 inhabitants).
Step 1: Mapping urban demand and current rural supply potential
On supply side partners will first make an in-depth analysis of all food producers in a large circle around the two cities, thus involving a large number of producers in West and East Flanders and using the current regional food networks of our the partner organisations. On demand side we will collect data on catering demands of large companies, health care centres, hospitals, schools, local restaurants and shops. This means we will deliver facts and figures as to demand and supply. What can regional producers and processors offer, and what would large consumers demand, as to assortment, quality, price, frequency, volumes, shelf life and packaging. As a last action in this step, existing initiatives will be analysed. What are these initiatives about, and what can we learn about the chain itself, the distribution systems, cooperatives? What are the do’s, don’ts and limitations?
For this supply and demand mapping we will develop software. A tailored software program can store all data regarding demand and supply and define the gaps between demand and supply.
Step 2: Tailored Supply incl. Smart Specialisation Strategies (SSS)
The software tool will be used to define the gaps between supply and demand. Researchers and specialists are invited to develop strategies to overcome the gaps and set up a good working pilot by giving technical advice (e.g. crop rotation, storage and shelf life, logistics, marketing). Strategies will be discussed with all partners and target groups. Workshops and seminars will be organised in which local producers and demanders are educated about regional food procurement, but are also educated about special issues like storage, efficient logistics, shelf life, adapted meals, menues etc. Learning tools will be developed to support producers and pull them into the project.
Once the gaps are closed a business case for regional procurement will be set up. In this business case a cooperative process between regional SMEs and a food demanding organisations will be set up. A marketing plan will be integrated in the business case. This step will result in a tailored rural supply arrangement.
Step 3 Urban Intentions
This step is about creating a matrix with supply and demand. The general public will be educated by organising public events that can raise awareness of regional procurement. Policy makers will be addressed directly by several partners. The efforts will result in corporate and public policies accepted and decisions taken in support of a regional food network.
Step 4: Cooperation and market structure
This stage is about preparing a Regional Food Deal and a real life try-out pilot. The pilot will be organised following the business plan from step 2. For the test phase we will train a manager to control proper distribution and delivery. A digital platform and a web tool will be developed to register current supply and demand. An additional tool will calculate most effective route for distribution. The test phase will focus on one single product and one cluster of kitchens and deliver experience to gradual expansion. A communication and promotion plan will continuously raise awareness amongst suppliers and demanders.
Step 5: Try out contract delivery, evaluation and continuation
Step 4 will be evaluated and the cooperation will be adapted and improved in order to deliver an expanded pilot, which in step 5 should reach the financial break even point and give prove of sustainability.