Pioneer in focus: Kalmar Sounds Commission - Water, food production, and the Baltic Sea

Kalmar Municipality in Sweden participated in the Baltic Sea City Accelerator. We take a deep dive to learn about the city, its Vision 2020 and their work in the Accelerator programme. This article was originally published in our Baltic Sea City Accelerator magazine


A Mini Baltic Sea

Kalmar Municipality lies on the eastern coastline of Sweden on Kalmar Sound. With its narrow inlet and being surrounded by fertile agricultural lands, Kalmar Sound is a micro version of the Baltic Sea.

An attractive coastline and a number of annual water-related recreational activities provide a strong platform for growing Kalmar’s tourism industry. In 2014 tourism in Kalmar generated 3.9 billion SEK, a figure the region hopes to double by 2020.  As one of Sweden’s leading regions for poultry farming and egg production there is additional potential for for economic growth.  

The best experience of being part of the Baltic Sea City Accelerator pilot programme is that it has forced us to do our homework. For example, to find out what our main sources for nitrogen and phosphorus are, calculate what exactly “our part of HELCOM” means, and what we need to do to reach that goal. It has also revealed other ways to look at the Baltic: that there is bigger business potential in the Baltic than we previously thought. And to do this as a group, pushing and pulling each other, has been very helpful.
— Karin Löfström, Strategist Ecological Sustainability, Kalmar Municipality

44% of the 3,188 farms in Kalmar County have livestock, while 17% (193, 602 hectares) of all land mass is used for food production, a figure that is considerably higher than the national average of 7%. Kalmar’s food industry has an annual turnover of 14 billion SEK, and expected job growth in these two industries is expected to be 20% by 2020.

To achieve the twin objectives of tourist sector growth that relies on clean water and agricultural enterprise growth that generates significant amounts of nutrients in the form of manure, is the challenge many Baltic Sea communities face.

Kalmar, Sweden

Kalmar, Sweden

Vision for 2021

As part of the Baltic Sea City Accelerator programme Kalmar has developed a local Baltic Sea Action Plan, complete with strategic objectives and actions, to work for a cleaner Kalmar Sound and Baltic Sea whilst simultaneously pursuing growth in its tourism and food producing industries. As of 2017, Kalmar has already reduced phosphorous by 0.6 tonne/year and 42 tonne nitrogen/year.

By 2021, Kalmar Municipality, together with the other municipalities in the Kalmar Sound Commission, aim to collectively fulfill their part of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan.

Our Blue Strategy shows what Kalmar Municipality needs to do to reach HELCOM and good water status, and many of these actions are linked to the food producing industry. You cannot solve the Baltic Sea without solving the nutrient loop! With an increase in demand for food, it is paramount to get water and nutrients to stay on land. This and how to get phosphorous back from the sea are the strategy’s main focus.
— Karin Löfström, Strategist Ecological Sustainability, Kalmar Municipality

For Kalmar Municipality this means reducing their annual load of nutrients by 72.1 tonne nitrogen/year and 6.7 tonne phosphorus/year by 2021. According to the national Water Framework Directive, Kalmar Municipality also plans to achieve good status on all water bodies.

Kalmar plans to meet their reduction targets by undertaking, among other things, the following actions: building Sweden’s most advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant and creating an arena for the development of modern cleaning and recycling of water and nutrients; supporting innovation that improves the re-use of nutrients in food production; and involving the private sector in developing a business case for re-circulating nutrients from sea-to-land, such as using mussel farming as a source of fodder for the poultry industry.

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Commitment to Farmers and Landowners

From all appearances, one would think increased food production, environmental impact, and water shortages are incompatible with each other. On the contrary, I say.
— Johan Persson, Chairman of the Executive Board, Kalmar Municipality

Kalmar is dedicated to finding sustainable solutions to support its agriculture and food producing industries, which comprises nearly 3,200 farms. During the period 2017-2021, Kalmar pledges to work on these areas:

  • Ownership of land and maintenance Kalmar Municipality will investigate new ways to support landowners. This could be through maintenance contracts or the municipality buying the land where the action takes place.
  • Start a green and blue platform where academic research and  the private and public sector get involved in food production and water issues.
  • Involve the private sector To fuel innovation and to take actions to the next level, the private sector needs to be more involved. For Kalmar Municipality this means a more pro-active business department.
  • National changes In order to save the Baltic Sea national regulations need to encourage actions that benefit the Baltic Sea. Kalmar Municipality will raise these issues and seek to collaborate or partner with regional, national, and international agencies to effect change.
  • Long term solutions Kalmar Municipality will secure long-term resources in the form of financing and personnel earmarked for Baltic Sea projects.