Lighthouse farms: a future for farming and food

Published on
April 26, 2023

What will the world of farming and food look like in 2050? It is becoming harder to predict. But one thing is clear: we need to prepare for a new approach to agriculture. An approach that delivers not only food, but also on the many other expectations of society: e.g. clean water, clean air, room for biodiversity, climate neutrality. An approach that is ready for the many shocks that are becoming the norm, rather than the exception: bio-physical shocks, such as droughts, flooding, heat, frost, and socio-economic shocks, such as supply chain disruptions.

We see that many private and public sector initiatives are competing in the arena of sustainability: climate-smart agriculture, circularity, agro-ecology, regenerative agriculture, organic farming... Is it one of these approaches that holds the keys for a new future of farming and food? Or do they all bring their own merits in the search for the diversity of solutions that are needed for different continents, climates, soils, farmers, and cultures?

Ready for 2050

At the Lighthouse Farm Academy, you can learn from successful farms around the world that have already gone before us, and have found radically new solutions to farming that have proven to work for them. Think of them as farms that are ready for the challenges of 2050. We call them Lighthouse Farms, because they are beacons illuminating a diversity of pathways for others to follow. Our farms represent the heterogeneity of agriculture: be it industrial, smallholder, women-led, organic - together they show the diversity that of solutions that are both needed and achievable.

Does the Lighthouse Farm Academy teach participants how to copy-and-paste these farming systems? No. Instead, we will be learning from these future successes: we have studied the ingredients to success that these diverse farming systems share in common. What are their underlying design principles? How did they get to where they are? How did they overcome adversity? How do they manage to deliver on so many expectations from so many people?

From making-a-difference to making-the-difference

The Lighthouse Farm Academy explores how we, as actors in the food system, can all contribute to bringing these novel solutions to scale. Because we cannot put the responsibility for the future of farming and food solely at the doorstep of individual farmers. They rely on many others in the food system to make a living. Think consumers, the processing industry, suppliers, financial institutes, policymakers, regulators, NGOs… Who is best placed to initiate change? And how can we make sure that we work together to create order in the chaotic world of sustainability?

Start with the Summer School!

To get a glimpse of what Lighthouse Farm Academy had on offer, we have developed the one-week taster Summer School Lighthouse Farm Academy. It combines elements of classroom learning, application of knowledge to real-life challenges, and on-farm experiences as seen from farmers perspectives. Building on WUR’s scientific study of the Global Network of Lighthouse Farms, this Summer School programme is unique in adhering to the highest academic standards, while being grounded with real farm experiences.

Following the Summer School, participants will be equipped with knowledge on the diversity of solutions that are needed and attainable, and insights into their role and the contributions they can make to initiate transitions towards a world of farming and food that is ready for tomorrow’s challenges.