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The Dutch Food System Mosaic: five future food scenarios, one vision

The Dutch multi-stakeholder ‘Transition Coalition Food’ has developed scenarios to a sustainable and healthy food system in the Netherlands.

Photo of Lauren Verheijen
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

HAS University of Applied Sciences

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Researcher Institution

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

From HAS University of Applied Sciences the research group Future Food Systems is engaged with this submission. The Vision is developed in collaboration with Transitie Coalitie Voedsel (TcV), a multi-stakeholder organization with over 200 members connecting and supporting frontrunners in the food system (farmers, businesses, NGOs, policy and government, and knowledge institutes, total over 200 members) on food system transformation in the Netherlands. Several plenary co-creation sessions where members of TcV and agrifood system professionals were brought together to form the basis of the Vision elaborated below. See image for TCV stakeholders. See image for TCV stakeholders.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.has.nl / https://transitiecoalitievoedsel.nl/

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

‘s-Hertogenbosch

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

The Netherlands

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

The Selected Place is the Netherlands, a small coastal country covering an area of only 41,543 km^2 in North-Western Europe.

What country is your selected Place located in?

The Netherlands

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

The Netherlands is the country we (the applicants) live in. It is one of the most food-secure countries in the world with a highly efficient and innovative, very internationally oriented, agrifood sector. Despite high economic relevance to our economy, the agrifood system is increasingly under pressure due to negative impacts on the health of people and the environment. This is why a more radical transformation of the system as a whole is needed. The Dutch have a history of over 120 years of cooperative entrepreneurship, a highly innovative ‘climate’, and international orientation. Also, in international cooperation we strive to work in a multi-stakeholder setting that we call the ‘Dutch Diamond’ (policy – business – NGOs – Universities). The organizations that this Vision stems from, HAS University of Applied Sciences and TcV, embrace this collaborative and innovative nature to look at how we, in co-creation with the organizations’ and local community’s food system stakeholders, can identify opportunities to transform the Dutch food system. Both organizations are through their core values invested in the food system; HAS as a specialized food and agribusiness university, TcV as a coalition aimed specifically at the transformation of the Dutch food system. It is the passion for Dutch food and agribusiness and the urgency for a system-based transition to sustainability, from the teachers, researchers and students at HAS alongside that of the professionals that drives the Vision elaborated in this proposal. That passion to transform starts with the locality in which both institutions are embedded – the Netherlands. From the HAS it is specifically the research group ‘Future Food Systems’ that is working on this Vision. This is a research group focusing on the futureproofing of the food system from a system thinking and transition management perspective.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The Netherlands is a small and densely population country in Northwest Europe. Much of the country is below sea level and through dikes, canals, and our famous windmills (pumps) we manage to keep our country safe from the water. Not just from the sea, but also from the rivers since we are a Delta with 3 big European rivers reaching the North Sea. The Netherlands is a mixed population with many nationalities. About 70% of the people live in cities, with the largest density of urban area in the West ‘Randstad’. The Dutch have a diverse culture, reflecting regional differences and many foreign influences built up by centuries of our mercantile and explorative spirit. Our culture is a based on cultural liberalism and tolerance. We speak Dutch and almost all people speak very good English, and several other languages such as French and German. Though small, the Netherlands has many world-famous icons related to the agriculture and food system: cheese (e.g. Gouda) and cheese markets, wooden shoes (farmer shoes), windmills that keep our lands dry, and off course the famous tulips and other bulb flowers. Our food culture is based on traditional food crops grown here (mashed potatoes and kale) and our fisheries (Dutch new herring). Other famous Dutch foods include stroopwafel, kroket, dropjes and lots of cheese. Typical lunch is cheese sandwich with a glass of milk. Nowadays, also with the international influences, the Dutch food culture is internationally oriented.

The Dutch agricultural sector is famous for its productivity and efficiency. If food security were to be the main evaluator of a ‘successful food system’, the Netherlands would score very highly as one of the most food-secure countries in the world. Additionally, this tiny country is the second exporting nation in the world. Our most important (export) products are dairy, vegetables (incl seeds), potatoes, meat, flowers, and flower bulbs. For year-round production we have large areas under greenhouses, e.g. ‘Westland’. To paint a visual, if you take a train from Rotterdam to Schiphol Airport at night or during the darker winter, the landscape is lit with orange greenhouse lights. Equally important is our long history of cooperative entrepreneurship in the agrifood with farmer cooperatives, food processing cooperative (e.g. dairy) and a cooperative agricultural bank. It is in our nature to collaborate.

We also have our challenges. Even a Delta country like the Netherlands, suffered from severe droughts in the summers of 2018 and 2019 leading to harvest loss and damaged natural areas. Half of the adult Dutch population is overweight or obese and health care cost recently rose to a record-high €100 billion. The government, with food system organizations, developed a Prevention agreement that includes healthy diets. But more needs to be done. The Ministry of Agriculture’s policy is to promote circular agriculture. But currently the ‘nitrogen crisis’ is center stage, coupled with animal production. The challenge is to include food into our agricultural policy and connect this, through a systems approach, to other themes such as energy, water, transport, and health care.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

41543

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

17210000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Our food system is under severe societal pressure, raising the momentum for a more radical system transformation.

In order to systematically assess current and future challenges we: (1) make a food systems analysis of the Netherlands (picture 3) and (2) in the participatory foresight sessions with a large group of stakeholders from the TcV, we identified a number of good aspects of the food system to be maintained, and a number of aspects that need to be changed. These form our current challenges.

In system terms, we consider the six Themes of the Vision Prize as either outcomes, activities, or drivers of the food system.

•Socio-economic factors: 1. The Netherlands produces primarily for a global food market and is run to keep costs low. Competition in this way is a race to the bottom. How can we maintain our export position while making the system more sustainable? 2. The value chain to be more transparent and include ‘hidden costs’ that are unaccounted for. Many farmers are currently locked-in a system driven by productivity, profit maximization, and are (financially) unable to shift to more sustainable practices.
•Human health, diets and food security: reducing unhealthy and unsustainable dietary patterns and health care costs. Healthy foods should be more accessible for people with lower socio-economic status. Sustainable diets are more plant-based, rich in fruits and vegetables. Food waste and losses to be prevented or as valuable resources for other products or processes (e.g. upcycling organic waste to protein through insects)
•Create positive environmental impacts, for example agriculture to be regenerative for soil and biodiversity, circular in terms of resources and climate-positive.

