Directly behind Radix is a new building, Radix Nova, into which four chair groups have quietly moved during the pandemic. In this series of articles we meet the new occupants, starting with Ken Giller, Professor of Plant Production Systems: "This functional building is perfect for people who have to do lots of writing and calculations."
We spoke to Ken just before the Dutch government announced stricter corona measures in October, and hybrid working got off to a cautious start in Radix Nova. "We moved here in the middle of the pandemic and I don't think many colleagues noticed. Since then, we’ve never had the chance to be all together as a team as occupancy has been limited to 40% at most."
Radix Nova is located just behind the Radix research and education building, home to Wageningen Plant Research. Designed to embrace the ‘New Way of Working’, this largely transparent building with office gardens is a real eye-catcher on the campus. That said, Nova is actually rather hidden away and, once inside, at first sight you could easily think you’d entered a hospital. The spacious study/office rooms where up to four people can work stand out. And then there are the larger meeting rooms and a multipurpose canteen. "It is indeed a functional building, but we are very happy here and can work more peacefully than was the case in Radix. Admittedly it did look a little bit sterile when we arrived which is why we ran a photo competition. Now we've hung some great photos of our work in the corridor to brighten things up."
The four chair groups are being challenged to work together even more now than was previously the case: "Plant Production Systems, for example, is currently working closely with Crop & Weed Ecology, Niels Anten's chair group. A major research programme is looking at how yields from cocoa and coffee cultivation in Africa can be increased to enable farmers to better provide for their families. Together with Crop Physiology, Paul Struik's group, we are looking at how to improve the agronomy of the potato. And we also continue to work intensively with other groups, including on circular agriculture, a theme that is the subject of many projects here in Europe."
Which major challenges does Ken think his group will be working on – in hybrid form – in the coming years? "The transformation to circular forms of agriculture is the most important theme in the Netherlands and Europe. A huge challenge in this part of the world for the future is how to achieve the same productivity with fewer pesticides. In Africa, our work is much more about food security and soil fertility. Improving productivity remains important as agriculture is the easiest way to tackle poverty on that continent. This shows that there is no single, global solution to all the challenges faced by agriculture."
"Give me a call"
Finally, a tip from Ken for colleagues who may wish to visit him in Nova: "Give me a call in advance. There’s still lots of construction work going on around here which can make us a bit hard to find. And, strangely, you can't get in the building with a Plant Sciences pass: in my opinion that rule should be changed!"