Anybody who has witnessed the spectacle of a seven-tonne lorry reversing over a canal bridge in Amsterdam will applaud fresh innovation in the city’s delivery systems. These narrow 17th-century bridges and streets are no home for huge vehicles, which often look alarmingly close to toppling into the water as their stressed driver painstakingly inches along, attempting not to hit the cyclists overtaking on all sides.
Fortunately, a solution has materialised. An inventive alternative for the transportation of local food has taken shape in the form of Foodlogica. Rather than a grand attempt to reconcile the city’s needs with its ancient infrastructure, Foodlogica is a clever solution to a very real paradox: sustainable food is not sustainably transported. Founder and local food champion, Francesca Miazzo, has set out to rectify the faulty link in an otherwise ethical food system used by many Amsterdammers – a system in which the journey between conscious consumer and sustainable producer is made by gas guzzling vehicles that exacerbate pollution and congestion. As well as the obvious environmental ramifications, this kind of food transportation is a blot on the landscape of a city that is, in general, a joy to travel around in.
After extensive research, e-trikes were identified as a potential solution to this sustainability paradox. What are e-trikes you ask? Electronic tricycles of course! In keeping with the Dutch traditions of cycling and pragmatism, an off-the-grid, solar-powered, cargo e-trikes logistical delivery service has been born. Simply put, local produce arrives at Foodlogica’s transport hubs – solar-powered shipping containers – before being loaded onto e-trikes and pedalled to a client, whether a café, shop, restaurant or catering service. The system is designed to clean up, speed up and freshen up the last few miles of the local food system, and is reliant only on human and solar energy.
Foodlogica wants to be more than a delivery service, however. Underpinning its operations is the desire to bring together a like-minded community of businesses and individuals. Working relationships with clients are formed on the basis of a shared commitment to sustainability and high-quality produce. These clients are invited to advertise, for very reasonable rates, on the e-trikes as they make their way through the city centre. By cultivating and expanding this tribe of local food enthusiasts in a highly visual way, Foodlogica wants to become a symbol of transformational, guilt-free urban food consumption. They want their logo to function in a similar way to the Fairtrade emblem: consumers can see it and have confidence that a business is local and committed to sustainability.
Foodlogica’s principles are commendable, and the company also appears to have the sort of sharp focus that will ensure success and longevity. The people behind it want to get it right from the start. Before launching, they prototyped the project for three months to identify technical and logistical hitches (of which there were many), eventually revising and overhauling the structure with new trikes, cargo boxes and a bigger team. The system, now officially up and running, is efficient and expanding steadily. This long-term approach is reflective of founder Francesca Miazzo’s commitment. Far from a gimmick, or a cute green take on Amsterdam’s love for bikes, the Foodlogica system is based on Miazzo’s hefty expertise on the link between local food systems and urban development. With a Master’s degree in Metropolitan Studies, she co-founded the CITIES Foundation think tank, through which, in 2010, she began Farming the City – a project examining the impact of local food initiatives on our built environments, economic systems and community cohesion. Based on these credentials, Foodlogica’s chances of upsetting the status quo of food transportation look promising.
But is the potential success of this radical new approach confined to Amsterdam? The city is certainly progressive and engaged when it comes to food. It boasts an abundance of organic supermarkets, independent shops and diverse outdoor markets, giving the impression of a particularly receptive audience for the sort of message Foodlogica carries. Amsterdam is also bike crazy, with an established and safeguarded infrastructure for cycling that secures unparalleled levels of safety for its cyclists. Could a system like Foodlogica really work anywhere else – in London, for instance – where bike-related fatalities are increasingly familiar news?
The people at Foodlogica are convinced it can. They argue that while Amsterdammers are clued-up about how their food is produced, where it comes from and how healthy it is, they continue to overlook transportation. It remains the neglected link in the local food system of this city as much as any other. And while Amsterdam’s cycling culture is particularly receptive to a bike-based solution, the system has been researched and developed to work anywhere. The people at Foodlogica are thinking big: they want to see it in every major city across the world. Of course, this demands gradual infrastructural changes that are way beyond their control, but they are confident in what they perceive as a generational shift towards alternative urban lifestyles that are less reliant on cars, trucks and lorries.
For now, however, they are pedalling determinedly ahead in Amsterdam.
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