One suggestion was to introduce a food protection zone that would protect inner farming areas.
Report author, Rachel Carey, said it was a critical time for food production around Melbourne.
“If we continue to grow our city in the way that we have in the past, with much of the growth on the urban fringe, then by the time we reach 7 million people the capacity of that food bowl to feed the city could drop from 41 per cent to 18 per cent,” she said.
The University of Melbourne has released a roadmap for a resilient and sustainable Melbourne foodbowl.
Supplied: Melbourne University
The report suggested five policy pillars that could help protect the sustainability of the food bowl: farmland protection, farm viability, water access, nutrient recycling and sustainable farming.
As part of this, researchers said that putting a hard boundary in place for urban growth, and introducing a new food production zone would help keep agriculture viable in the region.
“We need to make it clearer to people in the city what food actually comes from that area.
“One of the main ways people buy local food now is farmers markets, but if you’re not doing that and you’re going to the supermarket, it can be very hard to tell what food has come from Melbourne’s food bowl.”
The report also suggested a bigger emphasis should be placed on farmers reusing waste water and reusing organic waste for food production.
Farmers’ right to sell
What about those farmers who want to sell rural land in the food bowl that they have owned for years, in many case for a large amount of money?
Some small farmers who are nearing retirement age in the peri-urban areas have said they are relying on being able to sell their properties to developers to fund their retirement.
A farmhouse in Werribee South.
ABC News: Margaret Burin
Dr Carey said this posed an interesting challenge.
“We need to look more closely at how farmers can exit in a way that will support their retirement.
“But if we do leave it just to the market, there will be no food bowl on the city fringe and we will become more dependent on food that comes from further away, so there is a public interest here as well.
Government seeks submissions
The Victorian Government has been investigating how to protect Melbourne’s agricultural land.
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has been seeking submissions until 23 April about how this can best be achieved.
The department said it was in the process of trying to identify the most important agricultural land, and their draft criteria was looking at “the naturally occurring features of the land as well as current land uses, location of important infrastructure, and links to processing and supply industries”.
The Government hopes to implement the planning changes by 2020.