Local and Regional Food Systems

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Local and regional food systems focus on producing, processing, distributing, and consuming food within a specific geographic region, typically within a 100-mile radius. This approach aims to create a more sustainable and resilient food system by reducing transportation distances, supporting local farmers and businesses, and promoting community engagement in food production and consumption.

Impact on climate action

Local and Regional Food Systems under the theme of Low-Carbon Food amplify climate action by reducing food miles and supporting sustainable agricultural practices. By promoting shorter supply chains, these systems minimize transportation emissions, preserve biodiversity, and enhance food security, contributing to a more resilient and sustainable food system.


  • Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) Sales: Local and regional food systems often involve direct-to-consumer sales models, such as farmers markets, community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, and online platforms that connect farmers directly with consumers.
  • Short Supply Chains: Short supply chains minimize the distance food travels from farm to table, reducing transportation emissions and ensuring freshness and quality.
  • Regional Food Hubs: Regional food hubs aggregate, store, and distribute local food products, providing farmers with access to larger markets and consumers with a wider variety of local options.
  • Urban Agriculture: Urban agriculture initiatives, such as rooftop gardens, community gardens, and vertical farms, bring food production closer to consumers in urban areas.
  • Food Policy Councils: Food policy councils bring together stakeholders from various sectors to develop and implement policies that support local and regional food systems.

TRL : 7-8

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Digital Platforms for Local Food: Online platforms and mobile apps are connecting farmers directly with consumers, facilitating D2C sales and improving market access for local producers.
  • Food Hub Management Systems: Software platforms are being developed to manage and optimize the operations of regional food hubs, improving efficiency and transparency in local food distribution.
  • Urban Agriculture Technologies: Innovations in vertical farming, hydroponics, and other controlled environment agriculture (CEA) technologies are enabling food production in urban areas with limited space.
  • Food Waste Reduction Initiatives: Local and regional food systems often prioritize food waste reduction through initiatives such as food recovery and redistribution programs and composting.
  • Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) Innovations: CSA programs are evolving to offer more flexible and convenient options for consumers, such as online ordering and home delivery.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Community Engagement and Participation
  • Economic Impact and Local Prosperity
  • Food Security and Resilience
  • Consumer Education and Awareness
  • Policy and Advocacy
  • Supply Chain Transparency
  • Technological Integration
  • Social Equity and Inclusion
  • Cultural Preservation and Heritage
  • Health and Nutrition
  • Entrepreneurship and Small-scale Farming
  • Infrastructure Development
  • Collaboration and Partnerships
  • Food Access and Affordability
  • Waste Reduction and Circular Economy
  • Resilience to External Shocks
  • Climate Adaptation and Mitigation
  • Scaling Up and Replication Models
  • Regulatory Frameworks and Governance

