FSE-32306 Methodologies for Reading Sustainable Foodscapes


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work3
Course coordinator(s)V Valencia PhD
JP Steinfeld
Lecturer(s)prof. dr. ir. JSC Wiskerke
prof. dr. ir. RPO Schulte
dr. ir. FJJA Bianchi
dr. ir. JCJ Groot
CJ Timler
I Wheeler
V Valencia PhD
prof. dr. RE Creamer
JP Steinfeld
dr. ir. EF Talsma
Examiner(s)prof. dr. ir. RPO Schulte

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

Farming systems, ecosystem services, natural resource management, socio-ecology, and a background in modelling and/or statistics


A foodscape is a socio-ecological arrangement of a food system, placed in the biophysical context of a landscape. This is a scale and interdisciplinary level at which systemic transformation towards sustainability can be effectively assessed and managed. A foodscape is characterised by, inter alia, its biophysical components including, soils, topography, climate, and rivers; land use and land cover features (e.g., crop fields, grazing land, natural habitats); and social and institutional dimensions, including the people who interact with the foodscape (e.g., residents, farmers, retailers, consumers) and the policies and governance structures of the system, and their mutual interdependencies. Each foodscape is unique: it reflects local bio-physical conditions, as well as cultural and socio-economic conditions. Some foodscapes are exemplars of sustainable food production, while others may be evolving towards, or away from, a sustainable future.

In the face of this complexity, how can science support the transition of foodscapes towards environmental, economic, and social sustainability? Solutions that make sense from a biological or geographical perspective may be wholly inappropriate within the local cultural or socio-economic context, or vice versa: social innovations may not be suitable given local biophysical constraints. Therefore, transitions towards sustainability require a comprehensive, interdisciplinary diagnosis of individual foodscapes.

In this course, students will learn principles and applications of a range of approaches to analyse foodscapes as systems through multiple lenses by applying a diverse portfolio of scientific methods. These methods are complementary and – together – can be used to diagnose foodscapes, show different perspectives, guide planning and decision-making for interventions, and visualize transition pathways.

Examples of the foodscape analysis approaches include:
- foodscape mapping to uncover food environments;
- nutrition Sensitive Landscapes as a framework to analyse the nutritional and agricultural diversity of a foodscape towards supporting nutritious diets for people;
- sampling procedures for surveys and experimental design in communities and fields/landscapes;
- statistical typologies and Q-methodology, for the characterization of diversity and heterogeneity in foodscapes;
- assessing ecosystem services at the foodscape level by using GIS and statistical tools;
- social Network Analysis (SNA) and signal mapping to analyse social and ecological systems as networks;
- Functional Land Management (FLM) to assess the supply of soil-derived functions and how to match these with their respective societal demand.

We will use the Global Network of Lighthouse Farms (a global outdoor classroom and laboratory on sustainable foodscapes: https://www.wur.nl/en/Research-Results/Chair-groups/Plant-Sciences/Farming-Systems-Ecology-Group/Lighthouse-project.htm ) as our real-life case studies. We will bring these lighthouses to life, inside the classroom, using both Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- use and apply a diverse set of methodologies for assessing foodscapes;
- analyse key components (biophysical, institutional, socio-economic, ecosystem services, farming systems) of foodscapes and their interdependencies;
- identify and examine the internal and external drivers (biophysical, institutional, economic, motivational, social) of the development trajectory of a particular foodscape;
- assess the dynamics of interlinked social and ecological dimensions with a diverse set of methods and tools;
- inform planning processes and support decision-making in evidence-based redesign and transition of a foodscape;


Lectures, Tutorials, Case-studies, Group work, Practica (Modelling). Please note that there will also be on-site activities in week 7 (study week).


100% assignment portfolio, no exam.


All literature will be provided in Brightspace.

Restricted Optional for: MOAOrganic AgricultureMScA: Spec. A - Agroecology5MO