Material Flow Analysis (Part 1)

Studying urban food systems : material flows in the industrial symbiosis systems at “The Plant”

This summer, Eva Chancé (France – Food engineering) and Julia Noberto (Brazil – Urban engineering) are conducting a one of a kind study as a part of their internship with Plant Chicago to study material flows in The Plant. The project is financed by the French “P-G&City” program, which is itself part of another broader meta-program called “GloFoodS”.

The GloFoodS program is led by two French institutes : INRA (national institute of agricultural research) and CIRAD (agricultural research and international cooperation organization working for the sustainable development of tropical and Mediterranean regions). The aim is to create methodologies for analyzing systems (such as cities, districts, and supply chains), with a focus on the challenges raised by the development of mega-cities and their potential solutions, such as urban industrial ecosystems, citizen’s initiatives, and smart and sustainable cities. The priority is to review innovative systems in a quantitative way and draw attention to them.

The P-G&City project focuses on research around food biomass use and diminution of loss and waste in urban systems, to move toward a “zero waste, zero losses” component of a circular economy.  P-G&City project uses a territorial metabolism approach and gathers material flows with the UM-MFA methodology (Urban MetabolismMaterial Flow Analysis). Along with Chicago, there are also four others branches studying food wastes along specifics supply chain in: Senegal (peri-urban farming), Madagascar (aquaculture), Vietnam (city restaurants) and France (school cafeterias).

For the Chicago project, IRNA is partnering with UIC and Plant Chicago to get a closer look at the material flows currently developing on The Plant, an example of  single-site industrial symbiosis. First, Eva and Julia are conducting interviews with every business in The Plant to gather their material flows for spring of 2016, while simultaneously working on finding a way to present the data and creating a methodology reusable by other similar structures. They are also going to study food wastes flows on a specific food item with one of The Plant businesses and dig even more in the details of circular economy and food chains.

Check back in a few months for more details of their results!

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