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!”.

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

The challenge

18 Interdisciplinary teams of WUR students have taken it upon themselves 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)?

There will be regular Q&A sessions, also with the Advisory Board, to support their efforts. 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 information on the challenge can be found in the briefing.

Download the Soil Challenge briefing

So what are they going to present us with? Ideas! The students creativity is the limit, so expect the unexpected when the results will be presented during the final session in June. The winning contribution will receive 5000 euro.

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More information about below events will be available soon.

  • Tuesday 18 February: Academic-team meeting
  • Friday 20 March: Advisory Board meeting
  • Friday 3 April: Academic-team meeting
  • Wednesday 29 April: Excursion
  • Friday 15 May: final Advisory Board meeting
  • Monday 1 June: Deadline for handing in final product
  • Week of 8 – 12 June: Final event and announcement of winner


The EU organizes and finances a research program in the years 2021-2027 (total budget 100 billion euro) 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)
  • Jos Hegmans (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)
  • Eugène Hendrikx (Ambient Advies)