Meeting Henk Wolfert of AMS Institute

The AMS Institute is one of our main partners and its mission is to develop a deep understanding of the city to design solutions for its challenges, and integrate these into the city itself. Henk Wolfert is Programme Manager Research, sees the Greenhouse Challenge as an exciting case study, aiming to create innovations for metropolitan food systems and improving a healthy and liveable living environment.

What makes AMS Institute unique is that we use the city of Amsterdam as a living lab to maximize the impact of our activities. The city provides a valuable context for our experiments and helps us develop and test advanced solutions for similar challenges in other metropolitan areas around the globe. After winning an international tender from the City of Amsterdam, AMS Institute was founded in 2014 by the consortium Wageningen University & Research (WUR), Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). WUR, TU Delft and MIT shape the institute’s academic core and we jointly work on an expanding our research portfolio, a thriving educational programme, and a value platform. Currently our research portfolio includes more than 90 projects on which we work closely together with the three universities.

Last year, WUR and TU Delft launched a joint master Metropolitan Analysis Design & Engineering (MSc MADE). MADE focuses on the metropolitan challenges of Amsterdam and the broader metropolitan area, using Amsterdam as a case study and a living lab. This programme was set up in collaboration with AMS Institute with the aim of connecting students to real-world cases, business, the city and its citizen, training them hands-on for the multidisciplinary challenges of today’s and tomorrow’s cities.

When looking at the essential issues driving sustainable food production, the city’s food systems touch on almost all the core themes: economic development, health, mobility, liveability, attraction and sustainability. The Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (MRA) has instigated many initiatives and innovations in the field of food production, processing and logistics, some of which also address the circular economy and climate change. Our institute provides integral answers to these urban issues, directly related to the city‘s own goals.

The strategic food programme is working on the perspective: is a regional food system more sustainable and healthier? Together with our partners, we are creating insights into and a vision on the larger metropolitan food system in order to develop effective policies in the fields of ecological footprint, logistics, mobility, data analytics, agrifood supply chain, and even for climate change. To achieve this we:

•set up research projects with the aim of making the metropolitan food system more sustainable;
•create a dashboard to visualize and monitor the system;
•make resulting data available to a wide audience;
•stimulate the discussion about the future food system;
•set up future scenario, for example: investigate what new employment will bring changes in our food system?

There are many food-related initiatives in Amsterdam, such as setting up aquaponic systems, restaurants that make dishes from local food, vertical farming, vegetable gardens on roofs etc. These bottom-up initiatives are often initiated by residents and NGOs, and are currently gaining increasing attention from the city’s governing bodies.. ‘Design the ultimate urban greenhouse’ is a challenge where we hope that the students will find innovative solutions to improving and build on the resilience of food systems in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. We see it as an exciting case study, aiming to create innovations for metropolitan food systems and improving a healthy and liveable living environment. The student teams will bring professional food production into an urban neighbourhood, connecting it with local resource flows and e.g. local (smart) energy systems. We are looking forward to their solutions, as these are needed to shape and redefine a future-proof urban food system.