Mon 16 Oct 2017

P2P food system as a major environmental and social solution?

Robert LaRocque Public Seen by 561

Hello everyone.

I'm new to the group. Have been interested in P2P-Commons ideas for some time though.

I'm an Ecology student and particularly interested in agriculture. Both from a social standpoint, and an ecological standpoint.

So, existing practices in agriculture often focus solely on maximizing profit. And that focus excludes other externalities. There are several major issues with the dominant mode of food production.

Soil degradation: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/only-60-years-of-farming-left-if-soil-degradation-continues/

Encroachment on ecosystems: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/10/agriculture-and-overuse-greater-threats-to-wildlife-than-climate-change-study

Large levels of chemical input, domination by "cash crops", developing countries producing only expert crops and not food for people to eat locally, etc.

I think that agriculture can be better be done with a few novel principles. These principles are embodied in concepts like permaculture, agroecology, aquaponics, etc.

We can do agriculture in ways that have diverse benefits. Such as increased soil carbon uptake, increased farm biodoversity, as well as returning something of a humanistic heart and an ecology-valuing ethic into it.

One of the links above claims that agriculture and land use is a bigger threat to wildlife than climate change. Which I think is accurate. And now consider we are going to add another 3 billion humans on to the planet by 2050. What will our land use impact look like then?

Well, I think that we can shrink this footprint drastically, and at the same time make the fundamental human activity of growing food one that is regenerative and actually friends with ecology/biodiversity.

There is a good argument that we can bring a significant proportion of food production into the area of in and around urban areas: http://www.anthropocenemagazine.org/2016/10/can-local-food-feed-an-urban-world/

With new systems such as aquaponics, we can produce with less water, less size footprint, less resources of all sorts.

So, perhaps an alternative system is possible. It could be organized with a platform that allows direct P2P exchange on local markets. Perhaps the idea can be popularized to attempt to eat your entire diet based on local sustainable food, which can be done as simply as using an app.

This connection would also help prospective growers enter and sell food with much lower barriers to entry. Maybe all you've got is an apple tree and a squash plant in your backyard. But those will produce a surplus, and we can incentivize that local and environmentally benign mode of food production for those who would like to enter and earn a small amount of money doing so.

You can boost the practices of the producers in such a market by amassing a common pool of resources and knowledge, on farming in local conditions, using certain techniques, on issues like carbon sequestration or habitat creation, etc.

Local seed markets could reinvigorate our ancient traditions of active plant breeding and adapting diverse strains to our local conditions. Hierloom and local cultivars could make a big comeback.

Such a system, in my view, could be a major first step towards truly developing an alternative economy. If we can grow and trade our own food in this way, what else? Perhaps energy? Or goods in themselves?

A P2P Local Food Market, hosted on a coop platform, using a common resource of knowledge and practices... Not only does this have the potential to be broadly beneficial, both environmentally and socially, and return autonomy and connection to our own resource base as humans, it could also be a major cirst step starting point towards creating other horizontally networked modes of production and cooperation in other domains.

Sorry to go on at such length here, but I had to get the idea out of my mind fully! Does anybody have any thoughts on this?


Nicolas Stampf Mon 16 Oct 2017

I totally follow you on this. Indeed, p.m. (pseudonym) wrote about such a society (and more than just agriculture) in "bolo'bolo" and "Voisinages et Communs" (neighborhoods and commons". Your name lets me think you can read french, so here it is: http://www.lyber-eclat.net/lyber/voisinages-et-communs from the editor's website (bolo'bolo too is available on the net).
Chemical agroculture isn't sustainable and will need for transition anyway because of the approaching end of Phosphorus. If we are to avoid pests, we'll need to shrink mono plant fields and go for smaller fields, or better yet multi-crops. Which means impossibility to use machinery to harvest (with the peak oil already there, transition is mandatory as well).
And then you have all those cities without proper diversity of vegetables in a close distance which will need to change as well.
And finally don't get me going on nearly 80% of cereals grown to feed cattle (at the expense of developing countries) for the developed countries. #GoVegan ;)


Robert LaRocque Tue 17 Oct 2017


Yes, exactly. This sort of transition is impending and necessary anyway as time goes on. So all the wiser to get started on it as well!

Also, I cannot read French unfortunately. That is one to work on I guess! But I definitely like the idea of not only food, but many different forms of production taking place in hyper local areas amibg peer networks.


