Almost there: On the importance of a comprehensive entrepreneurial ecosystem for developing sustainable urban food forest enterprises

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


Sustainable food forests offer multiple benefits to urban sustainability challenges. Research to date mostly describes structure and services of individual food forests but provides little evidence and guidance for implementation. This study analyzes and evaluates an ongoing, multiyear, transdisciplinary project developing a sustainable urban food forest enterprise in Phoenix, AZ, through a collaboration between researchers and a coalition of nonprofit organizations. Unlike other food forest projects run by nonprofit organizations, this food forest originated as a sustainable enterprise that would provide jobs and livelihood opportunities in an economically marginalized urban area while pursuing social and environmental goals such as providing healthy food and a cooler microclimate. Efforts to date have built a coalition of supporters, secured a suitable site, codeveloped a vision and an action plan, and fundraised a major start-up donation. We evaluate these outcomes against a suite of success factors derived from implementation of other food forests and explain challenges in realizing these factors through the lens of a comprehensive sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem. Data for the accompanying research was collected through direct and participant observations, review of project documents, informal conversations, a stakeholder survey, and research diary reflections. Research findings indicate that despite achieving all the success factors, at least to some extent, the underdeveloped sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem jeopardizes long-term success and multiplication efforts. These findings confirm the importance of a sufficiently developed entrepreneurial ecosystem for successful development of sustainable food enterprises. They offer guidance to food entrepreneurs, urban developers, and city officials on how to develop and support sustainable food forest enterprises.

ZeitschriftUrban Agriculture & Regional Food Systems
Anzahl der Seiten14
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 23.02.2022

Bibliographische Notiz

Funding Information:
This research was made possible within the graduate school “Processes of Sustainability Transformation,” which is a cooperation between Leuphana University of Lüneburg and the Robert Bosch Stiftung. Stefanie Albrecht gratefully acknowledges financial support from the Robert Bosch Stiftung (12.5.F082.0021.0). Arnim Wiek acknowledges financial support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (TRANSFORM: Accelerating Sustainability Entrepreneurship Experiments at the Local Scale, 50658-10029), as well as from the Belmont Forum and the Joint Programming Initiative Urban Europe (Globally and Locally-Sustainable Food-Water-Energy Innovation in Urban Living Labs (GLOCULL), 730254). We would like to thank our project partners from Spaces of Opportunity, especially John Wann-Ángeles, Amy Simpson, Darren Chapman, Bruce Babcock, and Sowan Thai for the fruitful collaboration over the past several years. We would like to thank the Sustainable Food Economy (former) lab members Dr. Nigel Forrest, Nicholas Shivka, and Hanna Layton for support in facilitating events and assisting with grant applications; Prof. Daoqin Tong, Jordan Smith, Kevin Carranza, Yueling Li, and Kelly Bitler for GIS support; Sadhbh Jouarez Bourke for facilitation support; Maud Dieminger and Kelly Baur for visual documentation of the project and the research; Jacq Davis and Pamela Mace for the field visit of their forest gardens; and V.H. Lassen Elementary School for hosting project events.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Urban Agriculture & Regional Food Systems published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Society of Agronomy and Crop Science Society of America.