PhD position Food for whom and by whom? Innovative business models for ‘Feeding the City’ (fulltime)

Aeres University of Applied Sciences is rooted in green and instructive higher education. We focus on teaching and research as well as sharing and applying knowledge. Professional development, pushing back frontiers, innovative entrepreneurship, contextual learning, and sustainable action are our key interests. This is how we contribute to the development of future-oriented, innovative professionals. Professionals who are capable of taking well-founded decisions in a complex world. Our faculties in Almere, Dronten and Wageningen cater for approximately 3,200 students. Each faculty has its own profile and focus.


Aeres University of Applied Sciences Almere 

The Almere faculty focuses on study programmes and practical research in which the green knowledge domain is linked to the urban environment. Major fields of interest include biology, food, health, circular economy, sustainability, and innovative green planning. Aeres University of Applied Sciences Almere is a partner in the development of the Flevo Campus, which is being created on the Floriade exhibition site over the next few years. The Flevo Campus is a knowledge hub where education, research, entrepreneurs and governments meet around the theme of “Feeding the City”.


PhD position Food for whom and by whom? Innovative business models for  ‘Feeding the City’ (1 fte) 


The research agenda

The research group Food and Healthy Living of Aeres University of Applied Sciences, hereafter referred to as AUAS, focuses on the relation between sustainable food provision, food consumption and healthy living within the city of Almere, one of the main cities in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. Almere offers a unique 'living lab' opportunity for PhD research that can inform the transition to sustainable and healthy metropolitan food systems.

Almere aims to produce a large share of its food supply regionally (10-20% by 2020) and to demonstrate - as ‘living lab’- how cities can sustainably produce their own healthy foods. Moreover, Almere, home to residents of 181 different ethnicities and 153 different nationalities, aims to shape its future-proof system of food provision in such a way that it positively contributes to improving the health and wellbeing of all its citizens. But, how to encourage the development of an inclusive, sustainable and health-promoting regional food systems? What are the effects of regional food strategies on promoting sustainable and healthy lifestyles? How can we ensure that sustainable and healthy food strategies are truly inclusive for all groups within the population of Almere city region?

The research program Food and Healthy Living aims to address these questions with the aid of a variety of analytical and methodological approaches. The academic objective is to discover patterns and develop theories for transitions towards sustainable and healthy food consumption practices. The applied research ambitions are to translate the theoretical understandings into concrete actions that contribute to the nutrition and health needs of the urban population with minimal environmental impact.
The research is funded by the Fonds Verstedelijking Almere (FVA) as part of  the broader agenda ‘Feeding the City’ which is linked to the World Horticulture Exhibition Floriade 2022, taking place in Almere. AUAS offers a PhD position to complement the research team. The PhD candidate receives the opportunity to write his /her thesis and develop as an academic and applied researcher in the context of the agenda ‘Feeding the City' with the aim of contributing to sustainable and feasible solutions for an urban /metropolitan food system. The position regards the following project:


PhD description

The security of future proof food systems is rising on the urban agenda. More localized and regional food systems are increasingly assigned a pivotal role in feeding cities in a sustainable and healthy way and Almere is a case in point. A reduced physical distance between production and consumption is assumed to improve the food sustainability, to enhance population health, and to contribute to the regional economic development. Thus, an important question is how and in what way regional food initiatives can contribute to the transition towards a sustainable and economically viable regional food systems that contributes to more healthy consumption patterns?
This PhD project addresses the transition to a sustainable regional food system for the city of Almere building on a mixture and integration of local, regional and national /global levels in feeding the city. In this transition process sustainability and health are tightly connected as the future food provision needs to be healthy as well as sustainable. A particular challenge is 
developing the regional level in combination with the two others: How to build a sustainable regional food system? At present several initiatives have already been taken in Almere and the province of Flevoland but they require embedding and upscaling to become viable and effective also in the long run. This context allows for action research, using the potential of the city of Almere and its wider provincial embedding as a living lab to develop and implement innovative designs that may serve as models for similar initiatives elsewhere. 
This PHD research aims to inform the development of new food system directions that contribute to improved health, sustainability, and regional economic development: 

  1. State-of-the-Art: For advancing food system transformations, it is crucial to firstly obtain a thorough understanding on the State of the Art of the current (regional) food system: how it is organised and how it contributes to improved health and sustainability. You will evaluate the economic, environmental and health benefits of the existing local /regional food systems around Almere and Flevoland province at different spatial scales for different actors: i.e. different groups of consumers, producers. What business concepts, aimed at promoting more sustainable and healthier lifestyles, do exist within the region? How and to what extent do these business models contribute to reducing the ecological footprint of the city and to improving the health of its citizens?

