Growth, nature conservation and biodiversity

Published on
September 3, 2013

“We need to do more with less. Agriculture uses 35% of the planet’s land. By 2050, the world will need to double food its production to meet anticipated needs, but we don’t want people using national parks to grow their food. That’s a trend we’re already starting to see and that concerns us.” These lines were delivered by Jason Clay, Vice President at the World Wildlife Fund, during the opening of the Academic Year on 2 September in Wageningen.

Efficient production

According to Clay, food production needs to become more efficient. “Over the next forty years, we’ll need to produce as much food as we have in the past 8,000 years,” he claims. Clay is calling for an intensification of agricultural production in regions with inefficient farming practices. This would considerably increase agricultural yields in developing countries. As an expert in plant breeding, soil and water management, pest control and technological applications, Wageningen UR can make a significant contribution to increasing agricultural yields.

Boosting prosperity, but not at the expense of our planet

In his speech, Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp discussed “boosting prosperity in the broadest sense of the word.” According to Kemp, this is about more than just our day-to-day incomes: “It’s about nature, energy, biodiversity, natural resources, food and how our economic activities impact our planet.” This, said Kemp, calls for robust innovations. According to him, the Netherlands has demonstrated that it can offer “Dutch solutions to global problems.” He qualified this with the following statement: “Thanks to the research conducted at Wageningen UR and the efforts of the agricultural sector, both of which are supported by sensible policies, our small country is the second-largest exporter of agricultural products worldwide.” 

International interest in Wageningen research

Aalt Dijkhuizen, President and Chairman of the Wageningen UR Executive Board, discussed the global interest in Dutch expertise and applications. In his speech, he offered an overview of major collaboration projects with key international partners. He spoke of the Wageningen UR Chile food consortium, major projects in China, promising long-term assignments in the Middle East and collaborative efforts in the United States, Africa and Europe.   

Silver Medal of Honour for Wageningen Ambassador George Lubbe

Dijkhuizen, who announced during the ceremony that he would be stepping down in March 2014, awarded a Silver Medal of Honour to George Lubbe, co-founder and Chairman of the Wageningen Ambassadors. This club, which consists of prominent alumni and boasts an extensive network, supports the university in its ‘Food for Thought, Thought for Food’ campaign, which raises money for research to combat world hunger. 

Opening of Orion by Queen Máxima

In addition to the opening of the Academic Year, the university also celebrated the opening of the new Orion education building by Her Majesty Queen Máxima. Member of the Wageningen UR Executive Board Tijs Breukink explained that a significant increase in student numbers forced Wageningen University to erect a second education building on Wageningen Campus. This development comes just six years after Queen Beatrix opened Forum, the first education building on the Campus.

The future of Wageningen Campus

Breukink also discussed future plans for Wageningen Campus. A technology building will be developed on the southern side of the campus. This building will house cutting edge research facilities for researchers at Wageningen UR as well as researchers from various SMEs, start-ups and multinationals. “Coming together and inspiring one another: that is one of the goals of Wageningen Campus,” Breukink explained. “It will be a dynamic environment for research, education and innovation; a gateway to smart food in a green world.”

A tour for the queen

After the speeches, guests were invited to tour the new Orion building with Queen Máxima. During this tour, the queen was introduced to six research projects that all contribute to improving our quality of life in various ways. She was given a brief explanation of the technology used to determine the origin of the cacao bean, to identify scents in the brain, to use LED light to grow tomatoes that contain more vitamin C, to monitor our buying habits in virtual supermarkets, to use nature to protect us against rising water levels and to monitor the state of our forests from above. The queen ended her visit by meeting with several students from Wageningen University. 

Opening Orion Student Party

After the official opening of the academic year and the Orion building, it was the students’ turn to celebrate. More than twenty thousand students attended the Opening Orion Student Party, which featured performances by acts such as The Party Squad, Ill Skill Squad and Vato Gonzalez.