more business from less resources

The economic focus of SUSMETRO is to identify and functionally integrate market-ready or already operational innovation devices at the interface of nature and society with the goal of establishing new valorisation chains into coherent clusters of activities that help reducing environmental impacts (e.g. CO2 emissions, loss of biodiversity, landscape degradation) while supporting a wider set of societal assets such a job creation, education or health.

Applying the principles of resource efficiency and urban metabolism as well as vertical and horizontal integration, we seek to create a high level of synergy between operationally different, yet resource-interdependent business environments. Key to the SUSMETRO approach is the implementation of three closely inter-related modules: (1) circular economy as principle of resource efficiency and value creation; (2) sustainable innovation as an integrated approach that links technological, product, process, social and governance dimensions; and (3) sustainable design solutions which are attractive and where form and function meet.

Figure 20:  Conceptualisation of flows in the Metropolitan circular economy (D. Wascher 2016)


Circular Economy

Making the transition to a circular economy requires a radical transformation of various production chains. The food chain is just one – see Figure 21. Various policy areas are faced with the task of precipitating this transition to a circular food system, for example, in agriculture, the environment, trade, green growth, top sectors and innovation. In order to illustrate such plans, some cities have drawn up a spatial vision for circular economy (see Figure 22).

Firstly, in a circular economy, natural resources must be effectively used and managed. Such resources include soil, water and biodiversity, but also minerals. These resources are essential to be able to produce renewable resources. Secondly, optimum use of food is important. Reducing food waste is an important starting point in this context, as is a diet with less highly processed food, or more vegetable protein and less animal protein.

Also important is a reduced use of natural resources and less environmental pressure. Finally, it is important to make optimum use of residue streams, such as tomato stalks, beet pulp and stale bread. In this way, as biomass rest streams can be recycled towards high value products such as proteins, cosmetics, pharmaceutics or taste improving ingredients (see Figure 23).

All three of these requirements demand action to be able to bring about the transition to a circular food system (PBL Policy Brief 2017). An example for a SUSMETRO approach is the use of mappable technology for visualising biomass flows at the level of city city regions.

Figure 21: The circular economy for the food production system (PBL 2017)

Figure 22: A spatial vision for the Amsterdam circular economy (Circle/Fabric/Amsterdam City 2015)

The biorefinery -concept or phytomass is a  production facility where biomass delivers the carbon source for producing organisms. Bacteria are converting carbon in their metabolism to complex products. Carbon sources can be diverse sugars extracted out of biomass. 

Biomass can be created out of a lot of biological material. Companies such as Phytowelt Technologies  want to use short rotational plantations of poplar as well as sugar beet pulp which can’t be used for food anymore. The sugar out of biomass can be used by bacteria to produce new substances. The production facility can be considered a “PhytoPark” and produce all future products of the phytomining (industrial biotechnology).

Figure 23: The biorefinery -concept or phytomass is a vision Phytowelt GreenTechnologies GmbH

Sustainable Innovation

SUSMETRO follows the evidence-based approach towards sustainable metropolitan systems which is based on a broad notion of innovation which includes the process of learning, knowledge-sharing, governance, education, searching and exploring, resulting in sustainable products, new techniques, new form of organization and new markets (Lundvall 1995). The added value of innovation is to incorporate several domains to form an integrated innovation approach.

Figure 24: The multi-domain and territorial dimensions of System Innovation (Wascher et al 2015)

Examples for Sustainable Design Solutions

Figure 1: Greenhouse Pigs – based on the projects ‘Pig City’ & ‘The Landless Suburban Farm’ by Gottlieb Paludan Architects & Nee Rentz Petersen 2016

Figure 2: Free Range Shelter/VrijLoopStal – concept for innovative agriculture by Studio Makking & Bey (Foto: D. Wascher 2017)

Figure 3: Livin Farms – the first home farm for edible insect by Katharina Unger & Julia Kaisingor (Foto: Dirk Wascher 2017)

Figure 4: Aarhus Food Park Vision (by William McDonogh 2015)

Figure 5: Urban Rooftop Farming (Detroit)

Figure 6:  Urban Skyfarm by Aprili Design Studio

Figure 7: Bosco Verde in Milano with 113 flats and 800 trees (Stefano Boeri 2013)

Figure 8: WBCSD Members study – Jain Irrigation’s innovative and practical solutions for Water-Smart-Agriculture

Figure 9: Grassa! mobile installation for biorefinery; introduced in 2016 (Ingenieur, 2016)

Figure 10: Indoor Farm – Lettuce and herbs by Fraunhofer Umsicht 2017 (Foto: Dirk Wascher 2017)