Nicolas Stampf Tue 17 Oct 2017

Ok @robertlarocque, sorry for the french affiliation :-) Here's a translation I found in english. Don't let the style turn you down from this book. It's utterly important IMHO as it's a clearly laid out model of a better way to live in an energetically challenged world.
Here's the book: http://sfbay-anarchists.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/bb_3.pdf


Steve Huckle Wed 8 Nov 2017

http://sfbay-anarchists.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/bb_3.pdf - fantastic read, thanks for sharing, @nicolasstampf. Rather sobering, however, that a generation after that was written, the malaise deepens, and still very few people see :(


Michele Kipiel Mon 16 Oct 2017

Hi Robert, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts. I believe many in this group will find this thread interesting, including myself.
I've been looking into ways to grow fresh, local and sustainable food for quite some time now and, if thigs go as I hope they will, I'll be trying my hand at it soon. As a firm believer in the commons+cooperative paradigm, I believe common ownership of the means of production (be it land or repurposed containers) should be the guiding principle of the new agriculture revolution, one in which industrial farms will be replaced by small, distributed, cooperatively operated and commonly owned ones.


Robert LaRocque Tue 17 Oct 2017


Yes, thank you for the response.

I agree, it is so much about ownership. Who owns the land and the farms that sustain our lives? And what are their practices and motives?

Massive industrial agriculture operations have been forcing small farmers out of production for a lomg time now. Even a small movement to counteract this would be very beneficial.

I have tried my hand at urban farming over the past 2 years. Very pleased with the outcome. If you set up an automatic watering system, a very small time investment can reap great results. Likely an average of less than 30 minutes every two days or so, in just a corner of the yard where I was living, and it sustained a good garden and now I have a freezer full of different food stuff.

This is also why I think an architecture of sharing or selling yields would be good. If you have even just a few plants of the same kind, or even just one fruit tree, it'll often give you more of that specific food than you know what to do with!


Simon Grant Tue 17 Oct 2017

Robert @robertlarocque you write

"now I have a freezer full of different food stuff"

I guess domestic freezers are fair in the short-term for food storage. Some quick browsing suggests that very roughly 10% of household electricity use is for refrigeration, at least 1 kWh per day. I haven't researched the energy input to freezer manufacture and the complications of current freezer fluids; but I was guessing that one major future advance will be small-scale shared freezer facilities. If you scale up existing technology without changing it at all, then a freezer 8 times the size should only take 4 times the energy -- but there are lots more savings to be made through using better techniques, and not having refrigeration in a warm living space.

Cold storage seems to be hardly ever talked about, and to be the business of only very few highly centralised companies. It's one thing to get started on working towards decentralization.


Simon Grant Mon 16 Oct 2017

There's nothing more important than food (OK, and drinkable water). I am delighted to see a focus on how to do food, including how to produce, store and distribute it.


Robert LaRocque Tue 17 Oct 2017


Agreed, food is so fundamental.

It's human health, human autonomy, it's also pretty much the basis of creating culture, which you see anywhere you go!

Also it's just about the greatest environmental dilemma that exists. 75% of our water, the vast majority of our land use, a large proportion of our chemical pollution into the environment, all from how our agriculture system functions.


Danyl Strype Sat 31 Mar 2018

Not to mention the lion's share of our oil use is associated with the corporatized and globalizd food industries, according to figures quote in the doco 'The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil'.


miguel novik Mon 16 Oct 2017

I really liked your approach and the idea. (Moreover food production fit perfectly in a supermarket coop that I belong to).

But I do not think that we are going to go forward to something concrete "giving opinions " here. For sure it helps, but for me it takes too much time.

You can read other threads that I started.
If them make some sense to you, and you want to achieve something concrete, let us work using "on line meetings".

1.- we sincere our intentions, our objectives and our availability.
2.- we define hypotheses or concrete tasks that allow us to advance ...
3.- what ever we achieve has to be replicable (you do it in your country and I should be able to implement it in Israel ) and of course it has to be P2p (where the connections add social value (to the community) and this way to each one...) ..

If you like the idea give me a call (what's up) or email.

+972 584881158


Robert LaRocque Tue 17 Oct 2017


Thanks for your response.

Yes, I agree with what you say. It has to be something that is replicable anywhere. And I like the way you approach this sort of thing.

I'm a student currently who just moved to a new location on a college campus. I participate with a community garden here (CSA) and farmers market. But also face difficulties to start such a system as I described that I think many will also face (raising awareness among the right people, accessing land, meeting existing growers, limited time, etc.).

However I do think the idea is very important to attempt to develop upon. So I do hope to move forward with it to the best of my ability.

I will read your other threads though, and contact you if I have any thoughts on it! Hopefully we can move these practices forward!


Stacco Troncoso Tue 17 Oct 2017

If you haven't already, check out Jose Luis Vivero Pol´s excellent work on food as a commons, specially the policy proposal he coordinated for the European Commons Assembly:

The Food Commons in Europe

Or check out the Food an agriculture P2PF blog category, for more stories and perspectives.



Simon Grant Tue 17 Oct 2017

That's what I'm saying, @staccotroncoso — there's no mention I can see in those pieces of food storage or cold storage.

