A well-functioning ecosystem for handsfree agrifood

Published on
June 1, 2023

The NXTGEN Hightech program aims to stimulate structural and sustainable economic growth in the Netherlands. Handsfree agrifood is one of the main pillars of the program. The Agro Food Robotics-program of Wageningen University & Research is the coordinator for the ecosystem activities of this agrifood-program.

On April 14, 2022, the Dutch Council of Ministers decided to invest 450 million euros in NXTGEN Hightech from the National Growth Fund. The program includes several sectors that have great potential for Dutch export, such as agrifood technology. NXTGEN Hightech invests 155 million for the development of handsfree agrifood. This will be invested in projects in the domains of open cultivation, closed cultivation and food. The project started at the beginning of 2023 and will take a maximum of 7 years.

Approximately €50 million is available for greenhouse horticulture for the development of distributed data, digital twins, harvesting robots and post-harvest and logistics robots. The aim is to develop innovations for handsfree greenhouse horticulture, which will strengthen the export position of the Netherlands. The development of a successful ecosystem is essential in this respect. AFR of WUR is the lead party for activities that stimulate and support such an ecosystem. AFR does this in close collaboration with FME (which is chairman of the ecosystem project).

Four types of activities take place for the development of the ecosystem:

  • Connection and Dialogue, so knowledge exchange within consortia and with the broad network.
  • Data Infrastructure relates to the construction of technical data infrastructure at demonstration facilities for greenhouse horticulture: this must be usable for independent research, among other things.
  • Testing and Validation, so that new solutions in the field of handsfree greenhouse horticulture can be tested, validated and demonstrated. Lastly,
  • Human Capital Agenda (HCA): workshops, training courses and teaching materials for professionals.