Working towards these outcomes means other aspects of the food system need to be involved, forming additional challenges:
•Policy to not just focus on agriculture, but on food as well, and using a transdisciplinary systems approach. Food connects!
•Improve ‘food literacy’ and reconnect to food, nature, and farming. Because a lot of Dutch food is imported, while local produce is exported, there is a large disconnect between producers and consumers.
•Technology to support transition (e.g. mechanization of agroecological cropping), not just efficiency (e.g. precision farming).
•Cultural aspects are an important driver, especially linked to consumer characteristics. Nothing is as ‘fluid’ as the future.

From system thinking the most transformative interventions are those that target the paradigm under the food system. We envision one paradigm shift is from (economic) profit maximization to value maximization (including ecological and social values). These form the underlying challenges to all the above listed themes.

We anticipate these factors to be relevant in 2050:

•The role of smart (safe, open source data) technologies to be supportive of healthy people and planet.
•Safeguarding ecological resilience
•Maintaining international (export) position
•Balancing a growing world population with an aging, urbanized, Dutch population.
•We hope the SDGs are long met, but want to keep a close eye on our culture of inclusivity and global solidarity.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Future scenario building is a tool from transition management – management theory based on complexity, uncertainty and multiplicity – that help determine one’s role in the future, what needs to be done today, and bring the future closer to now. Using this tool to construct a narrative for a preferable future in the development of the Vision allowed TcV and HAS to actively engage the key actors of the (future) food system transition to reveal what they want to maintain and/or change whilst given these actors ownership of that future they envision. From the perspective of transition management futures are not mutually exclusive but rather can co-exist alongside one another without knowing in advance which one is ‘better’. As the selection of a specific scenario moves towards strategizing how to get there, this Vision maintains the multiplicity of futures that is inherent to transition studies. The Vision therefore recognizes that there is no one-size fits all solution, and different value-orientations are central to future visioning. Different stakeholders of the same food system (even for a country as small as the Netherlands) came forth with varying value-orientations. However, in some way these actors must work together to create a shared future that embraces the disparity of perspectives. At the core of this Vision lies a focus on stimulating an entrepreneurial mindset in place of the doom-scenario thinking that is prevalent in the climate change and sustainability now. Through multiple participatory sessions, actors across the food system (members of the TcV and professionals in the food system) came together to come up with five future scenarios which are complementary to one another. It may be that only one, two, or all five scenarios play out as niches within the Dutch agrifood system in 2050. In this way, the Vision recognizes of different preferences and value systems that lead to the realization of complementary future scenarios, whilst the process of developing these scenario’s give ownership of the future to the actors that are engaged in its development. There are currently initiatives in place in the Netherlands that address aspects of food system transformation, such as: protein transition, reduction of food waste and losses, short supply chains and implementation of true cost accounting that includes externalities. The focus here is the development of an integral scenario for the Dutch food system based on the above listed challenges. The five scenarios are: 1. Everything in balance (circular agrifood systems), 2. Personalized food and wellness, 3. Food communities, 4. High-tech food production, 5. Ecologically intensive. Further commonalities in the values that all visions address outlined in the ‘High Level Vision’. The different value-orientations recognized in the Vision is outlined in ‘Full Vision’.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Our dream: The Netherlands, as a country where the food system transformation is embraced as a societal challenge, addressed by all actors in collaboration with one another. We celebrate and reconnect with others through local, delicious food fit for our culture. We have redesigned our food systems into regenerative and nourishing, with circularity of resources, improved biodiversity, water and soil quality, healthy people, and an improved position with new value-based business models for farmers, and a strong international position. Particularly the role of the government is emphasized to maintain the prevalence of societal values over those of business. Externalities are accurately priced in the market, so that sustainable and healthy products and production practices are more financially attractive. In this way, market competition is oriented towards sustainability rather than cost price. The scope is regional; this is not to say that participation in the global market is excluded, but that the relationship between producer and consumer, and producer and production environment is a much stronger one. This works to dissipate the power concentration and inequality that was built up in the past system. On the human dimension, there is more focus on health; the food environment stimulates consumers to make healthy choices and food is seen as a preventative form of healthcare. Food literacy is implemented as a core element of education. Lastly, the future Dutch food system celebrates diversity: biodiversity, diversity in food choices, and diversity in future scenarios. For the average Dutch person this means that they can expect to be surrounded by shops that provide healthy and local foods, as human and planetary health are prioritized in the Vision. Yet, because the externalities of the food system will be accounted for, the price of food does not increase. Food chain actors, particularly farmers, will be recognized for the important role that play.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

The Vision is made up of a combination of five scenarios developed with TcV’s stakeholders across three interactive sessions and several follow-up meetings. Each future scenario that makes up this Vision represents a different underlying value system and perspective, also of the role of humanity in relation to nature. The five scenarios are outlined below, all focus on ‘doing better things, not doing things better’. In this way, all scenarios represent a radical transformation of the way things are done in the Dutch agrifood system whilst connecting to the needs and culture of the Dutch people. All scenarios recognize that the food system is one that includes: the entire supply chain and its related activities, all enabling drivers (socio-economic and environmental), and all food systems outcomes (food security, socio-economic and environmental).

The first scenario is ‘everything in balance (circular agrifood systems)’, where largescale production is in balance with ecology. The place determines what is grown so that biodiversity and soil quality remain high, and production varies per region but is primarily plant-based. Where livestock is farmed, animal welfare guaranteed, it is to upcycle residual flows and gain value from grasslands. There is no such thing as waste, only resource for other inputs. Retail is set-up for regional products and circularity by distributing excess product. Greenhouse technology is the greatest Dutch export. Farmers are the heroes who make the value-chains value-circles. Respecting intact ecosystems is core to this scenario.

The second scenario, ‘personalised food and wellness’, showcases human health and wellbeing as core value. Food is seen as preventative healthcare, enjoyment and means of social cohesion; thus central to, wellbeing and welfare in society. Healthcare here also includes mental wellbeing. Every person gets custom food advice (needs, preparation, use) based on their ‘personal biometric-plus passport’ (genetic profile, lifestyle). Every product has a ‘passport’ with its (production) characteristics: where/how it is produced, what it is made up of. This scenario sees mass customization through smart technology, where informed choice making is central. Food literacy is part of education across all age groups.

‘Food communities’, the third scenario, focuses on a more social food scenario. At the core are communities of 500-5000 local members that get 80% of their food from their surroundings. The other 20% (e.g. coffee, tea, citrus) come from elsewhere. Processing happens in small-scale, local units. As in scenario 1 and 5, the place determines the produce. These communities are built on trust and shared values, and the governance model is built on democratically taken actions and decisions. Central is recognizing the value of nature. A large amount of agricultural land from the past is transformed to high-profit use such as energy production and distribution centers. Farmers are highly valued in their local communities. Convenience, supermarkets and technology is retained in service of the communities. This is a 21st century, technology embracing, version of the return to romanticized farm communities.