  2. Valuation: From within this oversight, you will focuses on the issue of valuation. Within the province of Flevoland different groups and companies develop regional initiatives for Feeding the City based on value propositions like environmental sustainability, social cohesion, and regional authenticity. Traditional economic models for business development provide inadequate support for these initiatives, because these do not sufficiently take into account the dynamic societal interaction of the business model, which allows for continuous co-creation, involving consumers and producers, and redefinition of shared values. There is a need for a new generation of business models that pays attention to the creation of multiple values and the strength of the business ecosystem. Questions to be addressed are: Who wants local food, which products in particular and what is the willingness to pay? How is value awarded, based on what and by whom? How and to what extent are new value systems able to transform existing and generate new practices? What is the role of time and place based physical connections versus more virtual connections and global information flows?

  3. Scaling: The third aspect of the PhD research regards upscaling of food transitions by small to large scale innovators and the uptake by end-consumers in their everyday life. The transformative power of novel business concepts is determined by the extent to which these are able to catalyse 'new' social practices. Several innovative concepts that are successful on a small, mostly local, scale are (not yet) able to transform established systems. For promoting societal transformation, it is pivotal to understand how alternative business models can generate real breakthroughs, not confined to niche alternatives, but leading to new mainstream production-consumption practices. You will explore international innovative arrangements with transformative food system capacity. What types novel arrangements could be suitable for the specific context of Almere and Flevoland? How can the Almere /Flevoland regional initiatives learn from these broader, international, innovative arrangements for enhancing their upscaling potential? 

From these three interconnected perspectives, the research will provide insights into i) social relations in production and consumption models through theoretical anchorage of business models and concepts in social theories and ii) best practices, which might inform the directions for business models targeting the desired development towards sustainable regional food systems for healthy living. For this project, we collaborate with the Urban Economics (UEC) group of Wageningen UR.



  • You have a (research) Master degree: in an area of specialisation that is relevant in relation to the PhD theme such as urban economics, economic sociology, economic geography, sustainable business design.
  • You have strong quantitative and qualitative research skills.
  • You have excellent results in your first degree /graduate study.
  • You have explicit interest in and motivation for scientific research.
  • You have a keen interest in food system transformation, healthy living, environmental sustainability and urban development.
  • You are fluent in written and spoken Dutch and English.
  • You have strong scientific writing skills.
  • You are highly motivated to work in a team.
  • You have strong social skills and the ability to effectively communicate with different stakeholders.
  • You are an enthusiastic and pro-active self-starting personality.
  • You have excellent organizational skills.
  • You are prepared to participate in educational tasks. 


Our offer

The attractiveness of working at Aeres University of Applied Sciences, is that you are part of a team that educates professionals in close collaboration with the sector for which we train them. There are also ample opportunities for self-development. The job of PhD researcher has a salary perspective linked to scale 10 of the collective labour agreement for higher professional education (from € 2.459,53 up to € 3.994,25 gross per month for a full-time appointment). The perquisites that come with the job, are good.
The initial appointment is temporary for the period of 1 year with Stichting Aeres Groep. After the first contract, the length of the following contract is equal  to the period of the PhD, in total to a maximum of 4 years.

This project is a collaboration between the research group Food and Healthy Living of Aeres University of Applied Sciences and the Urban Economics (UEC) group of Wageningen University. This allows the candidate to benefit from the combined strengths of two research centres, while being solidly embedded in the Wageningen School of Social Sciences (WASS).


Any questions? Please contact Dr. Sigrid Wertheim-Heck, Lector Food and Healthy Living, phone number: 088 020 6743 or 06 33 876 825.
Applying immediately? Send your motivation letter and CV (by e-mail) no later than Sunday February 18th, 2018 to Mrs W.G. Bekkering, director of Aeres University of Applied Sciences Almere, using the e-mail address:
Job interviews will take place on Thursday March 8th between 13:00 – 17:00 hrs. 

Sales contacts induced by this vacancy will not be appreciated.