The Roadmap to Circular Farming in The Netherlands

Published on
November 8, 2018

Since 2015 Student Associations, the Network Smart Fertilization, and the Environmental Economics and Natural Resources Group have been organising the Sustainability Day in Wageningen. The theme of the Sustainability Day of October 10 2018 was the transition from linear to circular farming.

The programme and presentations of the day can be found at

In the morning a “roadmap to circular farming in the Netherlands” was discussed between WUR scientists, policy makers, farmers’ representatives, and businesses in circular fertilization. 

The afternoon programme switched from operational to theoretical perspectives on the transition to circularity. Studies on nested nutrient cycles, efforts to improve soil quality, resource use efficiency, and the importance of well-defined boundaries of agricultural systems across scales were presented.

During the day there was ample discussion on ecological, technical, economic, legal, social, and political dimensions of the transition challenge. Trade regimes and the power of retailers figured in the discussion as well. One of the suggested themes for Sustainability Day 2019 was “market responsibility”.


Source: presentation Martin Scholten

Some of the environmental economic highlights of the discussed transition to circular farming include:

  • The public urgency driving the current transition to circular agriculture and circular economies.
  • Farming as nested socio-ecological systems at different scales, and finding the proper scales/levels to balance and govern resource flows and stocks.
  • Technological developments facilitating circularity.
  • The externalities of linear farming and the possibly emerging externalities of circular farming.
  • Institutional arrangements that facilitate markets for circular fertilization.
  • The tension between carrots and stick in promoting circular farming.
  • The sector prefers to renew its license to produce with guiding principles, rather than with legal regulations that are perceived as constraining and even blocking innovation on the pathway to circularity.
  • At the same time, manure legislation has been proven to be effective in limiting emissions and there continues to be a need of effective command-and-control as a policy instrument.
  • Is there a pathway for smarter regulation?

For further information on Sustainability Day and circular farming, you can contact ir. H. (Herre) Bartlema  (06-51596092,

For Sustainability Day and environmental economic perspectives on circular farming and circular economy, you can contact the Chair holder of the Environmental Economics and Natural Resources group prof.dr. EC (Ekko) van Ierland