KOPOS: New Cooperation for Sustainable Land use and Food Supply in Urban-Rural Areas

The goal of KOPOS is to establish regional supply structures in order to increasingly reconnect urban and rural areas and to practice environmentally friendly management. In the project regions of Freiburg im Breisgau and Berlin-Brandenburg, KOPOS is investigating how cooperation between regional actors can help to build more regional supply structures and secure access to land for sustainable cultivation. KOPOS first analyzes the status quo of food supply in the regions. Current challenges and opportunities for action are then identified, and pilot projects and regional practical laboratories are set up to work together with actors in the region.



Regional food supply and value creation have long been an important component of urban-rural relations. Agricultural systems, however, have become increasingly global and value chains have grown longer. As a result, inhabitants of cities nowadays receive fewer and fewer food supplies from the surrounding rural areas. This has far-reaching implications for urban-rural relations.

Reconnecting urban and rural areas through regional supply structures has great potential for sustainability. It involves social aspects as well as the environment and food security. For example, regional supply can stimulate infrastructure and opportunities for participation in structurally weak surrounding areas. Having a regional supply also increases opportunities to help shape the food system socially. Furthermore, sustainable, regional agriculture can counteract the 'dying of the farms' and promote living cultural landscapes and open spaces with a high quality of recreation and life.

Reconnecting urban and rural areas through value creation poses challenges. These include a lack of economies of scale and increasing pressure on land prices, which makes it difficult for smaller farmers and lateral entrants to enter the market.

Goals of the project

KOPOS investigates through research and events how cooperation between regional actors can help to establish more regional supply structures. Such cooperation can, for instance, be used to pool resources such as means of production, services, land, capital and network structures, thus enabling regional food production and marketing. More about KOPOS events (German).

Expected results

The projects, cooperations and scientific findings initiated in KOPOS support urban and rural actors in the establishment and expansion of regional value chains and access to land for sustainable cultivation. The project also explores the role of (a) different actors and operating models, (b) interactions within network structures and (c) policy and governance mechanisms at the municipal or regional level. In addition, recommendations for action are provided for transfer to other regions, and sustainability indicators and strategies are developed to strengthen cooperation approaches for sustainable land use and regional food supply. More about KOPOS results (German).

Concrete pilot and model projects strengthen existing initiatives and entrepreneurial activities or initiate new ones and promote a balance of interests between urban and rural areas.

Model projects

The KOPOS project sets two focal points and explores these in project regions in Berlin-Brandenburg and Freiburg im Breisgau. Innovative and cooperative approaches to solutions for regional challenges are set to be trialed and tested for sustainability effects until fall 2024 on the basis of the model projects. Their approaches for a more sustainable food supply will be tested in practice and scientifically accompanied by the KOPOS team.

Accessing land through agriculture in Berlin-Brandenburg

In the model project of Berlin-Brandenburg the focus is on access to and the securing of land, which is becoming increasingly scarce and expensive in metropolitan areas, but is indispensable for regional food supply. The model project “Tiny Farms” aims to enable people to start an entrepreneurial business in agriculture and in the cultivation of vegetables by combining a network of small and fragmented plots of land into a virtual large farm.

The key to this business model lies with a workforce which the company trains and equips to become agriculturally entrepreneurial. "We are lowering the high entry barriers to farming, and in doing so, giving people the opportunity to try their hand at farming," says Tiny Farms co-founder Jacob Fels. "In this way, we demonstrate a concrete approach to counteract the acute shortage of personnel, which is especially prevalent in professional vegetable farming," Fels continues. The company thus explicitly addresses people from the urban environment who seek (part-time) employment in vegetable farming or who want to get a taste of the professional field.

The young company, which is very well networked in Berlin's alternative food scene, develops micro-areas, each smaller than one hectare, into micro-farms under its own management. The next step for the company, to be piloted as part of the model project, is spinning off to future farmers. "Within the framework of KOPOS, we can give this spin-off a concrete run-through with two young people who already went through our training program last year," says Tobias Leiber, another co-founder of Tiny Farms. The future farmers will receive intensive support from Tiny Farms and will be able to make use of the company's services (e.g. seedling delivery, marketing channels, cultivation planning), depending on their needs and qualifications.

Portrait of the Berlin-Brandenburg model project (pdf, German)

The KOPOS model project in Berlin-Brandenburg is coordinated by the Netzwerk Flächensicherung e. V. in cooperation with Berliner Stadtgüter GmbH and ZALF.

New pooling structures to strengthen regional value chains in Freiburg

In Freiburg im Breisgau and the surrounding region, the focus is on establishing and expanding short value chains. In order to shorten and regionalize value chains, cooperation between producers, processors, retailers and consumers is essential. The Freiburg team wants to pool and thus strengthen regional trade structures for small producers of regional (organic) products.

The KOPOS project partners in Freiburg are investigating the lack of short – i.e. regional – value chains for food. Although production and marketing structures for regional products do exist, they are not optimized for direct marketing, but rather for supplying large quantities and volumes that are dictated by wholesalers. By contrast, the potential of many rural producers is not fully tapped in Freiburg and its region.

The Freiburg model project participants aim to pool organically produced food by setting up the corresponding infrastructure at the wholesale market in Freiburg. "So far, the wholesale market pooled regional products from many small producers. There has not been a corresponding pooling structure for organic products on site," says Sabine Fey, the managing director of Großmarkt Freiburg GmbH. "With the KOPOS project, we can now test whether the wholesale market can open up new business areas and address new target groups as a result," says Fey.

This infrastructure also opens up new marketing options for businesses switching from conventional goods to organic goods, start-ups and B-stock. The wholesale market's clientele typically comprises small and medium-sized businesses involved in out-of-home catering and retail (such as smaller canteens, restaurants, weekly market traders, daycare centers), which can generate a great deal of leverage for the demand for regional organic food.

Portrait of the Freiburg model project (pdf, German)

The model project is flanked by the municipality of Rheinhausen, which wants to set up a distribution point for the organic products handled at the wholesale market, as well as the social enterprise "nearbuy", which will set up a digital goods and communication platform specifically for Freiburg and its region.Partners of the KOPOS model project in Freiburg im Breisgau are the research company Die AGRONAUTEN, the Ernährungsrat Freiburg und Region, the City of Freiburg (Environmental Protection Agency) and the Biomusterregion Freiburg.

Duration and project partners

The KOPOS project runs from February 2020 until January 2025 and is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

The project network is managed by the Leibniz-Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF). The network partners, as well as associated and cooperation partners, are shown below.