Using the knowledge of Wageningen to develop agriculture worldwide in a sustainable way: that was the theme of the 100th Opening Academic Year on September 3rd. One of the keynote speakers was prime minister Mark Rutte ” I am encouraged by the assurance which with WUR researchers insist we can meet the challenge of combining sustainable agriculture and sufficient productivity”.
Accompanied by many jokes (“Wageningen is more famous abroad than even the Dutch Stroopwafels”), Rutte praised three of Wageningen’s main principles of the last 100 years: connecting to the rest of the world, the link between practice and research and a view to the future. Phill Hogan, European commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, supported Rutte’s focus on the future with a call for action: “Farming and food production needs to get smarter, cleaner and greener – and fast”. To support this call, he announced that for the EU budget 2021-2027, 10 billion will be dedicated to Food and Agriculture, “a real breakthrough”.
Louise Fresco, taking the stage in a sustainable outfit to show the possibilities of a circular system, stated that we are in fact at a breakthrough. According to her, there is a gap that needs to be bridged between science and society. It is not so much a question of production, but of balance between ecology and technology, and social values and needs. “It is not what we can do, but want to do. Because we can do it: we can feed the world in a sustainable way”.
Apart from the three keynote speakers, Rector Magnificus Arthur Mol presented a view to the future including amongst others a plan for building a Wageningen dialogue centre, “to really stand within the society”. The program also included two speeches from young scientists about the importance of circularity, a musical interlude by the singers from Noblesse Oblige, and the award ceremony of the Marina van Damme award. Julia Samson turned out to be the first winner in Wageningen of this grand to support talented young female alumna.