The fourth scenario is ‘high tech-food production’. Technology reigns production and processing of food, done primarily in cities by a highly integrated local production chain and vertical farms. Resource use is circular but there are little to no farmers in this vision as nearly everything is automatized. To stimulate innovation, data is open access and knowledge is shared. Hand-in-hand with this scenario is an energy transition to support high-tech production. For society convenience is central: individuals are released from time-consuming burdens such as cooking by having their food 3D printed. We know exactly what is in our food so it’s easy to make healthy choices, as such there is no more food stress.

‘Ecologically intensive’, the fifth scenario, envisions agricultural production fully in sync with the local ecosystem it is embedded in. Production paradigms emphasize polyculture and diversity in systems, stimulating regeneration. Permaculture is a leading principle, and small, light machinery may be used to help in harvesting and crop treatment. Knowledge development and innovation follows the principle ‘responsible research and innovation’. Supply chains are short, supermarkets are bound regionally (regional products are priced attractively), and farmers respond to local demands. Agricultural subsidy is linked to ecological performance. The strong connection to ecology and closeness to production has made members of society also more mindful. They feel security in the healthy food and landscapes that surround them.

The five scenarios can be summarized in one word representative of their core values as: 1. Circular, 2. Personalized, 3. Community, 4. High-Technology, 5. Ecological. Identifying which scenario addresses which of the 6 Vision Prize Themes would undermine the interconnectedness to integral to systems thinking, instead we identify how the themes are present in all the scenarios as either activities, drivers or outcomes:
1. Environment: In Scenario 1 and 5 the environment is leading, in Scenario 1 by circular principles (including no waste) and in Scenario 5 by ecological principles. In Scenario 3 the environment is recognized within a community by the value it intrinsically holds. Scenario 2 and 4 take a technological approach to monitor for system resilience and necessary adaptation. In all scenarios, the production system is in balance with the ecological system.
2. Diets: In all scenarios, human health is as important as environmental health. Diets is however most prominent in Scenario 2 as a core value under personalized wellness. Scenario 4 presents a version of healthy and nutritious food for society that requires some adaptation from our current norms (e.g. being comfortable with 3D printed food). In the other scenarios the assumption is that healthy soil equals nutrient-dense, healthy food.
3. Economics: Scenario 3 and 5 emphasizes a local system with food communities, although in all scenarios international trade is still used applied where necessary. Especially in Scenario 1, 3 and 5 production is guided by the local environment; while in Scenario 4 humans are able to create the conditions in which different species can thrive. Farmers also play a very prominent role in Scenario 1, 3 and 5. Decentralization in Scenario 3 creates new work opportunities. In Scenario 1 our greatest export is technology in greenhouses.
4. Culture: Food literacy, to be taught from a young age, underlines all the scenarios. Scenario 2 and 4, with their technological orientation, are very suited to the urban setting and high-tech society. Food culture in these scenarios are the most different to now, as outlined under 'Diets'. Scenario 3 sees a return to a more 'rural lifestyle' for those involved in the food communities.
5. Technology: As outlined, in Scenario 2 and 4 represent a very high-tech society with heavy monitoring, automatization, and open-source data access. Scenario 1 and 5 will likely also go hand-in-hand with monitoring (e.g. blockchain technology) and technological improvement, with knowledge and innovation under the umbrella of 'responsible development'. Scenario 3 understands technology to be in service of the communities, such as drones that monitor.
6. Policy: In Scenario 1 new trade policies are in place, where 'export = exchange' to close the nutrient cycles. In Scenario 2 the government plays the role of informer on public health and implementing food literacy in education. In Scenario 3 the local community owns the land, so it cannot be traded without government permission. Scenario 4 is dependent on an energy transition and therefore policy subsidy focuses on renewable energy. In Scenario 5 subsidies are linked to ecological production performance.

These five scenarios construct a narrative that stakeholders of the Dutch food system can latch onto in their intentions to transform the Dutch food system. They give context to the work that is (and will be) done on agrifood system transition, and a goal to work towards. By being developed in a multi-stakeholder setting, we know that these scenarios are in the best interest of those who are central to the transition and match their hopes and dreams for a sustainable agrifood system. By maintaining a multiplicity of scenarios, the Vision is still inclusive enough for many stakeholders to find their best-suited role in the agrifood transition, while retaining a future orientation with a set of underlying values that are fundamentally different to that of the current Dutch agrifood system. That said, for all scenarios there are already examples in 2020 the Netherlands, such as the Vegetarische Slager (scenario 4), Herenboeren (scenario 3 and 5), Koppert Cress (scenario 2), Kipster (scenario 1). These frontrunners as examples of the scenarios presented reduce the barrier to engaging with these radical futures by knowing it is already possible. Finally, having a clear vision of what you are working towards also supports knowing when the transition is ‘complete’, and conversely, how far we still have to go.

The is only the beginning of a path to inspire engagement transformation in the Dutch food system. At HAS students will this academic year start validating and quantifying the scenarios with young professionals. TcV is rebuilding its strategy based on this work and is planning to start a ‘road show’ with the scenarios to engage more stakeholders in the Netherlands to be part of the change. The Vision Prize submission was a fantastic stimulus to further develop these scenarios and we look forward to collaborating on a global scale.

We hope to inspire engagement with the transition to the future food system, designed by the Dutch food system stakeholders, for the Dutch food system stakeholders.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Through a senior staff member of the Ministry of Agriculture in the Netherlands

Describe how your Vision developed over the course of the Refinement Phase.

The baseline for our Vision is ‘no one size fits all’; the 2050 food system in the Netherlands is a mosaic of food system scenarios all aiming at healthy and sustainable future food systems, which can be repeated in similar (socioeconomic and spatial) geographies. Elements of all five scenarios we developed with multiple stakeholders in the first phase of the Vision Prize will be brought forward in the coming years by their actions and initiatives.

We chose a landscape approach to visualize our food system spatially, inspired by the work on a ‘4-returns landscape’ by Commonland. Allowing us to solidify the Vision in a spatial geography. This forced us to question the feasibility of each scenario. Stakeholder engagement confirmed the feasibility. Using the Food System Approach (van Berkum et al., 2018) we addressed the themes and their connections. The Systems Thinking Iceberg is our tool to find paradigms and values underlying our scenarios.

