Edible City Solutions for a better world!

Find answers to your questions around Edible City Solutions

In our work with different entrepreneurs, initiatives and ECS businesses we constantly try to find answers for pressing questions about how to design and run a successful organization. We gather the answers from experts and condense some of the most asked questions on this page. If you don’t find the answers to your questions, be sure to contact us.

Also, visit the EdiCitNet download area for further information.


Do Business with ECS – FAQ:

What is the definition of a sustainable value proposition?

“A promise on the economic, environmental and social benefits that a firm’s offering delivers to customers and society at large, considering both short-term profits and long-term sustainability”

What are the key aspects of a value proposition?

Key elements include:

  • Which customer problem will be solved?
  • Why should customers purchase your product/your service/your value proposition?
  • What makes your product unique?
  • How can your value proposition be aligned with the principles of sustainability? (What positive impacts do your products and services have on the environment and society?)
What are key sustainability priciples to observe when building a business?
  • Efficiency: reduction of the amount of environmental
    resources per unit of output;
  • Consistency: preventing harmful or toxic substances, using renewable resources and biological principles, ensuring closed material loops, recycling;
  • Sufficiency: sustainable lifestyles and consumption patterns, limiting consumption to necessities;
  • Preventing unjustifiable risks: avoiding highly invasive technologies with uncertain consequences such as atomic energy;
  • Distributive justice: just distribution of resources and incomes within a generation; generational justice in successive generations
How do I determine in which part of the ECS value chain I am in?

Any ECSI can classify its activities as being part of one or more parts of the ECS value chain. Activity areas can also change over time when you add activities or products to your portfolio. On the EdiCitNet Marketplace, we also use the term “product or service category” to describe the value chain activities. Choose from the following value chain activities:

  • Education
  • Raw Resource Input
  • Resource and Waste Recovery
  • Retail
  • Circular Economy
  • Dirstribution
  • Preparation and Consumption
  • Processing
  • Production
What are major forms of financing for my ECS business?

Finding the right financial support to start any type of a business can be a challenge. Financing your ECS business or initiative can be an even bigger challenge, as it might deviate from the classical business setup that traditional financial institutions know and support. Luckily, there has been an increasing amount of new innovative ways and instruments to fund your idea. Here, we would like to highlight some of the key benefits and challenges of some of the most popular forms of financing your ECS concept. Keep in mind that the availability of some of these financing forms might be dependent on local availability. However, most of the described financing options exist in a variety of countries in some form.

  1.   Public grants and funding programs:

Benefits: These programs usually do not take ownership (equity) in your business. If you have to repay some or all of the funds, the conditions will usually be very attractive. Also, a lot of these programs come with free consulting or other useful benefits. Search for these programs on all levels of government: City, local, regional, national, international (e.g., EU).

Risks: The downsides to public funding can be that it often takes a long time to receive approval and that some of the programs are very competitive. Also, the general administrative burden is very high.

  1. Crowdfunding and crowdinvesting

Benefits: This relatively new form of financing has gained popularity among many initiatives and small businesses in recent years. The main appeal is the unbureaucratic way to get access to a large number of potential investors at a relatively low price. There are various different types of crowdfunding- and investing approaches and platforms. All of them share one key benefit: You can convince investors with your story and unique product or service. Since many ECS initiatives have great inspiring things to show for, this form of financing can be a real success.

Risks: Being realistic in budgeting enough time and resources to create a compelling campaign is essential. Do not underestimate the work that has to go into communications efforts. Also be sure to have a good understanding of the associated commission fees.

  1. Incubators or accelerators

Benefits: A wide variety of new acceleration and incubation programs has emerged in recent years. Some of them focus exclusively on food or other topics connected to urban agriculture. Key benefits include the fact that these programs usually bring deep expert knowledge in various critical business-related or technical areas. This really helps you to grow your organization. A lot of programs offer financial support. This can either be in the form of a grant, or in the form of equity (taking a small share in your business).

Risks: The biggest risk from this type of financing is that it potentially takes up a lot of your time. If the thematic fit is not big enough, you might not benefit enough to get enough value from such programs. This means that it is crucial to evaluate a program in terms of its costs and benefits before applying.

  1. Business angels

Benefits: A business angel is usually a single person that wants to invest in your business in exchange for an equity share. These individuals usually feel some connection with either the idea (for example because they have previous experience in the field), or with the founding team. Key benefit of this financing form is that it can be rather unbureaucratic and fast.

Risk: Business angels often want to actively participate in your business decisions. This can be of great value, but it can also become a risk should the relationship with the angel turn negative. It is therefore advised to have a thorough exchange before the investment decision and try to get to know the person as much as possible to assure a personal fit.

  1. Friends & Family

Benefits: This often is the fastest and easiest way to get initial funding for any type of idea. Someone in your network or family with some extra budget can directly invest in your project.

Risk: While being potentially very fast, there is of course a lot of risk potential with this form of financing. Be sure to align expectations beforehand and only take money from friends and family if they really understand your project and the associated risks. Sketch the potential investment timeline and what type of repayment you are planning to avoid frustration or conflicts.

  1. Awards

Benefits: There is a vast collection of awards out there that could potentially fit with your idea or business. The benefits can be cash prizes, networking opportunities or also other intangible advantages from succeeding in award applications. Just like with other forms of funding, be sure to do a systematic search for awards that could suit your needs on city, local, regional, national or international level.

Risks: The major risk with award is that the application processes can take up a lot of your valuable time and energy that you might need in other areas of your business developments. So choose wisely where you invest your time. 

