Five years of collaboration: reflecting on the EdiCitNet project


RMIT has helped develop a global network of cities focused on promoting edible green infrastructure and sustainable urban food production, distribution and use.

The Edible Cities Network was established with financial support from the European Commission to make cities around the world better places to live through the integration of edible nature-based solutions in urban development and planning.

Working alongside the project’s 30+ research and industry partners in 11 cities, RMIT University and its innovation hub in Barcelona, RMIT Europe, played an important role providing research expertise, technical support and project management services.

Research fellow Nevelina Pachova joined RMIT Europe when the Network began and has been there through all the twists and turns.

Pachova said lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic made collaborations within and across cities a challenging task but also brought about an increased interest in urban agriculture, locally produced food and access to green spaces.

“During the pandemic, more people in the community got interested in getting their hands dirty and engaging,” she said.

“Municipalities also began to recognise the importance of access to green spaces and local fresh food.

“But global lockdowns also meant we had to develop innovative ways to collaborate both within and across cities.”

news-edicitnet-thumbnail-1220pxNevelina Pachova (right) visiting a Living Lab in Rotterdam.

Pachova’s main role in the project was to provide guidance on the establishment of teams of citizens in different cities to co-create edible solutions and to support their work by facilitating exchange.

The teams, which included representatives from different organisations and fields, worked to embed edible city solutions in their cities through living labs and participatory planning.

Edible city solutions are all forms of sustainable urban food production, distribution and use. Examples include neighbourhood gardens to urban beekeeping and sheep farming, green facades or high-tech indoor farming, cooking and dining events and the use of locally grown urban food in restaurants.

Nevelina and her RMIT colleagues supported the city teams through exchanges and learning, regularly meeting with them and tracking their progress.

“It was about finding happy mediums between the desires, needs and possibilities for change through collaboration among public policy, planning and community groups,” said Pachova.

“The city teams involved people who otherwise wouldn’t have engaged with each other.”

This helped to create possibilities for learning, enhanced understanding among unlikely partners and opened new pathways for change.

“Facilitating exchange among the participating cities and beyond was an important part of the learning process,” Pachova said.

news-edicitnetawards-1220pxEdible Cities Network Award winners with Nevelina Pachova.

In March 2023 RMIT Europe co-organised the Network’s second annual conference, Advancing the Edible City, with the Solidarity Foundation of the University of Barcelona and Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.

The conference explored the ideas, practices and systems necessary to support the sustainable, resilient and socially just development of food systems in and through cities.

Among the 120 attendees were leading researchers, policymakers and city administrators, green city activists and entrepreneurs, all keen to engage and learn from a program combining keynote talks, round-table discussions and field trips to urban food projects in Barcelona.

It was at the conference where innovative and impactful urban agriculture projects were recognised, with the Edible Cities Network Awards, also co-organised by RMIT.

“The conference provided a nice momentum for making sense of the lessons learnt through the project, but also for thinking about where the edible cities movement could go next,” said Pachova.

news-nevelinajago-1220pxNevelina Pachova and Professor Jago Dodson

Director of the RMIT Urban Futures Enabling Impact Platform, Professor Jago Dodson, said the University’s involvement in embedding edible city solutions was a testament to RMIT’s commitment to smart, sustainable and regenerative futures.

“These initiatives foster growth and resilience, paving the way for a sustainable and thriving future for our communities,” said Dodson, who led RMIT’s involvement in the Network.

While the Edible Cities Network project ended in February, its legacy remains through an online community where people involved in edible city projects can connect while sharing ideas and support.

There’s also a free online course teaching how urban development and food production contribute to edible city solutions.

/RMIT University News Release. View in full here.