Please provide the names of all organizations you meaningfully partnered with to develop this latest version of your Vision (they contributed at least 10 hours of time to the Vision development during the Refinement Phase).

This vision is co-created by HAS University of Applied Sciences (HAS) and a large group of participants from the Transition Coalition Food (TcV). No one can change the food system alone….

Within HAS, the professorship Future Food Systems (5 people) team led the Vision development. In the refinement phase two students joined fulltime with their graduation project (elaborated next question).

From TcV 15 members of the board and strategy team contributed on ‘personal title’, representing food system stakeholders: farmers, business (processing, catering), bank, (national) government, NGOs and education/research institutes.

Two of our future food systems are currently being implemented by TcV in cooperation with groups of stakeholders:  the ‘ecological intensive’ farmer group Boerenraad and ‘food communities’ via a team working on short supply chains and CSA. At least 10-15 people/organizations are connected to each of these developments and all have contributed weeks of voluntary work.

Describe the specific steps you took during the Refinement phase to include different stakeholders to develop your Vision, including a description (age, profile, and total number) of the stakeholders engaged, and how you engaged with each.

5 scenarios had been developed with a group of approx. 60 participants across 3 sessions (April – Dec 2019). This was validated in a live session (Dec 2019) with over 120 TcV network representatives (business, NGOs, farmers, government, knowledge reps, ages 21-75), who in break-out teams developed transition paths to the scenarios. Some data used in the Refinement phase stems from these sessions. Members of the TcV strategy team helped to further outline transition paths and action plans for successful implementation of the scenarios.

Martijn Kool and Faye Hartman (students International Food and Agribusiness at HAS) engaged young agrifood professionals in their graduation project on the food system scenarios. Martijn and Faye conducted online focus groups to gain insight into the responses from 7 IFA students (male and female, ages 18-25) towards the scenarios. Two more focus groups with students at other universities are planned. A survey has been sent out to students across the Netherlands to understand whether they see the scenarios as preferable and realistic futures for the Dutch food system. At the time of FSVP submission there are 225 respondents.

The visualization of the Food System Mosaic is developed with design thinker and communication expert Jill Overmaat

Within the research group ‘Future Food Systems’ at HAS – including Bram van Helvoirt, Frederike Praasterink and Lauren Verheijen – research was conducted into the underlying structures and paradigms in the Dutch Food System to identify incentive pathways that would be transformative in the system.

In TcV initiatives emerged from the participatory scenario development. Sandra van Kampen (owner of De Schaal van Kampen, company advocating for food transition) is developing the ‘food communities’ scenario with community supported agriculture (CSA Nederland) and HerenboerenWillem Lageweg (TcV) is connecting innovative farmers though ‘de Boerenraad’, focusing on regenerative/circular agriculture.

What signals and trends did you draw from to inform your Vision? Please provide data or examples that back up each signal or trend.

For every of the five scenarios there is a range of signals and trends to draw from. Here we summarize a few main ones:

#supportyourlocals : Since COVID-19 hit the Netherlands, and the government has responded with lockdown measures, the Netherlands has seen a surge of support for local entrepreneurship where the existing economy fails to support them through these trying times. Companies such as Rechtstreex are redirecting the restaurant/catering supply from niche farmers towards consumers; while consumers are choosing to order from smaller restaurants to keep their local hotspots afloat. Solidarity for the local community is increasing and connections between key food system actors are strengthening on this small – urban and regional – scale. An overview of all the regional activities in NL can be found on https://supportyourlocalsnl.nl/alle-initiatieven/

‘True Price store’ opened in February 2020 in the heart of Amsterdam shopping district to increase consumer awareness about the true price of food. Unaccounted for externalities are a thing of the past. https://trueprice.org/true-price-store-opening/

HAS has its own climate cells with LED lights for research, this is a pioneering move to further high-tech vertical farms. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYNH9dmEcuk

Alternative proteins are on the rise: Labmeat are gaining increasing news coverage https://nos.nl/artikel/2320905-kweekvlees-binnenkort-op-de-menukaart-het-komt-steeds-dichterbij.html The Dutch Northsea Farm (https://www.noordzeeboerderij.nl/) is producing seaweed commercially, and Protix (https://protix.eu/) is producing edible insect commercially.

The current Minister of Agriculture in NL launched a vision for Circular Agriculture and actively advocates the implementation of circularity.

In 2019 the Nitrogen crisis took over the Netherlands, fragmenting social cohesion between political parties, farmers and the public, and amongst farmers. Our scenarios are in part a response to bring this cohesion, and respect for farmers, back and help reduce nitrogen emissions.

Education at HAS is shifting from ‘doing things better’ to ‘doing better things’ as transformation of the food system is increasingly part of multiple study programs. This year 5 graduation projects (14 students in total) are on new business models and futureproofing the food system.

The film ‘The Biggest Little Farm’ has shown the power of regenerative agriculture.

Increased use of healthcare apps and wearables (e.g. the rise of FitBit).

A big health care insurance company participating in our agrifood foresight study, interested in preventive healthcare.

EU presented its Farm-to-Fork strategy, emphasizing the need for food system transformation with milestones that complement our Vision.   

Describe a “Day in the Life” of a key food system actor within your food system in 2050 (e.g., farmer, chef, supply chain actor, food policy actor, etc.).

Once a month, the five friends came together to share a meal. They’re all farmers, or they used to be, before the Food System Revolution of the 20s. Frank was able to pass his farmland to their children to convert it as a food community serving over 3000 families with fresh plant-based foods, Stella transformed her land to a highly productive food forest, Pieter kept his bulk production farm with adjustments to comply to circular use of resource flows, Daan moved into vertical farming in Amsterdam, and Sandra uses her expertise in plants and their nutrients to work as a preventive healthcare coach. It was a distant time back when they were just ‘normal’ farmers, but they like the diversity of rich and regenerative food systems and foods and ‘farming’ practices that come to the table when they met nowadays. “At least we have interesting conversations now”, Pieter would joke when they reminisced about the past.

Every month they each brought ingredients, usually one of the friends would decide on a theme for the dish beforehand. But this time they all forgot; everyone took the liberty of just bringing something easy. Frank brought some leftover vegetables from the community, Stella brought a bunch of herbs, Pieter brought grains, and Daan brought cacao beans. Sandra was hosting this time in her newly renovated 3D printer kitchen; all she had was base cartridges for the printer.

