QUT to help create Australia's first 'sustainable food city'

20th June 2019

QUT research will help create Australia's first 'sustainable food city' south of Brisbane, with plans to integrate a digitally-enabled community compost system and small-scale food production businesses in a new masterplanned community, as part of an innovative Food Agility CRC project.

QUT food and agricultural sociologist Dr Carol Richards is collaborating with Lendlease to develop prototype systems for sustainable local food production at a new masterplanned community at Yarrabilba, south of Brisbane.

Food Agility CEO Dr Mike Briers said Yarrabilba would become a national model for digitally integrated, sustainable urban agriculture and the ‘circular food economy’.

“The world is grappling with a major food challenge: how to make enough healthy food to feed a growing population, with less available land while minimising waste and environmental impact,” says Dr Briers.

“Yarrabilba will be a test ground for how we can embed cutting-edge digital technologies into the design of our cities to create local food systems fueled by food waste.”

About the project

The first stage will involve developing a prototype digital composting system that uses sensors to track when people add their kitchen food waste to the compost. The community will be able to track their progress on a digital dashboard and earn credits to swap for local goods and services. The second stage involves establishing a digitally-enabled produce garden (fed by the local compost system) and a local food market.

Yarrabilba Development Director, Michelle Wooldridge, said the research will be incorporated into Lendlease‘s development plans at Yarrabilba, which will see the community grow to 45,000 people by 2041.

“This will be the first circular economy community that integrates social, economic and environmental values to provide a dynamic and empowered community that fosters sharing, access, connection, diversity and control.

“We’re looking at environmental sustainability and community health in a whole new way and building in the necessary infrastructure from the beginning. We also think this will generate economic opportunities, whether that’s through urban farming, creating value out of waste or food-based tourism.”

QUT food and agricultural sociologist Dr Carol Richards said the ‘circular economy’ was a new approach to dealing with the growing problem of food waste.

“In traditional economies, we make it, we use it and then we dispose of it. In a circular economy, waste is put back into the system to create value,” says Dr Richards.

“In this case, we are using food waste to grow more food and create a valuable resource for the community. Working with residents to co-design their own sustainable food city is a key aspect of this project.”


Researchers from QUT's Institute for Future Environments are currently working on a range of projects related to the circular economy and how this can help reduce mounting global levels of food, plastic and textile waste.

Get involved in designing a community compost system at TechFe(a)st, 5-7 July

The first stage of the Yarrabilba project is a Tech Fe(a)st, which encourages the community to help design creative solutions to food waste, and build a prototype for a digitally-enabled community compost systems to be held at Substation33 in Logan from 5 to 7 July. A cash prize of $1000 is on offer for the best solution. Register now.


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