What will robots on the farm of the future look like? And how can smart eco ducts facilitate the movement of wild animals? Answers to these questions will hopefully be provided by students of the Designs for Agrifood & Ecological Systems of Wageningen University & Research (WUR). A post-masters course specifically focussed on designing for a sustainable future.
Wageningen topics are not immediately linked to the field of design. Nevertheless, the global demand for trained designers will increase in the near future, say Wageningen experts. Lecturer Marjolein Derks, for example, expects the new programme Designs for Agrifood & Ecological systems to become a critical link between developing scientific knowledge and the practical application thereof.
In launching this programme, WUR follows other technical universities that are already offering similar courses. There, the programmes are met with great enthusiasm because they offer new opportunities to those who desire a more practical follow-up after their master’s. The trade and industry sector is also enthusiastic about the programme, says Marjolein Derks, who discussed it with various entrepreneurs.
They quickly indicated that designers are sought-after in the trade and industry sector at present and are expected to be even more so in the future. ‘This is because we are on the verge of critical transitions in agriculture, how we handle nature, housing and soil use. This knowledge is being developed, but reality is often stubborn. What works in the lab does not always work in the outside world. This programme is designed to bridge that gap. To translate scientific knowledge into a proof of principle that works in practice.’
Demand among masters’ students
In addition to the demand within the trade and industry sector, the wishes of master students are also relevant in launching the new Designs for Agrifood & Ecological Systems programme. Marjolein Derks noticed that masters’ students of, for example, Biosystems Engineering are keenly interested in developing technologies and systems that can help shape transitions in the future. This interest ranges from purely technical solutions such as robots to ecological systems such as a food forest.
‘The use of drones in agriculture appeals to the imagination. But the application in the field, where the weather may be a disturbing factor, is still difficult. Our students are eager to help think and build.’
The new programme starts at the beginning of 2022. Master’s students interested in following the programme can find more information on wur.eu/engd.