Looking at each-other a little concerned about what they were going to eat, Sandra had an idea. She put all the foods in her smart-fridge so that the door screen could show recipes with these ingredients. TABOULEH WITH HUMUS. CHOCOLATE MOUSSE. Pieter, very attached to his traditional Dutch cuisine, looked worried. Stella assured him that worse case, he could coat his mouth with the chocolate mousse after – he was sold. Sandra went to print the filler ingredients while the rest chopped the vegetables. As always, the meal was delicious because of the great ingredients, and the companionship.

Environment | How will your food system of 2050 adapt to climate change and remain resilient?

To address the six themes across the entire food system we follow the five key activities in the Food System Approach (Berkum et al., 2018):1. Production, 2. Storage, transport, and trade, 3. Processing, 4. Retail, 5. Consumption. This choice is further explained in the ‘Full Vision’ doc and Theme connection question.

We see environment as an important outcome and resource of the food system that needs urgent action to becoming more resilient. We aim to be ‘net positive’, rather than ‘less bad’ by diversifying production and using agroecological principles. Within our Food System Mosaic there are two main streams of (1) production, which we identified by conducting a system mapping of interlinkages: 1. regenerative agriculture, 2. high-tech agriculture. Both production streams contribute towards system resilience, but in contrasting ways. The first places ecosystem services at the core of the production processes, and the second creates a closed-resource loop system that operates independent from the natural environment by decoupling from nature. In both streams, the implementation of monitoring technology for inputs/outputs, quality of produce, and production effectiveness overall is essential to maintain high levels of environmental resilience.

1. Regenerative agriculture places at its core the ecosystem services and can be seen already in 2020 by for example Agroforestry (food forests) and food communities like Herenboeren, both represented in our TcV community. This stimulates environmental resilience by working with the natural functioning of the ecosystem. Frameworks such as a ‘Nature’s Guiding Principles’ – a set of principles developed by professorship FFS for sustainable food systems inspired by the principle processes in nature – will be useful in supporting producers to remain within the local environmental carrying capacity. This means of production applies to the scenario ‘food communities’ and ‘ecologically intensive’.

 2. High-tech agriculture is a much more suited form of production in areas where production might be resource intensive by relying on external inputs. In the Netherlands this might for example be in regions where land area is scarce/expensive or to bring food production closer to consumers (e.g. urban areas). Following the urban area example, vertical farming is a highly efficient way of producing with limited resources. For example, for leafy vegetables up to 90% water efficiency can be reached in our HAS climate cells. This is very important now water is becoming scarce even in a Delta country like ours! By localizing high-tech agriculture, we decouple from nature. This leaves the natural reserves to their own right to be supported to prosper, while we can produce to meet the demands of a growing urban population on larger scale farms and in cities. This means of production applies to the scenario ‘high-tech’ and ‘circularity’.

To ensure the right production stream is applied in the right region, a biophysical layer of the landscape approach is used to match the resource intensity, and a socio-economic layer is applied to ensure that consumption demands in that area can still be met. By having these two complementary streams of production we also ensure the food system’s resilience in the case of climate issues. For example, in recent years drought has become an increasing problem for farmers, should this persevere the ‘high-tech’ production stream will allow us to continue meeting the food demands in the Netherlands while relieving the pressure on the environment during drought season.

For (2) storage, transport, and trade it means that because the production stream is determined by its physical locality, the distribution is more localized. From an environmental perspective this means that there is less transport exhaust, and supply and demand are more closely matched so that food waste is omitted.

(3) Processing differs for the two production streams. In the Regenerative agriculture stream, ‘pure’ produce is valued very highly; consumers primarily cook with whole foods and ingredients straight from the land. Processing is minimized, and diets contribute to resilience by matching produce availability. For High-tech, processing is monotonized by developing cartridges for in-kitchen 3D printers with which consumers can print their custom foods in a decentralized way. This increased efficiency in the centralized processing plants ensure that energy used is a fraction of what it was in 2020. On a (4) retail level, the supermarkets respond to local supply, competition is oriented towards sustainability, and foods that are sold are organized in store according to Sustainability and Health. This restructures the supermarkets to respond to what the land is able to carry. (5) Consumers respond to these offerings by consuming local and seasonal and eating more plant-based foods (as proposed by EAT-Lancet).

Diets | How will your food system of 2050 address malnutrition in all its forms (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, metabolic disease) for the people living there?

All scenarios ensure food and health demands are met within ecological boundaries. In line with the EAT-Lancet report, over 80% of our diet is plant-based, from sources like seaweed and insects. For example our calculations show that animal protein intake will be reduced to 21 g/p/d, which is 1/3 of the 2020 consumption. Our most extreme consumption-oriented scenario is ‘personalized foods’: all foods come with a product passport, showing nutritional and production aspects. This ensures full transparency towards the consumers and encourages them to make healthy choices. Every consumer has a biometric+ passport based on their genetics, microbiome, age, health and wellbeing, blood type and lifestyle profile, which highlights which foods they should be eating and aids them in doing groceries by recommending certain foods, recipes, and meals. A ‘home laboratory’ (e.g. a smart toilet) analyses the health and wellbeing of a person and updates the biometric+ passport accordingly. Of course, data safety and open source principles are essential to this way of life, which will be addressed in Technology.

Because we have (1) environmental resilience, our soils are in great condition and our food products have high nutrient density. We have a large diversity of seasonal produce with a variety of vitamins and minerals. Where nutrients are still lacking (for example are difficult to absorb or uncommon in local produce) our high-tech production allows us to fortify foods specifically adapted to biometric+ passports.

We are (2) not dependent on import to meet food security, because all the essential foods are produced in the Netherlands – grains, fruits, vegetables, plant-based and animal. Even products that are traditionally imported – like coffee and cocoa – we have no problem producing or (3) processing in high-tech facilities. As mentioned, processing is reserved for nutrient fortification or ultra-processed health foods.

(4) Supermarkets are geared towards consumer archetypes based on biometric+ passport data, so shopping is easier and stimulates purchasing foods that are good for you. Over 80% of the assortment is healthy and sustainable – no more strolling through isles of chips and candy. Less healthy foods are available – we still should be able to celebrate with a cake or treat ourselves with a bar of chocolate – but are more expensive because of taxes and true cost accounting.

In 2050 the ‘healthcare’ paradigm has shifted, we understand food as preventative medicine, and emphasize healthy consumption and lifestyles above all. We take inspiration from initiatives like ‘Keer Diabetes-om’, addressing Diabetes with lifestyle coaching and diets. We still go to doctors for check-ups and treatment of certain pop-up issues, but our lifestyles have taken care of most. Horticulture is the pharmacy of the future. Medical studies also focus much more on food as preventative healthcare. Every doctor has a sound understanding of nutrition. This ensures the statistics of over 50% Dutch overweight adults is drastically reduced.

