Blog #3: It’s all about trust and belief
8 July 2022
The importance of a sustainable Food System
Alongside the war in Ukraine, the pandemic, and the strong divisiveness currently in the Netherlands on what is feasible for farmers, governments and consumers, it is apparent that turbulent times will continue for the next year(s) to come. Access to water, food, and energy are crucial for stable and flourishing societies. Every single day, the importance of all the efforts to ensure a sustainable Food System grow stronger.
Foodvalley is shifting its focus from facilitating our network to also enabling and empowering the network to accelerate the Food Transition. I often get questions: How can I get involved? What can I do? Well, the answer is not that lineair as it is different for each and every actor and each and every initiative that we develop. Essence is; we all can contribute, depending on the initiative.
In my first blog I have explained why and how we have redefined ourselves as a transition catalyst, as the Food System must change more rapidly. In my second blog I explained how working in this field has defined me.
Next, I will talk you through three major topics in our innovation fields: The Healthy Choice, the Easy Choice, Circular Agrifood Chain and Sustainable Protein System. How we, turn global challenges into concrete actions, involving and including our partners, catalysing the Food Transition. And what this means for you, working in this field, on your daily work, and how you can get involved. Spoiler alert: it’s all about trust and believing (that we can and will).
Starting this week on the trending topic of protein shift, facing two challenges: towards more plant-based consumption (ambition restoring the balance 50:50 animal:plant) and becoming more protein self-sufficient, i.e. producing proteins locally. I will highlight one intervention, connecting the two, consumption and production. A seemingly small action, with the potential to change the protein game in the Netherlands and in Europe.
Blair House trade agreement, say what?
In 1992 the EU government agreed upon acquiring access to the north American market by EU financial institutions, in exchange for giving up the production and trade of protein-rich crops. One day to the next, Dutch (and other European) farmers had no protection and faced an in advance lost challenge to compete with cheap and often less sustainably produced imports from outside the EU.
Fast forward 30 years
In 2022 self-sufficiency of locally produced protein becomes more evident. To be less dependent upon import of soy, often used as feed for livestock, meat and dairy production, we need to paradoxically eat more plant-based. In order to have European Food security, you guessed it, we need to increase the production, processing and human consumption of protein-rich crops.
That’s more easily said than done. Growers are used to their current rotation schemes and, rightfully, fear uncertainties of yields and a non-level playing field. Processing infrastructure is lacking. We are aware protein-rich crop breeding research in the Netherlands is ready to make a major leap forward, but that requires joint effort. Consumers are unaware of the benefits of locally grown proteins, the food-environment is far from optimal to guide them towards a more plant-based, local and healthy choice.
These and other examples are reflected in the insect scan developed from our engagement in Enterprise Singapore. A great example of the core of what we do at Foodvalley: Preparing the groundwork for a major innovation of which we don’t yet know how to apply in our daily meals. Our preliminary work consists of bringing people and knowledge together – cross border and from an independent role. In doing so, we build an infrastructure on which a lot of entrepreneurs, retailers and researchers can move forward: Making new products, finding markets, organising chains more intelligently.
How can we best address and solve these challenges?
By full commitment of all partners, together, along the chain. And that is Foodvalley’s business, bringing parties together on a common agenda and having them partner up for change together. Sharing risks as well as opportunities, or the long run.
Many of you will know the song ‘What a difference a day makes’. The melody keeps humming in the back of my head for days now. A song on how one day, 24 little hours, can change the course of a whole life. This in essence is how we want to approach our interventions: aiming high, starting small. I recently was inspired by André Jurrius, a Dutch lupine-farmer, during a gathering of the Green Deal Protein-Rich Crops coalition that Foodvalley coordinated. Holding a single lupin bean in his hand he challenged the attendees: ‘Image why this bean was sown by the farmer, what it has done to the soil, how it attracted bees, how it’s harvested and dried, how it’s converted to a tasty snack, spread or meat analogue and what it takes to be bought and consumed by the lucky consumer.’ Starting from one bean, he covered the whole chain, connecting production and consumption.
This is how we approached the upcoming Green Deal Protein-Rich Crops. Covering a set of over 40 efforts of, in total, 56 parties working together along the chain, showing trust and belief in each other and the power for change. Joining forces enabling beans to make the difference, for farmers, soils, biodiversity and consumers. The deal will be signed next week, that’s when it all really kicks off. The attention and focus on this deal already set off some important initiatives, on which I will talk more next week.
Looking back, as Chairwoman of the Green Deal stirring committee, I recognise one critical success factor working towards the deal: that of trust. We have been given the trust to take the initiative, connect all these parties and really involve them. Actors along the chain trust each other, and I am grateful that this trust is present.
This is what transition is all about, this is what Foodvalley is all about: Shape the Future Together.
How can you get involved?
If you are interested in incorporating more Dutch protein-rich ingredients in your products? Or if you want to stay informed about the latest developments AND be part of the protein-rich transition, you are welcome to become a Foodvalley Partner. Please contact us via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Power to the bean.;)