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Building a local, circular food system


About the pilot area


The 18th Arrondissement of Paris is a mixed-use neighborhood that encompasses both cultural and industrial spaces. The green space share amounts to just 4.6%, which underscores the area's limited access to green environments. With a population density of 32,024 people per square kilometer, the district is filled with activity, yet it faces several distinctive challenges. These include soil and air pollution, soil sealing, gentrification risk, and higher than average unemployment levels. Within a circular city framework, the 18th Arrondissement serves many functions, including acting as a production center, loop closer, innovation - and learning center.


The building at Rue de Mouzaia 58 is an epitome of 20th-century brutalist architecture and holds the "Architecture Contemporaine Remarquable" status, as protected by the City of Paris. The building stands since 1974 but faced abandonment in the 2010s. Today, they house co-working spaces in the basement as well as the offices of Fab City Paris, reflecting a reimagined utilization of these remarkable structures. Owned by the City Council (RIVP), the Mouzaia site offers intriguing possibilities for urban gardening and a revival of past city gardening techniques.

Volumes and Fab City Paris are mapping Paris’ existing skills needed for a circular food production, transformation, distribution, and food waste management. The goal of Paris’ Food System Skills Map is to showcase the contribution of smaller food producers and transformers towards a more sustainable food system. The second goal of our map is to allow citizens to access courses, workshops, and knowledge on alternative food production, transformation, and distribution.


Paris' urban challenges

  • Waste generation -  waste generation 

  • Soil pollution - over 600 sites listed as potentially polluted

  • 18th Arrondissement challenges

  • Income - Higher than average poverty rates of 21%

  • Unemployment - Higher than average unemployment rates in the 18th and 19th district

  • Soil pollution - Pilot sites (Jardin des traverses deal with polluted soils)

Which insights have been gathered by our local context detectives?

Read through our gallery of local anecdotes, research findings and in-depth analysis 

Detective's Findings


Reimagining Urban Food Production in the City of Scars

Paris, France - Some scars run so deep that we must learn to live with them, accepting that they will continue to carry painful memories of the past. Perhaps this is how we should approach Paris' soil pollution, which has accumulated over three centuries of industrial activities, urban waste disposal, and human fertilizer use in the surrounding areas. Currently, there are almost 600 polluted sites and soils listed in Île-de-France! This legacy of industrial heritage makes traditional urban farming on open soils quite challenging. Jardin Des Traveres, one of the two pilot sites of Fab City Grand Paris, has experience dealing with soil pollution and its challenges for urban food production, similar to many urban farming projects in Paris and its suburbs.


Maybe Paris' aspiration to become a garden city, characterized by a largely self-sufficient and resilient food landscape, needs to adapt its approach to food production in light of the pervasive land pollution. In many areas across the city, food producers are already successfully adapting to the poor soils and contamination. Some opt for futuristic food production methods, such as soilless hydroponics or other forms of indoor farming. However, harking back to Paris' historical market garden practices also teaches us valuable lessons on how to cultivate food above ground. In the past, food was grown in wooden chassis above the soil, utilizing abundant manure and compost as fertilizer. Reviving these traditional market gardening skills is undoubtedly a crucial part of the puzzle, alongside innovative indoor farming techniques.


The question that remains is how much effort we are willing and need to put into regenerating polluted and abandoned sites to eventually reclaim them for direct food cultivation. There are numerous approaches we could consider, such as the application of biochar to abandoned land to immobilize pollution. Additionally, as demonstrated by Groupe ECT excavated soils from urban development projects can often serve as a substrate for regreening, revegetation, and farming initiatives, thereby reducing the need to import topsoil from distant locations.

Parallel to Paris’s efforts to understand city and neighbourhood-wide urban challenges, the team has embarked on a journey to create a Food Systems Skills Map by mapping the key actors of Paris’ alternative food system

Who was mapped

Urban farms

Providers of professional agricultural

Small businesses transforming food waste into edible food

Alternative food logistics providers (packaging, distribution)


  • To create a map with existing food system skills in the community

  • To increase visibility of alternative food system actors

  • To identify potential partnerships and collaborations between food system network

How was it useful for the Paris pilot team?

  • Increased awareness of local initiatives

The mapping of makers in Paris was done by a dedicated team member who used an interview guide in informal conversations with makers.

What local resources were mapped?

Knowledge & skills for local food production, distribution and transformation

How was data collected?

  • Online research

  • Stakeholder networking events

Which circular opportunities were identified or explored for further research?

Increasing local food production in regenerative systems 

  • Biochar application on brownfields

  • Reuse of excavation materials for soil fertility

  • Carbon storage in abandoned soils

  • Working with training facilities (e.g. Agriculture XYZ) on citizen courses for food waste prevention (teaching preservation and fermentation techniques

Designing foods from waste

  • Developing training courses together with mapped stakeholders in education and food design to reuse food production by-products for new food products

Develop platforms for selling local food products

  • Work on a cooperative network of food producers and sellers, selling locally processed foods - to date, this only exists for fresh produce but not for transformed and processed products

Increase food waste composting

  • Work with local composting initiative to scale composting efforts, e.g. by creating a network of schools that start to donate their compost


Neighbourhood types
Soil pollution and urban gardening
Industrial zones around the pilot area
Soil pollution and urban gardening
Density of food retail
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