Demand for healthy and sustainable food is growing. As a knowledge leader in this area, Foodvalley is willing and able to play a central role in developing solutions. The Foodvalley 2030 programme (previously Agrifood 2030) will help ensure that all the knowledge at our disposal is actually put to use to deliver innovations that make a real difference. Gerlinde van Vilsteren, innovation manager for Foodvalley based at Corporate Value Creation, Wageningen University & Research, outlines the scale of this hugely ambitious 10-year programme, and explains what we can expect to see on Wageningen Campus.
We know there's an urgent problem. Global demand for food is expected to increase by at least 60 per cent by 2050. To meet that level of demand, we need to come up with groundbreaking innovations.
For many years now, the Foodvalley ecosystem has been home to businesses of all sizes working alongside knowledge institutes to develop innovative technological solutions. Foodvalley is well known in The Netherlands and internationally as an ecosystem for knowledge and innovation around healthy and sustainable food production and nutrition. "The priority now is to take the knowledge we already have and actually apply it to the production of healthy, sustainable food," says Van Vilsteren.
"Everyone on Wageningen Campus will become aware of some aspect of this programme"
Gerlinde van Vilsteren, innovation manager for Foodvalley
Foodvalley 2030's ambitions
The aim of the programme is to deepen the existing collaborations between private and public sector partners, so that they can continue to work together effectively on the most groundbreaking innovations in food and agriculture for a healthy and sustainable future. "This includes sharing and applying expertise, and making use of each other's facilities," says Van Vlisteren. "Businesses are taking the lead in this."
The aim of Foodvalley 2030 is to work together on the most pioneering innovations in food and agriculture for a healthy and sustainable future, and it is doing this through four main themes:
1. Circular agriculture
Healthy and sufficient food production in harmony with the environment we live in, using fewer inputs and minimising loss and waste. Innovations contribute to a rapid transition to a circular, future-proof agricultural system, and strengthen the international competitive edge of companies in The Netherlands and around the world.
2. Food & Health
Ensuring that by 2030, 10 per cent of people in The Netherlands, of all ages, will experience better health as a result of better nutrition. This will mean fewer people living with chronic illnesses such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
3. Protein transition
Increasing plant-based protein consumption by 30 per cent in 2030 compared to 2020. This will be done through the introduction of tasty and healthy plant-based alternatives to meat, fish and dairy. Products will be made of high-quality plant-based protein ingredients and other semi-finished products, sustainably produced using both existing and innovative technologies, and based as much as possible on locally sourced proteins.
4. Smart & digital technology
From personalised nutrition recommendations to targeted plant breeding. IT, Artificial Intelligence (AI), sensors, genomics, nanotechnology and other key technologies accelerate innovation. In this innovation theme, companies and knowledge suppliers in The Netherlands and around the world are working to rapidly translate emerging technological expertise into market-ready solutions. These solutions will bring a sustainable food chain within reach.
Building frameworks and synergies
We're not starting from scratch in our pursuit of the goals set out in these four innovation themes, says Van Vlisteren. "A lot is happening already. Right now, we want to put the right frameworks in place so we can further develop that work. This includes expanding the innovation and business networks around the innovation themes, as well as the network of knowledge suppliers, and facilitating pilots, investing in research facilities and further developing an enterprise ecosystem. We need experts not just in our main themes, but also in cross-over sectors such as IT and Artificial Intelligence. The ecosystem needs to be made attractive to the best talent and the best businesses. That also means investing in housing, workplaces, transport links and facilities."
"In terms of the innovation themes, we're aiming for synergies between organisations working on the same theme," says Van Vlisteren. "We're inviting business to collaborate with each other. Here, too, we are not starting from scratch. If you look at the protein transition, for example, you'll see that The Protein Cluster has a robust network of businesses working together to bring innovations to the market. Initiatives are also up and running around nutrition for specific target groups such as athletes and the elderly."
Wageningen Campus and Foodvalley 2030
"Everyone on Wageningen Campus will become aware of some aspect of this programme," says Van Vlisteren. "The businesses and knowledge suppliers on and around Wageningen Campus represent the heart of the Foodvalley ecosystem. They're the ones paving the way for innovations in food and agriculture for a healthy and sustainable future. We're not just waiting to see what these businesses come up with; we're inviting them to bring solutions to the table and help us achieve our programme objectives. It could be through a pilot facility to scale up a production process, a research programme, or a conference. Or through ensuring that there is space for start-ups.
Foodvalley 2030 is also not restricted to the physical site in and around Wageningen. Any relevant organisation can be invited to participate, and they could be in Groningen, or in Japan."
A promising strategy
According to Van Vlisteren, mixing small and large businesses is a promising strategy. "Innovation is increasingly found within SMEs, while larger business have the resources to invest and scale up. Bringing them together is a promising strategy."
"Government contributions are also essential and can open up a range of funding opportunities. The East Netherlands Development Agency (Oost NL), which has a remit to strengthen the economy of the provinces of Gelderland and Overijssel, also plays an important role, along with partners such as StartLife and ScaleUpFood that can facilitate start-ups."
"It's really essential for partners to recognise that they can achieve more together than on their own," says Van Vlisteren. "It's about seeking each other out, exchanging knowledge, and not just thinking 'what's in it for me?' We have to do this if we want to make real progress by 2030 and be within reach of our key goal of ensuring healthy and sustainable food for everyone. It's also not something we can do by ourselves as a programme or agency. It has to be a joint effort.
Over the past few years The Netherlands has been widely recognised in the international media as being home to the Foodvalley, and that means we can set an example. We've established our position at the top based on our past achievements. If we are to stay in the lead, we have to deliver visible results now. At the same time, it's helpful for us to realise that it's not about finding any one particular solution. It's about the sum of lots of small and big steps forward in relation to proteins, nitrogen, resource recovery and lots of other things. Cumulatively, all of that will enable us to make a difference."