WUR Student Challenge: Make all soils healthy again!

Are you eager to make a difference? Do you want to influence how the EU spends its funds? Passionate about the role soils play in our lives and food? Then join the Student Challenge “Make all soils healthy again!”.


Participation is open for all WUR students and you can sign up as an individual but interdisciplinary teams of 2 or more students are strongly encouraged.

Missions make a real difference in the lives of citizens and society as a whole


You are asked to present fresh and innovative ideas, concepts or designs for soil health in the context of the following guiding questions:

  1. What is soil health and how can it be measured?
  2. How can land users and policy makers use soil health information to do a better job?
  3. What are effective ways of communicating soil health to a wider audience (general public)?

To focus discussions, the following definition of soil health is proposed: Soil health is defined as the capacity of a specific kind of soil to function, contributing towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


More detailled information about the WUR Soil Challenge can be found in the briefing document below.

Download the Soil Challenge briefing

Your submission

Prepare a product that covers the three questions without financial details: we want ideas! There will be regular Q&A sessions, also with the Advisory Board, to support your efforts. You will present your results creatively in June 2020 during a final session. The winning contribution will receive 5000 euro

- Unfortunately, your cookie settings do not allow videos to be displayed. - check your settings

Why join?

This is a great way to make a real difference and contribute to research and action leading to more healthy soils for a sustainable future. It is also the perfect opportunity to learn from experts from companies and government, and expand your network. And of course the prize money is a cherry on the cake.


  • Information & matchmaking session: 7 January 2020
  • Registration deadline: 17 January 2020
  • Develop your submission in the period January to June 2020


You can sign up until 24 January 2020, by sending an email to studentchallenges@wur.nl. Please include: your name, study programme, phase of study, and, if applicable, team name and team composition.

More information

For further details, visit the session on 7 January 2020, 12.45-13.45, at Forum C0321.


The EU organizes and finances a research program in the years 2021-2027 (total budget 100 billion €) that is based on five so called ‘missions’. One of those missions is : “Soil Health and Food”. For this challenge we have rephrased the mission as: Make all soils healthy again!”. The EU missions are not a classical research program, even though research will be involved, because the societal impact of the work is the central theme:

“Missions make a real difference in the lives of citizens and society as a whole. They boast the impact of EU-funded research and innovation by having ambitions , measurable and time-bound goals around issues that affect citizen’s daily lives.”

The mission board of the soil health and food theme (em.prof Johan Bouma is one of the members) is meeting now regularly in Brussels to define  a “call” for programs to be starting in 2021. The Student Challenge is intended to produce some fresh, innovative ideas, shaping this particular program. These ideas will be communicated to the EU mission board and they welcome it! 

Advisory Board

  • David van den Burg (KIBO) Chairman and coordinator
  • Johan Bouma (member of the Soil Health and Food Mission)
  • Gita Maas (Ministry I&W)
  • Margot de Cleen (Rijkswaterstaat)
  • Rio Pals (WUR)
  • Tom Ligthart (TNO)
  • Willem Hendriks (NL ingenieurs)
  • Henk van den Berg (VNG)
  • Peter Ramakers (province Noord Brabant)


  • Johan Bouma ( member of the Soil Health and Food Mission),
  • David van den Burg (first chair of Pyrus and now chair KIBO)
  • Arnold Moene (Programme Director BSc Soil Water Atmosphere & MSc Earth and Environment)
  • Esther van der Laan (former chair of Pyrus and student association of BSc Soil Water Atmosphere & MSc Earth and Environment)
  • Rio Pals (WUR Student Challenges)