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. GrubMarket:
    • Technology Enhancement: GrubMarket operates an online marketplace connecting consumers with local farms and food producers. Their platform utilizes technology to streamline the food supply chain, enabling farmers to sell their products directly to consumers, restaurants, and grocery stores. GrubMarket also offers logistics and distribution services to ensure fresh, locally sourced food reaches customers efficiently.
    • Uniqueness: GrubMarket stands out for its comprehensive approach to connecting local food producers with consumers and businesses. They offer a wide range of products, including fresh produce, meat, dairy, and pantry items, sourced directly from local farms and food artisans. Additionally, GrubMarket emphasizes sustainability and transparency, providing information about the origins of each product and the practices of the farmers and producers.
    • End-User Segments: GrubMarket serves both individual consumers and businesses, including restaurants, caterers, and grocery stores, seeking high-quality, locally sourced food products. Their platform appeals to consumers who prioritize freshness, sustainability, and supporting local farmers and food producers.
  2. Local Food Marketplace:
    • Technology Enhancement: Local Food Marketplace provides a digital platform that connects consumers with local farmers, producers, and artisans. Their technology streamlines the process of sourcing and purchasing locally grown and produced food products, allowing consumers to browse, order, and pay for items online. Local Food Marketplace also offers features such as recipe suggestions, farmer profiles, and community forums to enhance the user experience.
    • Uniqueness: Local Food Marketplace distinguishes itself by focusing exclusively on connecting consumers with local food producers within their region. By prioritizing locality, they aim to strengthen local food systems, support small-scale farmers and producers, and promote community engagement. Additionally, Local Food Marketplace emphasizes the social and environmental benefits of buying locally sourced food, fostering connections between consumers and the people who grow and produce their food.
    • End-User Segments: Local Food Marketplace caters to individual consumers seeking fresh, seasonal, and locally sourced food products. Their platform appeals to people who value knowing where their food comes from, supporting local farmers and producers, and participating in their local food community.
  3. Farmdrop:
    • Technology Enhancement: Farmdrop operates an online grocery platform that connects consumers with ethically sourced, locally produced food products. Their technology enables consumers to shop for groceries online and have them delivered directly from local farmers, producers, and food artisans to their doorstep. Farmdrop also emphasizes transparency, providing information about the origins and production methods of each product.
    • Uniqueness: Farmdrop stands out for its commitment to ethical and sustainable food production and distribution. They prioritize working with small-scale farmers and producers who adhere to high environmental and welfare standards, ensuring that their products are not only delicious but also produced with respect for people, animals, and the planet. Additionally, Farmdrop emphasizes the importance of fair pricing and fair treatment for farmers and producers, ensuring that they receive a fair share of the proceeds from sales.
    • End-User Segments: Farmdrop serves individual consumers who are passionate about food quality, sustainability, and supporting local food systems. Their platform appeals to people who want to make informed choices about the food they eat, minimize their environmental impact, and support small-scale farmers and producers in their community.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. University of California, Berkeley:
    • Research Focus: University of California, Berkeley is at the forefront of research on Local and Regional Food Systems, focusing on developing sustainable and resilient supply chains that prioritize local sourcing, reduced food miles, and carbon footprint mitigation.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the integration of agroecological principles, food sovereignty initiatives, and community-based participatory research to support small-scale farmers, strengthen local economies, and promote environmental stewardship. They also explore novel distribution models, such as food hubs, farmers’ markets, and community-supported agriculture (CSA), to enhance access to fresh, healthy, and culturally relevant foods while minimizing reliance on long-distance transportation.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in urban agriculture, rural development, and food justice movements, fostering community resilience, social equity, and ecological sustainability. By advancing Local and Regional Food Systems, UC Berkeley’s research contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, supporting biodiversity conservation, and building more inclusive and vibrant food systems.
  2. University of Vermont:
    • Research Focus: University of Vermont conducts pioneering research on Local and Regional Food Systems, leveraging its expertise in agronomy, food systems planning, and community development to promote the viability and vitality of local food economies.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the assessment of ecosystem services provided by local food systems, including carbon sequestration, soil health improvement, and water quality enhancement. They also investigate policy interventions, land use planning strategies, and market innovations to create enabling environments for small-scale producers, value-added food enterprises, and alternative food networks.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in farm-to-school programs, institutional procurement policies, and food policy councils, fostering food security, economic resilience, and cultural preservation. By championing Local and Regional Food Systems, University of Vermont’s research contributes to strengthening community connections, enhancing public health outcomes, and mitigating the environmental impacts of conventional food supply chains.
  3. Michigan State University:
    • Research Focus: Michigan State University is engaged in innovative research on Local and Regional Food Systems, focusing on enhancing the sustainability, equity, and resilience of food production, distribution, and consumption within diverse communities.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the development of decision support tools, value chain analysis frameworks, and socio-technical systems approaches to address complex challenges facing local food systems, such as seasonality, market access, and infrastructure constraints. They also explore the role of agricultural extension services, cooperative networks, and food policy advocacy in fostering collaboration, knowledge exchange, and collective action among stakeholders.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in peri-urban agriculture, food entrepreneurship, and community food hubs, supporting economic development, cultural preservation, and environmental stewardship. By advancing Local and Regional Food Systems, Michigan State’s research contributes to building more resilient and equitable food systems that promote human well-being, ecological integrity, and social justice.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Local and regional food systems are growing in popularity around the world, with increasing consumer demand for locally sourced and sustainably produced food. Farmers markets, CSA programs, and online platforms for local food are becoming more prevalent, and regional food hubs are playing a growing role in connecting farmers with larger markets.