I should add to this. It's obvious that food storage is necessary in all but subsistence hunter-gatherer societies (and maybe even for them). To minimise the carbon footprint of the food supply chain, and to maximise its resilience, we need food storage closer to the producers and the consumers. Come on, folks, where can we discuss this?


miguel novik Tue 17 Oct 2017


Sorry but what is in lumio of my project is not updated.

I could give you 2 new webpages, but I do not think that you need them.

Let us start from your experience and reality and get set up the task and "right questions" that would drive us to "your vision".

I look forward to hearing from you


Nicolas Stampf Wed 8 Nov 2017

Indeed, David Holmgren's book on Permaculture is more a transitioning book toward less energy than an agriculture book (which it is absolutely not IMHO): https://permacultureprinciples.com/au/product/principles-and-pathways-ebook/

Very worth a read also IMHO, and very P2P (and Commons) orientated.



Steve Huckle Wed 8 Nov 2017

@nicolasstampf, do you know where the terminology "bolo'bolo" (as well as all the other phrases used in that doc', such as "ibu" and "eodu") originates? I'm intrigued...


Nicolas Stampf Wed 8 Nov 2017

It's explained in the book: purely invented language to ensure total neutrality and void meaning so no bias involved.


Steve Huckle Thu 9 Nov 2017

Is it? Oh! I haven't yet come across that explanation - maybe I should pay closer attention ;)


Robert Pekin Thu 9 Nov 2017

Hi Robert, great to hear your thoughts and vision. I have been in this space for over 30 years both as a farmer and now as a Food Hub operator / software developer / investment cooperative board chairman here in Australia.

Check out Open Food Network (OFN) and the things that are happening through that open source software system globally, is quite inspiring. There is a big global get together of all the developers with public workshops and events in Melbourne in early Dec from around the world strategizing the next steps.

We have taken a system perspective to building the complementary parts to replace the old model.

My main work is with the Food Connect Foundation and also with ORICoop if you want to see what is happening in our space.

Lots to do so look forward to your work.

Love the bolo, bolo read @nicolasstampf, what a readable and perceptive piece of writing, still appropriate for today.

All the best and my apologise for not providing hyper links to my notes (I can't seem to find where to link in loomio .... yet :)



Bob Haugen Tue 14 Nov 2017

(I can't seem to find where to link in loomio .... yet

You can just paste an URL in your comment. Like https://openfoodnetwork.org/


Danyl Strype Wed 15 Nov 2017

Or you can use MarkDown format to make linked text. Just put [] around the words you want to appear and right after that, put () around the web address you want them to link to. Like this but with no spaces:

linked text


Robert Pekin Thu 16 Nov 2017

Thanks Bob, that will help a lot


Robert Pekin Thu 16 Nov 2017

It works @strypey, unbelievable


Danyl Strype Tue 14 Nov 2017

Thanks for starting this topic @robertlarocque , and great to see Open Food Network in the house (high five @robertpekin ), I met Serenity Hill at the first Open Source//Open Society and we had a great conversation about the OFN's vision. There are so many great resources in this space, thanks especially to folks like the biodynamics and organics movements, the permaculture and slow food movements that grew out of their compost heaps, and the transition movement that grew out of permaculture.

Firstly, check out the Localizing Food Project, spearheaded by one of my permaculture teachers, Robina McCurdy of Earthcare Educators Aotearoa. Robina travelled the length of this country connecting with local food projects, and is producing a series of crowdfunded documentary films covering different aspects of them. The latest one is 'Edible Paradise - Growing the Food Forest Revolution'.

Secondly, have a browse through Appropedia.org, a crowdsourced mediawiki site for appropriate technology, PracticalPlants.org and Plants for a Future, which are the same thing but for articles about plants. There's also OpenSourceEcology.org, an appropriate tech development project based at FactorE Farms. Also WikiHouse.cc, it's not about food, but like OpenSourceEcology it does demonstrate the way the crowdsourcing and human-centred design principles behind wikis and free code software can be applied to creating new stuff on the physical layer.

Thirdly, the P2P food network/ app idea is already being tried by folks like OFN, and here in Aotearoa, BuckyBox (now fully free code), and OOOBY (Out of Our Own Backyards), see OOOBY founder Pete Russell's TEDx talk on 'Hacking the supply chain' (sadly I believe OOOBY's platform remains proprietary). I'm collecting notes about food coop and box scheme software on the Aotearoa Permaculture Network wiki.

Finally, a bit of shameless self-promotion, I wrote a paper for the FreeCulture2010 conference called 'Free to Know or Free to Own? Convergence of Free and Slow Culture in Global Relocalisation'. It looks at the parallels and points of overlap between the original ecology movement and what I sometimes call 'digital ecology', the worlds of free code, online commons, and green tech.


Steve Huckle Wed 15 Nov 2017

@strypey, I like this line from your paper's abstract: "the freedom to know and the freedom to grow are going to have to take precedence over the freedom to own". Boom!