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Australia’s first sustainable food city powered by digital tech

Research from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) will help create Australia’s first ‘sustainable food city’ located south of Brisbane.

According to a recent report, there are plans to integrate a digitally-enabled community compost system and small-scale food production businesses in the new master-planned community.

The world is grappling with a major food challenge: how to make enough healthy food to feed a growing population, with less available land while minimising waste and environmental impact.

A Food and Agricultural Sociologist from the University is collaborating with industry to develop prototype systems for sustainable local food production at the new master-planned community at Yarrabilba.

It would become a national model for digitally integrated, sustainable urban agriculture and the ‘circular food economy’.

Additionally, it will be a test ground for how cutting-edge digital technologies can be embedded into the design of the cities in order to create local food systems fuelled by food waste.

About the project

The first stage will involve developing a prototype digital composting system that uses sensors to track when people add their kitchen food waste to the compost.

The community will be able to track their progress on a digital dashboard and earn credits to swap for local goods and services.

The second stage involves establishing a digitally-enabled produce garden , which is fed by the local compost system, and a local food market.

The research will be incorporated into the development plans at Yarrabilba, which will see the community grow to 45,000 people by 2041.

This will be the first circular economy community that integrates social, economic and environmental values to provide a dynamic and empowered community that fosters sharing, access, connection, diversity and control.

Environmental sustainability and community health

The aim is environmental sustainability and community health in a whole new way and building in the necessary infrastructure from the beginning.

Furthermore, this may generate economic opportunities, whether that’s through urban farming, creating value out of waste or food-based tourism.

The sociologist explained that the ‘circular economy’ was a new approach to dealing with the growing problem of food waste.

Compared to traditional economies wherein it is made, used and then disposed of; a circular economy allows waste to be put back into the system in order to create value.

In this case, food waste is being used to grow more food and create a valuable resource for the community.

The key aspect of this project is working with the residents to co-design their own sustainable food city.

Researchers from the University’s Institute for Future Environments are currently working on a range of projects related to the circular economy and how this can help reduce mounting global levels of food, plastic and textile waste.

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