The agro-food sector and peri-urban rural areas are changing. Food chains industrialize and globalize. In the rural areas in the vicinity of urban metropolis space becomes scarce and it has many ‘owners’. Farmers look for new roads in the tension between the demands of the international food chains and the local requirements concerning nature and the environment.
The structural changes in the scarcity of products, energy, space and nature lead to fundamental changes in the views on the role of agriculture in urban areas. This implies long term societal change. In such transitions stakeholders like consumers, citizens, policy makers and farmers change their views on their own role and contribution to the problems and the solutions
Such transitions challenge scientists to make the changes in policy, institutions and behaviour visible, understandable and –if possible- also applicable in developing creative ideas for system innovations in products, production processes and collaborations. That is not easy, also as the transitions change the knowledge system itself.
To build a (European) community in the agro-food sector, to exchange and create new research and innovation methods aligned to the goals of the European Innovation Partnership ‘Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability’. The focus is not only on scientific knowledge, but also on hands-on experience with bottom-up initiatives encouraging (wide dissemination of) innovations, closing the ‘innovation gap’ between research and farming practice.