Foodprint Melbourne

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Melbourne’s foodbowl is the city-fringe farmland which currently produces enough food to meet 40% of the city’s food needs. (Image courtesy University of Melbourne)

A 2016 report – Melbourne’s Foodprint: What does it take to feed a city? – authored by University of Melbourne staff members Jennifer Sheridan, Dr Rachel Carey and Dr Seona Candy found that it takes a lot of land, water and energy to feed a rapidly growing city like Melbourne, and a significant amount of food waste and GHG emissions are generated as a result. As supplies of the natural resources underpinning food production become more constrained, the city will need to explore new approaches to increase the sustainability and resilience of its food supply.  The 2016 report aimed to provide an evidence base to support this process.

The research’s principal findings point to the need for innovative solutions to continue feeding Melbourne’s residents and visitors:

• It takes over 475L of water per capita per day to feed Melbourne, around double the city’s household usage

• 16.3 million hectares of land is required to feed Melbourne each year, an area equivalent to 72% of the state of Victoria

• Feeding Melbourne generates over 907,537 tonnes of edible food waste, which represents a waste of 3.6 million hectares of land and 180 GL of water

• Around 4.1 million tonnes of GHG emissions are emitted in producing the city’s food, and a further 2.5 million tonnes from food waste

• Melbourne is likely to grow rapidly between now and 2050, and its foodprint will increase significantly as a result

• Melbourne’s city foodbowl could play an important role in increasing the resilience and sustainability of the city’s food supply

• The city foodbowl has significant capacity for production of fresh foods. It also has access to recycled water and organic waste streams, and could reduce the city’s dependence on distant sources of fresh foods

• Key vulnerabilities in Melbourne’s regional food supply include loss of agricultural land, water scarcity and the impacts of climate change

• Potential strategies to increase the sustainability and resilience of Melbourne’s regional food supply include increasing urban density, shifting to regenerative agriculture, increasing the use of recycled water for agriculture, reducing food waste and modifying our diets

• Multiple strategies are likely to be needed to increase the sustainability and resilience of Melbourne’s regional food supply

• Around 10% of the available recycled water from Melbourne’s water treatment plants would be enough to grow half of the vegetables that Melbourne eats

• Increasing urban density as Melbourne grows could reduce urban sprawl by about 50% over the next 20 years, saving 180,000 hectares of land in Melbourne’s foodbowl – an area equivalent to almost 5 times Victoria’s vegetable growing land.

About ‘Foodprint Melbourne’

Foodprint Melbourne is an interdisciplinary research project that investigates Melbourne’s foodbowl, what Melbourne eats, and how we can ensure we plan for a resilient and sustainable food future for the city.

There are a wide range of resources from the project available on the publications page of the project website, including an economic analysis of Melbourne’s foodbowl by Deloitte Access Economics and a short summary briefing of the project team’s most recent report.  To access the full version of the project team’s most recent report ‘Melbourne’s food future’ with policy recommendations click here

The project team recently released a set of classroom teaching resources (available on the website) that are being used by students in Victorian secondary schools to investigate Melbourne’s foodbowl. The project team is currently working with stakeholders to explore a vision and roadmap for a more resilient city foodbowl.

Email the Project Leader, Dr Rachel Carey, at

For more information on the Foodprint Melbourne Project click here.

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