(5) Two streams of consumption follow the production streams outlined: 1. Pure foods and 2. Highly processed foods. We don’t mean processed like the junk food candy and cereals found in 2020, we mean nutrient fortified superfoods that don’t compromise taste. Consumers can always choose what they to consume based on their own preferences, or likely they eat part of both streams.

1. Pure foods: in the scenario’s ‘food communities’ and ‘regenerative agriculture’ a lot of emphasis is placed on the highly valued farming, a strong connection between production and consumption (literally by helping the farmer, or operating only on local supply chains) and community solidarity. These values persevere through food consumption. Nutritious foods from the local lands are consumed in home-cooked meals, prepared and shared with family and friends. Through the social support network everyone keeps each other in check with regard to the foods that are being consumed. Knowledge of good food preparation is passed amongst friends and down through generations, so that none of grandma’s best recipes are lost anymore.

2. Highly processed foods: in the scenario’s ‘high tech’ and ‘circularity’ production is much more oriented towards bulk, especially for staple foods like (Dutch) potatoes and wheat. But it will not be monocultures anymore, it will be diversified cropping systems aided with small robots. This production is also highly suited to foods that follow the trend of ‘mass customization’. The same base food may be produced in bulk, which can be 3D printed at home, fortified with nutrient constellations for the biometric+ passport.

Finally, food literacy is stimulated with food education across all levels of education to ensure that everyone has a grip on how to prepare safe, healthy, delicious food for themselves. This shared knowledge supplements the individual data to ensure everyone lives a vital and happy life.

Economics | Where and what will the jobs be that support living wages in your future food system of 2050, and how will these jobs impact gender equality?

The Dutch economy surrounding the food system is very differently internationally integrated than we saw in 2020. In 2020, the Netherlands was a leader (2nd largest exporter of agricultural goods) in the global food system. In 2050, we still are, but our food systems are organized through local trade, while our (2) international trade is associated with the technology behind our greenhouses and production and the way we cooperate in multi-stakeholder, transdisciplinary settings (such as TcV). 

To follow the high-tech production stream (1), we had to continuously develop our technology behind our greenhouses. Even for the regenerative agriculture stream, monitoring technologies (think of pixel farming) were developed to improve the effectivity of our farming. These technologies are further elaborated in the Technology theme question. However, because of the increased amount of technology on farms, there are fewer human jobs on farms. But that is okay, because the Dutch population is expected to stagnate and age. The older age groups can contribute their knowledge to further innovate, emancipating them from manual labour. Youngsters are less willing to work on the land than the older generations (who remember a more traditional time in agriculture from the 1900s and before). But there are other entrepreneurial options in the cities for youngsters, especially in the years leading up to 2050 and slightly beyond to institutionalize the Dutch Food System Mosaic.

For those who do still want to work on the land – particularly in the regenerative agriculture stream -, the farming jobs are highly valued in their communities – particularly for the Food Communities and Ecologically Intensive Agriculture scenarios. Farming is still seen as a craft. For the high-tech stream there are a plethora of jobs in programming/IT, development of urban farm technologies (indoor vertical farms) and other innovative farming techniques such as floating farms on our canals. These require the insight and creativity of young entrepreneurs to be fully established.

To ensure fair payment across all food chain activities (especially to farmers, who used to be locked-in in a price competition towards lowest cost), True Cost Accounting is enforced at all stages. This is a methodology to internalize all the externalities and monetizing them. When implemented effectively it orientates competition towards the lowest negative externalities (or highest positive externalities) rather than the lowest production price. This also ensures that activities in all aspects of the food system do not cause any unaccounted for social and environmental costs, ideally ensuring they don’t happen at all because of the cost incurred onto the company if damage is done. In the Policy theme, implementation of TCA is further outlined.

In (3) processing, there are jobs are the ‘chefs of the future’; essentially these are food designers working on the ultra-processed health foods. These foods need to be appealing to the consumer while tasting magnificent. The job ‘chef’ as a craft has been totally redefined.

(4) The pharmacy of 2050 is horticulture. To support this, there is a whole army of doctors and nutritionists who are educated in preventative healthcare. In line with this, medical curriculum have to be overthrown from the 2020 curriculum on treatment healthcare to preventative healthcare in 2050. Educational professionals and policy makers have had to work hard to make this transition happen. Across primary and secondary levels of education food literacy also has a more prominent role in education, which also requires more employment in education to enable (5) consumer awareness. 

Because our Vision recognizes diversity of preferences, desires and needs, to be as inclusive as possible we hope it engages all cultures and we are able to only improve upon the multi-culturalism that we already saw in 2020 in the Netherlands. Gender equality might be impacted if nothing is done to ensure that women are supported to join what are traditionally male jobs – such as in programming, engineering and technology (in 2018 a ratio of 0.3 F/M students in STEM education). Likewise, the increase in food literacy in education might stimulate more female labor in an already female dominant sector. We address this by blending education of different fields much more. Just as the systems approach takes an integral approach towards the food system, an integral approach will be taken to education where the boundaries between subjects are diminished. This encourages individuals to go for information they find more interesting rather than what is traditionally recognized in specific subjects. In 2018, income was near equal (with a ratio of 0.98 F/M), this is improved upon until a ratio of 1 is met.

Culture | How will your 2050 food system ensure that the cultural, spiritual and community traditions and/or practices in your Place flourish?

Since the Netherlands is an open and tolerant country with many different nationalities, our future food system provides a variety of foods for a range of different cultural preferences (e.g. international cuisines, halal, and traditional Dutch foods and treats). For example, in the ‘food communities’ specific foods are beings produced also for cultural minority groups that want to consume products like hot pepper, ginger and specific herbs. For example, seasonal workers from Eastern Europe for example in asparagus harvesting still have special retail outlets for their food preferences like in 2020. 

Each of the five scenarios developed for the Dutch Food System mosaic have different core values defining how the scenarios manifest across the food system activities. To show how the scenarios fit together from cultural perspective we do not distinguish between the different scenarios in outlining the values, but instead emphasize how these values fit together. These values were identified by mapping the scenarios of the Food System Mosaic on the different levels of the systems iceberg (see Full Vision doc) and equating the mental models identified to values outlined here. Overall, the Food System Mosaic represents a paradigm shift from linear monoculture driven by profit maximization to circular diversity driven by value maximization.

