Pioneers in circular agriculture: How do they do it?

Published on
June 17, 2020

The publication Toekomstige voedselproductie (Future food production) offers an overview of seven pioneering Dutch circular farmers who differ in their approach. By showing how they do it, they are an inspiration to Dutch farmers and policy makers.

The way we produce our food is increasingly becoming unbalanced. It goes beyond what Earth can provide. Pioneers in circular agriculture show it can be done differently. In the Netherlands, there are many innovative circular farms producing plant-based or animal food in one way or the other. Seven innovative food-producing businesses have been extensively analysed.

In-depth innovation

The enterprises differ in business form and circular strategy, but are comparable in their degree of innovativeness. Their circular approach is diverse, but they all encounter innovation barriers because they do things differently.

These are not just entrepreneurs, but people with dreams and the courage to turn them into action. They show that food can be produced radically differently.
Project leader Anne-Charlotte Hoes

Inspiration for innovation

Innovative agricultural enterprises often receive positive appraisal, but hardly see that reflected in the financial results. They have to be creative when dealing with their business model and are consequently innovative in various fields. For instance, modern mixed farm Decohof not only offers garden plants, meat, eggs and a vegetable picking garden, but is also the initiator of Start-up Farm. Owner Vincent Overgoor stimulates socio-agricultural entrepreneurship on his estate by providing start-up entrepreneurs who have ideas that match his business model with land, areas and knowledge, in exchange for part of the revenues or start-up rent. Until now, this has resulted in a labyrinth of herbs and grape production. By opening up the nursery, Vincent expects more people to find their way to Decohof and this will result in both social and economic benefits

Based on talks with 46 interviewees and an internet survey, 250 pioneering businesses have been charted. Of these, 88 have been included in the publication and 7 have been extensively described. Through their stories, the government gains insight into impediments and how policy can remove them. The stories offer a peek behind the scenes of innovative circular farmers. Hoes: ‘These are not one-size-fits-all solutions for businesses, but they can learn from the circular approaches and try to apply them to their own situation. The pioneering circular farmers show it can be done.’

Circular agriculture in the light of Covid-19

The research was carried out and concluded before the outbreak of Covid-19, but the results remain relevant. Project leader Anne-Charlotte Hoes: ‘Despite corona, the transition towards circular agriculture continues. Perhaps the process is even speeded up because the societal need for ‘quality’, ‘proximity’ and ‘connectedness’ goes with circular agriculture. Because much has come to a standstill, people are thinking more about what’s on our plate.’