Co-designing carbon positive food regions – Part 1

By Grow Here


Could “Västra Götalandsregionen” (the administrative region of West Sweden) become the first to target regional net carbon sequestration in soil by supporting regenerative agriculture? Or Maybe Orust Municipality, where I do a case study in my thesis?

Regenerative agriculture could be a solution to many, if not most, of our current urgent sustainability challenges. It could regenerative our soils and ecosystems while also producing healthy food, improve biodiversity, water infiltration rates, bringing people together and creating new jobs. What if we could facilitate regenerative land use on a regional scale and thus regenerating ecosystems, communities and local economies in the region – improving quality of life for all beings? Human, non-human, present and future generations.


We design and plan our cities and regional infrastructure like roads, housing areas, water pipes etc – may we through a collaborative food system design approach also design and plan our landscapes to facilitate regenerative land use and food production? What role does physical planners have and how can we encourage bottom up initiatives led by farmers, land owners and consumers? What if we could design landscapes by the very act of eating? This is what I call “Positive Foodprints”! Designing our food system can be done by making more conscious acts of eating and having a closer relation to the land and the farmer who manages it – step by step shifting the outcome of that management to land regeneration!

These are some questions I explore in my Master thesis at Chalmers School of Architecture.

The challenge is not not create more damage than good with tools of top down planning by finding a good balance of bottom up and top down initiatives.

The daily choices of what people eat, could itself be seen as an act of “food system design” – impacting our common landscapes for the better or for worse. By voting with our forks on regenerative land use we can create “Positive Foodprints”!


About my Master Thesis: Carbon positive food regions

“Carbon positive food regions”, as my thesis is called, is an attempt to create a framework, method and give an example of a regenerative regional strategy – exploring opportunities of planning for regenerative agriculture with net negative emissions on regional scale – land use that also produces local food, regenerates land, ecosystems, local communities & local economies. The project is inspired by the movement of regenerative agriculture and the many stories of such farmers. In Sweden. The design research will be situated in the context of a 450 hectare farm called Bjällansås in Uddevalla – exploring its potential as a model of regenerative land use that can be scaled up regionally to build topsoil and heal ecosystems. Here the farmers (Jan Karlsson and his daughter Märta Jansdotter) have been pioneered in organic and regenerative agriculture and on mostly rented land they are grazing 500 livestock in a way that regenerates the land. The methods of Backcasting and Scenario planning will be used – exploring two future scenarios of carbon positive regions and how they are both shaping and being shaped by the smaller scale developments of local regenerative farms like Bjällansås. The results will be a design proposal showcasing such a future from the farm scale and up to the regional scale seeing, also pinpoint key projects and strategies that actors such as the region, municipality, farmers & land owners can take to get here. In fact the whole design process is based on a collaborative “food system design” carried out by the daily actions of what people eat and how it shapes the landscapes around them.


Through a series of video-blogs I will share my insights and thoughts throughout the project. The first video I recorded in Swedish is published below:

Episode 1 = Mussel farming – The food system of the future – Part 1

Did you know that 1 ton of mussels can filter 100kg of nitrogen and 10kg of phosphorus?

The first episode in a new video series where I tell about everything from aquaculture that revitalizes ecosystems in the water to regenerative agriculture that builds up food soil and revitalizes ecosystems on land. Firstly I visit a mussel farm that can filter and absorb excess nutrient in the ocean and actively reverse negative trends of eutrophication – regenerating the water ecosystems as they grow and are harvested. The video series is also an exploration of whether we can create a regenerative carbon-sequestering food system in a region or municipality, which I investigate in my master thesis in Architecture and Planning at Chalmers Technical University.

More will come up (including some in English) so please follow our channel:


This is worth diving more into and during my Master program – Design and Planning Beyond Sustainable development at Chalmers – I created this Regenerative Index (which is still work in progress) to summarize for me all the dimensions that we need to include as design criteria when we plan and design. Considering its impact for all beings, current and future generations. It is not simply about soil health and carbon sequestration (or planetary health), it’s about building thriving communities and regenerating our collective human health, our local economies and the health of our water and land ecosystems. This subsumes all of the Agenda 2030 SDG’s into a regenerative paradigm of what we need to strive towards, beyond sustainability – towards regeneration!

“No agriculture can be truly regenerative unless it is an agriculture covering all of our Earth’s surface that is managed holistically” Allan Savory (2020)

As a summary managing complex social and ecological systems to find solutions to reverse climate change, biodiversity loss (or even the 6th mass extinction) etc, requires a new framework for management and decision making. Most of the challenges we face today are too complex to solve using our reductionist management methods. In this regard we can look towards Holistic Management as an excellent management framework for defining “the wholes” what we manage, who makes decisions and what a more “holistic context” looks like for individuals and organisations.

 The greatest danger to humanity is not fossil fuels, climate change, desertification and the massive environmental destruction being driven by global finance – it is our inability to manage complexity (Savory, 2020)

How would we like our landscapes, ecosystems, communities and future resource base to look not just for all humans today and in the future, but for the benefit of all living beings? I encourage the Västra Götaland Region to co-create their own version of a holistic context (as a basis for creating visions, strategies and decisions) and for all of us inhabitants to make our own and together we can ask global policy to change to align more with this future vision of regeneration rooted in a well defined and clear holistic context. If you are curious about this read more on:

Another inspiring way to learn about regenerative agriculture is through the film Kiss the Ground (2020).



“The landscape imposes itself on the planner. The planner doesn’t put lines on a plan.” (P.A. Yeomans, 1979)

Another useful design tool and process is Keyline Planning developed by P.A. Yeomans where he set out steps and methods to read the landscape and let the landform and water flows (as more permanent aspects of the landscape) be the basis for designing and planning our cities, farms and bigger landscapes for optimal placement of roads, buildings and forestry and ultimately catch and store water and manage land in a ways that builds healthy topsoil. PA Yeomans tells us in an interview in 1979 that he produced 7-8 inches of topsoil in just 3 years through this technique – by transforming subsoil into topsoil. Yeomans was one of the first to develop a comprehensive framework for planning but to this day his practices has not been applied much by spatial planners. I hope to change that by using the method and process in my master thesis. Let’s let natures patterns inform our planning rather than impose our design master plans onto nature. Only nature will tell if our design and planning holds the test of time.

Hope this reading inspired some of you and hope to share more updates and knowledge on the topic soon as the project progresses!



Warm regards,

Jonathan Naraine

Architect & Food System Designer – The Foodprint Lab

Co-founder – Grow Here