Opening of the Academic Year 2009/10

The theme of the Opening ceremony of the Academic Year in Wageningen was 'Innovation in economically difficult times'.

Mrs Marion Guillou, President of INRA, focused on the international aspects, while Mr Theo Meijer, Chairman of Food Valley, addressed the collaboration among the government, private industry and knowledge institutes in the Food Valley, and the ambition for the future. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between INRA and Wageningen UR to strengthen the collaboration.

Symposium

The opening ceremony was preceded by a symposium at which research projects in the area of food and agriculture in the 21st century are presented and discussed.

  • Ruud Huirne- general director Social Sciences Group Wageningen UR
  • Martin Kropff - rector magnificus Wageningen UR
  • Martin Scholten - general director Animal Sciences Group Wageningen UR
  • Patrick Herpin - scientific director INRA 

Workshops

Showcase Flevoland: the law of the increasing returns

Flevoland is absolutely one of the Wonders of the AgroFood World. Reclaimed from the sea and protected by the Delta Works, this new green land is being explored to meet the increasing demand for arable land for the production of agrofood products and the demand for new biotope to overcome the structural shortage of living space in the Amsterdam region.

Flevoland is again facing major challenges regarding organisation and structuring of the whole area. Within the perspectives of our challenge to increase agri- food production but decrease the ecological footprint, Flevoland has the potential to develop into an internationally recognised innovative research and development area for agriculture in the 21st century: a place to see future agroproduction?

New perspectives for global agricultural development

It is absolutely true that the world is facing one of the largest challenges ever met: how to produce twice as much food with half the Footprint. Exploring the power of nature has never been more eminent. Especially the feeding of rapidly growing urban populations is an important concern. Which new areas can we explore for agroproduction? Can we benefit from or even collaborate with other developments? Can we improve the ecological efficiency of our production and the economical efficiency within our agroproduction chains?

How to organise agro food production at a global level, but equally so at a regional level to decrease food chain inefficiency. Many opportunities can be recognised in this area. Will we look back in 50 years and consider marine or Arctic agro production and new large agro production regions for example around Mumbai or in Egypt, as New Wonders of the AgroFood World?

Adaptive agro production: forgotten opportunities

Sustainability is doubtlessly one of the most frequently used terms in the area of agrofood production world-wide. Considering the major challenge to decrease our footprint dramatically, but at the same time strongly increase the agri- food production, indeed the sustainability of our food production is a key issue. However, how to give body to ‘sustainability’ in respect to major future challenges like the salinization of arable land, industrialisation of animal husbandry and a global shortage of phosphate. At this moment our agroproduction system successfully matches the circumstances we have created our selves: resulting in ecological, economical and societal tradeoffs. Can we reverse this system and develop breakthroughs where agro production is optimized for local circumstances?

The basis of new knowledge leaps should be the enormous potential of nature to adapt. Both technological innovations and system innovations are important in preserving agroproduction. Which developments will result in one of the seven New Wonders of the AgroFood World? Or will sustainability always be the most important criterion to every New Wonder of the AgroFood World?

Novelties in prevention and control of emerging animal & plant diseases

The world is changing rapidly in respect to the mobility of people, (raw) products and living animals and plants with global trade and increasing prosperity as major drivers. Together with climate change and changing local ecologies, this globalisation presents new risks and diseases in agroproduction. Exotic infectious diseases will not only be introduced in Western agriproduction regions, but also appears to be spreading or even become endemic. Many of these infectious diseases will not only harm plants or livestock resulting in major production losses, but can also be of risk to the human population. At the same time we are facing an increasing resistance to pesticides in plant production and antimicrobials in animal production, the latter even resulting in human antibiotic resistance.

How may we prevent and control (emerging) diseases in plants and livestock without massive use of pesticides and antimicrobials? How can we combine effective preventive and control tools with animal welfare and economical and ethical issues? How can agrofood production be made intrinsically safe both for the health of animals, plants and humans, but also lower the carbon footprint? Isn’t it true that basically optimising agroproduction starts with health control? The Netherlands have been successful in the past with the eradication of many (zoonotic) animal and plant diseases. Will a new expertise like ‘eradicology’ lead to a New Wonder of the AgroFood World?