Mansholt Lecture: Navigating the Twilight Zone - Pathways towards digital transformation of food systems

We ask your attention for the fifth edition of the Mansholt Lecture, which Wageningen University & Research (WUR) organises on 22 September 2021 in Brussels. This year the Mansholt Lecture will address the challenges and opportunities of digitalisation in the food systems.

As of this moment it is only possible to register to participate in the online event on 22 September.

The Twilight Zone as a metaphor refers to the situation where innovations have proven to be promising but have to be up-scaled to a higher level of adoption. Therefore we have to bridge the difference between technology readiness and user readiness. “We don’t need more apps. We need a system”. This short quote of a farmer reflects the high degree of fragmentation and discontinuity in innovation processes we observe.

More focus on the user readiness of technologies and support by multi-actor ecosystems is required, in which innovations are embedded in a system approach and tested in living labs. These are important pathways towards a sustainable digital innovation ecosystem and to navigate through the Twilight Zone.

During the 2021 Mansholt Lecture, WUR will present the options and challenges for stakeholders in the transition towards a sustainable digital innovation ecosystem. Europe needs to consider creating an integral European policy on this issue. We hope that you will join the discussion!


14:30 General introduction (Louise O. Fresco)
14:45 Navigate the Twilight Zone (Sjaak Wolfert)
15:10 Reflection EU perspective (Wolfgang Burtscher)
15:30 Panel discussion with representatives of science, policy and industry (Wolfgang Burtscher, Marietje Schaake, Ivo Hostens, Evan Fraser)
16:20 Wrap-up by Louise O. Fresco


Prof. dr. ir. Louise O. Fresco

Louise O. Fresco is the president of the Executive Board Wageningen University & Research.


Dr. ir. Sjaak Wolfert

Sjaak Wolfert is strategic Senior Scientist at Wageningen Economic Research, part of Wageningen University & Research. His main research areas are Information Management & ICT, Systems Analysis and Sustainable Development with current topics Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and Digital Innovation Hubs.

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Mr. Wolfgang Burtscher

The Austrian Wolfgang Burtscher has been the Director-General – Directorate-General Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) since April 2020.


MA Marietje Schaake

Marietje Schaake is a former Dutch member of the European Parliament and is now the International Policy Director at the Cyber Policy Center International Policy Fellow at the Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence.


Ivo Hostens

Ivo Hostens is the technical director of CEMA, the European Agricultural Machinery Association, and defends the interests of its 7,000 European agricultural machinery manufacturers.

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Evan Fraser

Evan Fraser is the director of the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph (Canada), full professor of Geography at the University of Guelph and member of the European High Level Expert Group to assess the need for an International platform for Food System science.