First, however, we want to outline the projected 2050 Dutch demographics. Firstly, by 2050 population is projected to be approx. 95% urbanized. The greatest proportions of the population belong to the age group 45-64. There is an even distribution of the genders, although woman age slightly more (with 0.3% of the females in the age groups 95-99 and 0.1% in 100+, while males are at 0.2% in 95-99 and 0% in 100+). From these groups there will be a strong desire to maintain traditions, while youngsters may be more inclined to be innovative and creatively engage with new values. By implementing the food system mosaic, we encourage a delicate balance between the two.

In 2020 already over 75% of the Dutch population lived in urban areas, so we can talk about an urbanized country. The types of urban regions found in the Netherlands are ‘polycentric’, where many cities lie in very close proximity to one another – effectively erasing the distinct boundaries between the cities. We expect this to continue until 2050 and beyond and so embed our food system mosaic in an intricate network spanning across the urban regions. This network supports localized food systems.

To then return to the key values across the food system activities, these strike a balance between a new way of producing/consuming while not letting go of Dutch heritage. That said, in the Netherlands it is common practice to be innovative, try new methods and collaborate with one another. These are characteristics we maintain through the Food System Mosaic.

In (1) production, there are few, highly skilled, farmers remaining. But these are the heroes of the food transition; they enabled the food transition from the ground up by working one with nature. The values they applied were that of animal wellbeing, place determines produce, and permaculture. In doing so, they reconnected society to the land. Ecologically embedded was no longer just a production principle but a lifestyle. Frameworks such as ‘Nature’s Guiding Principles’ helped this transition. For the responsible technological implementation, principles of ‘Responsible Research and Innovation’ were made core to all research centers (private, public, or governmental). Transparency and trust are core values above all.

These same values rippled through the other five food system activities. Communities were strengthened. Also in (2) transport, storage, and trade we see more cooperation and collective action. In (3) processing knowledge is shared on the front of technological access, information, and food recipes. The same applies to (4) retail – best practices are shared.

When we reach the (5) consumer it is important to note that health and sustainability doesn’t have to go at cost of convenience and traditional foods. Despite all the food innovation, we still have traditionally Dutch foods like mashed potatoes, kroketten, our lunch favorite ‘broodje kaas’ (cheese sandwich), and even holiday-time ‘pepernoten’ (spiced nuts). The ingredients have just been improved – coming from richer soils, fortified, or plant-based. The diet as a whole is more plant-based through smart food innovation switches.

With a food literate population, food connects now more than ever. We connect with our communities through meals and ‘gezelligheid’; “food is happiness, community, and joy”. People are happier because they are ecologically embedded, spending more time outdoors, living in green cities, and emancipated. Physical wellbeing is also highly valued (especially with the rise of preventative healthcare), which contributes to better overall happiness.  

Technology | What technological advances are needed to transform your food system into one that meets your goals and embodies the values of your Vision in 2050?

The goal of the Food System Mosaic is a healthy and sustainable agrifood future in the Netherlands. Technology is an important component to reach that goal in all the future food systems and is always exactly that: a means to an end. This is the core of the principles of ‘Reponsible Research and Innovation’. Technology is developed in service of many aspects, including enabling transparency (e.g. blockchain, underlying true cost accounting), and making our production and consumption more effective and/or sustainable.

Across all stages in the food system we see blockchain and open source to enable sharing of best practices and information between actors. This is the basis of transparency. On the farms (1) we see monitoring technologies to ensure production effectivity; for example – pixel farming and precision farming, where the land is divided into pixels and monitored by drones to identify changes (water levels, nutrients per area, monitor animals for welfare improvement or even detect disease/zoonoses early!). In the regenerative agriculture stream we also find small robots on crop management and harvesting. It is here that it also becomes clear that regenerative agriculture is not a return to a romanticized past, but a highly effective production stream that uses technology to monitor and ensure responsible use of the land. In the high-tech stream we see indoor technologies such as vertical farms and hydroponics.

In (2) storage, transport and trade drones are used for transport and all facilities are run on renewable energy. The same applies to (3) processing. Innovating renewable energy to be more efficient and widely accepted is a large building block to our Vision, as this is necessary to effectively for the high-tech stream to fully decouple from nature.

Food intelligence and food design are fields of research that have exploded in the transition to the 2050 food system mosaic. Luckily in 2020 Food Design & Innovation was already one of the most popular studies at HAS, so there are plenty of professionals in this field. Supported by blockchain for information sharing and the Responsible Research and Innovation principles, these are always oriented towards meeting the (biophysical and preferential) needs of the consumer. One of the major inventions was the creation of base ‘food cartridges’ for 3D printers, giving consumers the freedom to print what they desire without compromising nutrition.

Moving more towards the consumer end of the supply chain, the biophysical needs of the (5) consumer are monitored by wearables and apps for personal healthcare (like the FitBit 2050 edition matched with the biometric+ passport). Of course, laws have to be implemented to protect consumer data, which will be elaborated on under theme question ‘Policy’. Other in-home technologies are 3D-food printers, LED-kitchen cabinet herb growing units, smart toilets and fridges to process information about foods going in and out of the human body. All these are synced with the individual biometric+ passport and product passports found in (4) supermarkets.

Policy | What types of policies are needed to enable your future food system?

Just as the distribution has been localized and split regionally (based on how the different food system mosaic tiles are placed in the Dutch socio-economic and physical landscape), policy is focused on a more regional scale. This is particularly important with regard to the effective functioning of food communities. There are some core points that are consistent across the entire country, as outlined below. Policy in 2050 takes a more integrated approach than we have seen in the past, which makes it more difficult to split the Food System activities here. For reference, we have noted the number matching the food system activity still in relation to different policies.

Our policy is – at minimum, though we strive to be more ambitious – in line with the EU Green Deal ambitions for 2050, aiming to make Europe climate neutral by 2050. Particularly relevant is the Farm to Fork Strategy, which sets targets for 1. Sustainable production, 2. Sustainable food processing and distribution, 3. Sustainable food consumption. 4. Food loss and waste prevention.

True Cost Accounting (TCA) is enforced across all food stuffs produced and consumed in the Netherlands (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). This is a tool and methodology to price all externalities (unintended costs on third parties, often publicly incurred costs) in the production process of a food product, which is then added to the cost price of the food product. For a company to make profit they will then have to either diminish the negative externalities of a product or charge a large sum to the consumer. Implementing TCA orients product prices (and price competition) towards reducing externalities rather than the most cost-efficient production. This is how production of food stuffs doesn’t have a negative social and environmental effect. Several organizations (such as True Price, WUR, Eosta and TcV) were working on the TCA methodology already before 2020. These later formed a coalition to standardize the methodology before it was implemented in policy. The implementation of TCA is also what allowed us to shift our paradigm from ‘profit maximization’ to ‘value maximization’.

