What is the problem to be solved?
Changes in rural economy
The agro-food industry in peri-urban and rural areas is changing rapidly. Corporate agricultural businesses thrive while small and middle sized agricultural companies vanish. These changes do not only concern farmers. In their decline all food chain related SMEs will be affected severely as food chains industrialise and globalise. Smaller businesses in the food chain look for new roads in the tension between the demands of global food chains and the local requirements concerning nature and the environment.
From global to local
In the NSR, SMEs in the food sector have strong potential to be successful on globalising markets. However, the EU Joint Research Centre concludes that there is evidence that shortening supply chains leads to increased local sales, employment and multiplier effects as well as being an important component of regional tourism product. Also Horizon 2020 in its work programme 2017 argues that modernisation of rural economies depends on the capacity of rural businesses to cooperate successfully within the region. Main challenge is to form efficient value chains which will deliver competitive products and services, high-quality and diversified jobs as well as resilience to global economic and climate changes. Increased interest in regional economy, resource-efficient and low carbon value chains generates opportunities to rethink and improve value chain organisation for economic, environmental and social benefits. The diversification of economic activity and improvement of the quality of life in rural areas is a mission shared by the European Union’s rural development policy and its Cohesion Policy.
Short supply chains
In the last couple of years, among consumers interest in the concept of local food systems has begun to grow. There has been an explosion of interest in small-scale food systems throughout the global north. The concept of local is expected to contribute to building liveable communities, strengthen the local economy, improve access to food, and improve consumer health. Such local food systems are referred to as Short Supply Chains (SSCs). They are one example of regional value
chains, and mushrooming across Europe (f.i. farm shops, farmers’ markets, farm based hospitality, roadside sales, pick-your-own schemes). Traditionally, SSCs connect local food supply and demand, have no intermediary agents and supplies can be traced to every link in the chain. Most SSCs use ‘local’ as an attractive branding element for customers to identify themselves with in support of regional products and qualities.
What is our approach?
Scale up to the regional level & forge into cooperative partnerships
However, real business opportunities in SSCs can only be yielded if handled professionally and on a proper scale. Current SSCs run short in a vicious circle of small market volumes for local food products, marginal business cases for food related companies, low investment and innovation levels and consequently no incentives to develop to mature regional food markets. In order to move out of this deadlock, short supply chains should increase to higher volumes, which can be found by upscaling from local to regional markets.
This presents challenges on five interconnected strands:
- Data: Most regions have limited market relevant data available and if any, not always specific and ready to use by SMEs.
- Economic/business: New market opportunities and smart specialisation strategies should be translated in sound business models including chain management, joint investments and cooperation.
- Organisational/operational: In order to aggregate to proper market volumes, demand and supply should seek new forms of partnership based on common benefits and shared values.
- Political: Public authorities and corporate organisations should play an active role in support of SSCs by changing procurement policies and adopting food policies providing better market potential for SMEs in the region.
- Skills: SMEs and other stakeholders in SSCs need specific skills to identify regional opportunities and develop and implement sound cooperative business arrangements.
What is innovative about REFRAME?
Many projects already have been realised on the subject of short supply chains. Almost all of them cover only small market volumes and a poor range of products. Therefore they cannot provide a solid business basis for entrepreneurs to earn their living and must be managed on a voluntary basis. Analysis of these projects shows the need a critical improvements:
1. Reach a critical mass to access and serve the market;
2. Stimulate regional networks and partnerships (connecting all members within the food chain);
3. Support entrepreneurs in developing new skills in production, processing, marketing, promoting and cooperating.;
4. Broaden the range of products.
A roadmap of 5 steps
REFRAME takes up these challenges.
- In a living lab (WP 3) of regional pilots, it will demonstrate the regional cooperative food frame, hereafter indicated as RFF. RFF will be proved to be an effective set of measures to accommodate food demands and supplies on a regional scale. It will provide a support infrastructure for food related SMEs to develop and implement smart specialisation strategies. All based on new data that reveal the regions’ own strengths and resources to match food demand by chained supplies from the region.
- A transnational learning lab (WP 4) will be set up in support of skill development and training of all stakeholders. REFRAME pools the know-how needed to set up these regional frames in a transnational network of experts, each closely linked and footed in its pilot region.
A set of comprehensive measures and outputs
Our main objective is to demonstrate the Regional Food Frame as a comprehensive set of measures to effectively support the sustainable and long term innovation potential for food related SMEs in rural areas in the NSR. These measures are linked to the specific objectives in our project:
1. Facts & figures: provide insight and knowledge on current volumes of regional food supply and urban demand and the mis(matches) between both → the Regional Food Map;
2. Business innovation: deliver strategies for supporting regional food related SMEs in finding smart specialisa-tions within the regional food chain → the Smart Specialisation Strategies, and the cooperative Regional Supply Proposition;
3. Policy: realise existing and set op new urban food policies and intentions to cooperate on regional level → the Urban Intentions to accept the regional proposition;
4. Regional organisation: set up a formalised cooperation structure and reliable agreements between regional suppliers and large scale consumers → the Regional Cooperative Agreement, the Regional Food Agency and the Regional Food Deal;
5. Skills: provide a durable transnational training and learning network online as well in educational curricula → the Regional Expo Centre, the Educational Modules and the RFF Resource Centre.
A complementary partnership
Within the food chain each of the REFRAME partners has its specific expertise to offer:
- NL – Data mapping & regional cooperative arrangements
- DK – Regional branding & waste management
- DE –Smart food processing, awareness raising & communication
- SE – Urban food policies and regional sourcing
- BE – Smart and sustainable strategies (a.o. logistic planning, packaging)
In addition, every partner has experience in one or more elements and aspects of an RFF. By pooling this knowhow, every partner will arrive at the required position to launch its Regional Food Deal. We have visualised this in a table, which also illustrates the key aspects currently not available in the entire partnership and thus will be developed