Marieke Karssen from The Plant, Jeroen Kruit from WENR, Rob Janmaat from De Lynx, Wouter van Eck from Foodforest Ketelbroek and Frank Gorter from the Welna estate wrote a proposal for a Rural Development subsidy together. Their goal was to create a feasible and affordable research method to provide evidence regarding the benefits of food forests in the short terms, and not only in 10 years’ time. In November 2019, the request was granted with a contribution from the province of Gelderland and the E.U., and the work could start.
With the project “Measure your food forest yields”, we developed a uniform and accessible way to measure the most important yields of food forests. It tackles biodiversity, CO2-uptake, soil quality improvement en the harvest in the traditional and economical sense of the word, with nuts, fruits, herbs etc.
The chosen method for this tool is Citizen science. Everyone can easily carry out the test and thus many food forests can be part of the project. The results can be used as a basis for funding applications and can help food forest owners to compare with others, and learn from each other. The aim is for the scale at which, and the transparency with which, the data is shared, will accelerate the development of food forests. Today, the promises of better yields, increased biodiversity, better soil quality and more CO2-uptake are based on the experiences of a few food forests. In the future, thanks in part to this tool, there will be much more data to back such statements.
In the first quarter of 2020 we developed the methodology. This included the scientific design and the first version of the tool’s interface. We added some basic explanation and asked twenty food forest owners to carry out the citizen science tests and enter their results into the online tool. We put the testers to work in three rounds. They repeatedly gave us feedback and we could also check if they had done the tests correctly. This was followed by a validation process done by seven students from Wageningen University and Research(WUR). In each round, the interface became simpler and the research methods clearer and more straightforwarded without compromising quality.
The tool was launched on October 29, 2020.From this day onwards, everyone with a food forest can create a free profile and project, keep track of CO2 storage, biodiversity, soil life, and the economic status of their food forest while sharing the non personal data with the scientific community.
This is a big step. If we show the world that those little sprigs in seas of weeds already mean an enormous amount of biodiversity, an increase of the quality of the soil and a better storage of CO2, then together we will convince all people who are still hesitating to start to consider food forests as a serious option for development of both forestry and agriculture.
The project from “Measure your food forest harvest” consists of green network organisation The Plant, Communication office de Lynx, Wageningen University & Research, Foodforest Ketelbroek and the Welna estate.
Two years earlier, The Plant and the Welna estate also carried out another Rural Development project. The group working on it was composed slightly different, and the project was called Businesscases for you and the Welna estate. These business cases are also on the website for anyone to see and for everyone to download (in Dutch only).