Her tenacity when it comes to sustainable food systems is striking, and not only in the eyes of the Duurzame Dindag (Sustainable Tuesday) jury. Imke de Boer, Professor of Livestock and Sustainable Food Systems is a food system thinker who has worked on making our food systems more sustainable for the past 25 years. An area where there is still plenty to do, as the challenges have only become clearer in recent years. Just as well then that yet another organisation is drawing attention to the ideas, initiatives and scientific research of this fundamental thinker and doer.
Good and tasty food
Imke de Boer takes a holistic approach to studying sustainable food systems. She summarises her research as follows: “A healthy Earth is essential for a good and healthy life.’ Her vision rests on three pillars: a circular food system, reconnecting people to their food (‘Know what you eat!”), and a new economy.
A circular food system also has room for livestock, which creates added value by turning waste flows from plant-based food and biomass from grasslands into high-quality food and other ecosystem services. Some farmers are already applying this principle in practice.
Suitcase full of sustainable ideas
The Duurzame Lintje (Sustainable Ribbon) jury praises De Boer’s work: “Her research and its application in the agrarian sector are not just extremely relevant, they are nothing short of a fundamental basis on which we can and must, imperatively and with great urgency, rebuild our global food system to be sustainable and allow us to feed the global population now and in the future.”
Every first Tuesday in September, the organisation behind the Duurzame Lintje officially presents politicians in The Hague with a suitcase filled with hundreds of sustainable ideas and initiatives. By awarding ribbons, the organisation also provides a podium for promising ideas.
Science for impact
And this makes De Boer happy. “Ever since my student days, I’ve been intrinsically motivated to share my perspective on what is good for people, animals and the environment. I want to disseminate our study results and arguments as widely as possible to create a healthy food system. For me, this ribbon is yet another opportunity to connect science and practice.”
De Boer believes that a social podium helps to promote and facilitate change. “This ribbon is not just for me, but also for the researchers, students, PhD students, farmers and food system thinkers with whom I work. We all need each other to really transform our food system. The ribbon also stimulates me to keep going and bring our research into practice even more. For example by convincing people that a more plant-based diet is healthy for everyone and everything! There is still so much to do in this field.”
Connecting science and practice
To help everyone move in the right direction with the support of sound scientific knowledge, De Boer has decided to increasingly move towards the practice. This is why this year she has opted for a partial appointment as professor. The rest of her time is devoted to connecting science and practice, for example by joining the Advisory Board at Caring Farmers, who bring her ideas into practice, at the Springtij sustainability festival, and by speaking on a number of podiums.
In this context, De Boer will also appear at the Circular@WUR Conference (6-8 December), where she hopes to draw attention to her holistic perspective on our food system. “I always feel driven to show that things can be done differently; I want to tell a positive story. I also always say that we are all part of the current food system, so we are also all part of the solution for creating more sustainable food systems: not only farmers, but also citizens, the industry sector, and the government. Circular@WUR is bringing all these stakeholders together to brainstorm about a circular society. It’s fantastic!”