The Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research

Bristol Food Network and the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) share mutual interests and goals around increasing urban agriculture and protecting high-quality growing land.  

NIBIO’s Urban Farms project aimed to increase knowledge and awareness of urban agriculture business models among a larger number of farmers, enabling them to increase added value and income, as well as productivity; and to protect valuable farmland by operating in a sustainable manner.  

Bristol Food Network was asked to support the Urban Farms project by sharing the experiences and learnings within the city-region’s urban agriculture sector with NIBIO and its participating farmers.  

In Summer 2022, Bristol Food Network hosted a visit from the Norwegian delegation to the city and surrounding area.

In March 2023, Bristol Food Network and Elm Tree Care Farm – a small urban farm in Bristol – participated in a webinar with colleagues in Norway to share information on different business models used by urban and peri-urban food producers and to discuss the pros and cons of each. This proved insightful and provoked valuable discussed around how to overcome barriers to increasing sales. 

Colleagues from the University of Gloucestershire have also been closely involved throughout the project, working with the Norwegian academics and producing a report ‘Selling local food in the city –  A comparative study of short food supply chains Oslo and Bristol’ 

In June 2023, Bristol Food Network, along with Bristol Food Producers (who support local growers with access to land, skills and routes to market) attended an end of project conference for Urban Farms in Oslo. A jam-packed 48 hours were spent together, sharing thoughts and learnings on how to develop effective urban agriculture strategies (which Norwegian cities such as Oslo and Bergen already have and which Bristol is currently developing); mapping and evaluating land; assessing soil quality and developing effective and profitable business models, which produce environmental, social and economic benefits.

The conference included several inspiring field trips, firstly to the rooftop community garden at the Okern Portal office building in Oslo – a community growing space and garden, open to anyone, used by local residents and schools to produce their own food.

An evening tour took in the Linderud community garden – in the suburbs of Oslo – where young people, particularly those from nearby migrant communities, can learn to grow and cook commercially and where incubator growing spaces are offered. The value of the space, particularly for Oslo’s refugee communities was clear, as well as the environmental and local economic benefits.

Finally, a trip 1.5 hours north of Oslo took delegates to a seventh-generation farm where sheep and goats are sustainably farmed. Cheeses and cured meat produced here are sold to Oslo’s top restaurants and the farm is building its own abattoir and visitor centre to help it expand and diversify its income.

Bristol’s conference participants came away feel truly inspired and hoping to continue collaboration with colleagues in Norway on optimising urban agriculture and its benefits.