This is just a snapshot on financing for edible city solutions. There are other forms of financing that might apply to you and that might differ depending on your region or development stage. The best form of financing is of course to live from your own revenues. Browse the EdiCitNet website to learn about other topics that help you to build your business successfully and earn money with it as fast as possible.

What is meant by "other stakeholders" in the Edible City Solution Canvas? What is meant by “stakeholders” in the Organisational Value System (the “Diamond Model”)?

In order not to view the business model in isolation from the outside world, the Edible City Solution Canvas also includes other stakeholders in addition to customers and key partners. Both external and internal groups that make demands on the company are considered. The different perspectives of the stakeholder groups, customers, network partners, environment and society should be considered.In the context of sustainability-oriented start-up ideas, it should be considered whether the business model offers additional benefits for further stakeholders. It should also be analysed what influence individual groups of stakeholders have on the company to be founded.

In the Organisational Value System (the “Diamond Model”), the definition of stakeholders is even broader (see D6.6 “ECSI Business Model Analysis & Typology”) and includes any human or non-human actor or entity that is actively or passively involved in the organisation (affected by or impacting an organisation, intentionally or unintentionally). Since this definition is very broad, the Diamond Model restricts its analytical gaze to the key stakeholders, i.e. those stakeholders without which the initiative could not exist or would not have a reason to exist. For example, if an initiative can only exist because the municipality provides a use contract for urban land to them, the municipality is considered a key stakeholder. Same goes for soil organisms (non-human)! If the initiative’s goal is to provide an educational space for school children, school children are key stakeholders because without them, the initiative would not have a reason to exist.

What is the difference between the Business Model Canvas, the Edible City Solution Canvas, and the Organisational Value System (also referred to as “Diamond Model”)?

The Business Model Canvas was originally developed by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur and serves to visualise and analyse the way a business functions. Today, it is the probably most widely used tool for start-up management and has become the standard for start-up presentations and workshops. The Borderstep Institute for Innovation and Sustainability has integrated sustainability concepts into the design of the original canvas and worked with Humboldt University to create the Edible City Solutions Canvas. The ECS Canvas is tailored to the needs of aspiring entrepreneurs and teams that want to develop economically sustainable models that serve their communities and establish new or enhanced value chains for local and sustainable food production. In the ECS Canvas, you will notice that the traditional segments ‘Customer Segments’ and ‘Customer Relationships’ are combined to form a single segment called ‘Customers’. In addition, two new segments are added: ‘Competitors’ and ‘Other Relevant Stakeholders’, in order to incorporate the environment the ECS is operating in.

The Organisational Value System or “Diamond Model” (see D6.6 “ECSI Business Model Analysis and Typology”) is a further development of both the business model canvas and the ECS Canvas. Whereas the ECS Canvas and the Business Model Canvas are particularly useful for commercially oriented initiatives, the Diamond Model includes all types of organisations, whether they are socially or commercially oriented or nature-based (see FAQ: What are different business models in urban agriculture?). Like any type of organisation, all urban agriculture initiatives follow a basic mechanism of value creation and capture. The Organisational Value System can analyse the variety of value creation and capture mechanisms urban agriculture initiatives follow – including, but not restricted to, commercialisation.

Just like the Business Model Canvas, the Diamond Model also supports strategising. Through its systematic methodology, however, the Diamond Model can also be used as a tool for monitoring and evaluation over time and across different initiatives. 

What are different business models in urban agriculture?

The major business models in urban agriculture distinguished in extant literature are:

  • Differentiation
  • Diversification
  • Low Cost
  • Commons
  • Experience

To learn more about these business models, see our “GROWING JOBS IN URBAN AGRICULTURE” playbook. Download it here.

The EdiCitNet project distinguishes another set of business models inclusive of those listed above. Those listed above can also be understood as strategies for continuity and growth of urban agriculture initiatives. The business model typology developed in the EdiCitNet project is based on the value logics and types of value different urban agriculture initiatives create and capture. 

Three archetypes are distinguished:

  • Commercial Type (inclusive of Differentiation; Diversification; Low Cost)
  • Social Type (inclusive of Commons; Experience)
  • Nature-Based Type

Further, four mixed types are distinguished:

  • Commercial-Social Type
  • Social-Nature-based Type
  • Nature-based-Commercial Type
  • Social-Commercial-Nature-based Type.

Read more about our typology here.

How do I use social media tools efficiently in my organization?

ECS occupy a niche position due to their socially and environmentally  oriented value proposition. Thus, using Social Media platforms efficiently can lead to more opportunities for communicating your value proposition, connect you to local customers and partners and help evolve your economically sustainable models to fit the needs of customers and trends. Growing Jobs in Urban Agriculture Workshop focused on this need because social media tools propose an increasingly growing impact on how information is sourced and disseminated. If you would like to freshen up your skills or increase your competence to understand what works for you, below are some tips and hints from Stian Broch, a photographer who presented at the ‘Growing Jobs in Urban Agriculture Workshop’ for what works on social media and how to make it happen.

• Create your own style
• Keep your feed clean
• Be short and precise
• Be eager, but don’t be desperate
• Don’t post if it’s not good enough
• Improve your camera skills
• Be confident with your digital tools
• Use stories to be a bit more loose, but keep the quality up
• Timing is everything, but at what time?
• Respond, interact and be creative in your way of communication
• Make money!

What is a social enterprise?

Social enterprises are businesses that are ‘mission driven”: businesses with a social or environmental mission.