Meeting Rabobank’s Martine Boon

Rabobank is a Dutch all-finance bank and our Platinum Partner. We are very grateful for their support to this as well as next editions of the Greenhouse Challenge. Rabobank is firmly commited to helping its clients and society navigate the massive changes reshaping the food and agriculture sector to be able to feed the world sustainably. Martine Boon, Global Head Banking for Food Education & Engagement: “By sponsoring the Student Challenge ‘Design the Ultimate Urban Greenhouse’, new innovative ideas will be created which can help us and WUR shape this transition.”

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and Rabobank are intricately entwined, making it difficult to capture the full extent of our relationship. For example, we employ many WUR graduates and some of our staff teach at WUR. Rabobank Managing Board member Berry Marttin is member of the WUR Supervisory Board, and WUR’s President of the Executive Board, Professor L.O. (Louise) Fresco, used to be a member of the Rabobank Nederland Supervisory Board. Recently, WUR and Rabobank organized F&A Next’ for the third time. This is an event that brings together start-ups, corporates and investors, to boost innovation in food and agriculture. We work together in many forms with many different objectives. There is one common denominator in the way we shape our partnerships and objectives; how can we gear up  the food and agricultural sector up for the future to contribute to  solving the global food challenge. The Green Challenge is an example of that.

The food and agricultural sector is in transition; consumers are in transition. Speeding up that transition, and guiding our F&A clients in that transition is probably our biggest challenge. In addition, there are several other challenges. Firstly, we need to make smarter and more sustainable use of scarce natural resources such as soil and water. Secondly, we need to reduce waste on both the production side (from farmer to retailer) and on the consumer side. Thirdly, we need to make food and agricultural value chains stronger, more resilient, more stable. And, finally, we need to improve on the intersection of food and health. The red thread through these four challenges is innovation. We need incremental innovation, i.e. improving existing practices, processes, knowledge, as well as disruptive innovation. Vertical farming is potentially a disruptive innovation.

We see our role as providers of access to finance, knowledge and networks. Through access to finance we can help speed up the transition, e.g. by financing and funding activities of business models that are sustainable, both economically and environmentally. By sharing and unlocking (our) knowledge and best practices, we can support the food and agricultural businesses to gear up, even in remote areas, to sustainable production and yields. Through our networks, we can start up coalitions to help grow a better world together, such as the one with, among other, United Nations Environment which aims to promote best farming practices to increase yields whilst keeping the soils healthy and decreasing deforestation. ‘Inhouse’, we foster an innovative culture and mind-set e.g. through our corporate innovation programme ‘Moonshot’, which is in fact a call to action to all our employees worldwide to come up with ideas that help grow a better world together. The best of the best will be granted access to an incubator programme facilitating them  to further develop their business model.

By sponsoring the Student Challenge ‘Design the Ultimate Urban Greenhouse’, new innovative ideas will be created which can help us and WUR shape this transition. Therefore this challenge is highly valuable for the future. To each participant I would like to say, ‘Enjoy the time you work with your team on this challenge. It’s challenging, now and then it may be frustrating, but keep in mind that, in the end, you will have learned so much from this period that you’ll be proud of what you have achieved!’