Subsidies are based on ecosystem services. No more subsidies for only high production (1), but on effective use of resources and closing resource loops. These subsidies are coupled with for example biodiversity levels, soil quality, water retention, (non)use of raw resources. These agricultural subsidies along with TCA ensure that from both ends of the market (production and consumption) sustainable choices are made.

Similarly, subsidies are available for Responsible Research and Innovation (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Shortly after 2020 the transition to sustainable practices was accelerated by these subsidies, which started a spiral of innovation as production became a competition of highest ecological effectivity rather than highest production efficiency.

To ensure that products stay within the Netherlands (2), import and export tariffs were introduced on food products – even within the EU. As the country became more self-reliant and the incentives to import and export were reduced, these tariffs were also reduced to reopen essential trade to close resource loops within the EU. Note however that these tariffs do not apply to knowledge transfer – should as exporting the knowledge behind our highly innovative greenhouse technologies. We do after all want to stimulate best practice in food and agriculture across all of the EU and beyond.

For (4) retail there are also some changes in what can be sold (at which prices) and advertised. Unhealthy foods are heavily taxed to de-incentivize consumption. There is also a complete ban on the marketing of unhealthy food products. As a third measure, nutriscores (showing a health ranking of the food product) is required on all food that has been processed in some way. There is no need to tax foods imported from afar because they already have a higher price due to the TCA methodology. 

Consumers (5) are stimulated to engage in healthy lifestyles through several policy initiatives. Firstly, healthcare subsidies and insurance in 2050 are based on lifestyle. There is heavy investment from the government into a network of ‘lifestyle coaches’ and the reconstruction of the curriculum at medical schools. Insurance costs look at lifestyle factors such as average amount of movement/physical exercise and adherence to the individual biometric+ passport. Insurance now also covers access to nutritionists and a yearly check-up on vital functions including a lifestyle conversation. Secondly, food literacy is made a required component of education at all levels and is part of the standard national curriculum.

Describe how these 6 Themes connect with and influence one another in your food system.

We have connected the six themes in the Food System Mosaic by following the Food System Approach (FSA) by van Berkum et al. (2018) (see Full Vision doc). This approach outlines that there are key food system activities (1-5 outlined in the theme questions), which are supported by the ‘food environment’, ‘consumer characteristics’, ‘business services’ and ‘enabling environment’. These activities are influenced by environmental and socio-economic drivers, while the activities in turn have an impact on the drivers through the positive and negative effects they incur as ‘food system outcomes’ (e.g. whether production regenerates soil quality, whether jobs are created or communities are built). All the activities combined lead to certain outcomes, such as whether the goal of the food system is met (food security, and in our case healthy and sustainable food production and consumption).

To further identify the relations between the themes, a system mapping identified trade-offs and interlinkages (see image). This is how we found the two main streams of production (1. Regenerative agriculture, 2. High-tech) and identified that they cannot exist in the same physical locality.

The themes can be matched to the FSA in the following way:

Environment is both a driver and an outcome. It is a driver in that it influences what kind of production and consumption is enabled at every stage of the supply chain, especially since production in the regenerative agricultural stream is coupled with ecosystem services. It is an outcome in the way that the food system replenishes the environment – how the food system contributes to environmental resilience.

Diets are both a food system outcome, an activity, and socio-economic driver. It is an outcome, as food security (healthy consumption) is one of the goals of the food system. It is an activity in the way that food is consumed, how and where food is on offer (‘food environment’) and what consumers preferences are (‘consumer characteristics’). Individual factors (e.g. biological needs) and community values determining diets are a driver.

Economics is a socio-economic driver and an outcome. It is a driver in how the markets are structured and the policies that are put in place. It is an outcome in which jobs are created, what income levels are and what products are traded.

Culture is a socio-economic driver by asking: what are the norms, how are communities structured, and is there social cohesion. It is also an activity in relation to consumer characteristics (like in Diets).

Technology is a driver and an activity. It is a driver in what is available, what innovations are there. Technology is also a red-thread through the whole food system as underlying every activity as a means to an end: to meet the goals/outcomes of the food system.

Policy is a socio-economic driver by enabling and disabling practices, supporting certain behavior and discouraging others.

Describe any trade-offs you may have to make within your system to attain your Vision by 2050.

1. Implementing the Food System Mosaic requires that the 2020 international trade position of the Netherlands (as second largest global exporter of agricultural goods) was compromised. While in 2020 nearly all production in the Netherlands was oriented towards bulk production and export, in 2050 only the regions following the scenarios Circularity, High-tech and in-part Ecologically Intensive will be able to produce bulk. Where Food Communities are the main means of production, only enough will be produced to match the needs of that community. Surpluses can be traded with other communities. This means that if the Netherlands want to maintain its key export role, it will have to orientate towards exporting knowledge and technologies – such as the greenhouse technologies, indoor farms and TCA. 

2. Our landscape approach identified that the five scenarios cannot exist within the same physical locality. The two production streams identified are not compatible on the same farm and have impacts across every following activity in the food system. Communities choose as to which production/consumption scenario they want to feasibly realize. High-tech is more suitable for urban environments, while regenerative agriculture (particularly food communities) is more suitable to smaller towns. To do this effectively it is crucial to identify which localities are more suited to which scenarios by mapping the socio-economic and physical landscape in the Netherlands. In addition, we go with ‘the energy’: where groups want to establish a food community or setup short supply chains we aid and connect them to others for inspiration, reflection, and learning by doing. The size of the food demand additionally will have to be met without going beyond the carrying capacity of the environment. It is for this reason that we chose a Food System Mosaic, to keep intact the diversity of values, needs and desires in the Netherlands without compromising a healthy and sustainable food system.

4. To facilitate decoupling from the environment some land will have to be converted to renewable energy production. There is therefore a trade-off in the growth of the energy system and agrifood system. Land-use must be a priority theme for policy.

5. For the effective implementation of the ‘Personalized Food and Health-Care’ scenario a there must be a delicate balance between privacy and data safety while maximizing the potential health of the Dutch national. This will require a national discussion on data privacy and investments into the right technologies.

6. Increased automation with smart and precision technology will replace traditionally labor-intensive jobs (like crop management). Jobs will shift to ICT/data and in urban areas.

7. Animal production will have to be reduced to support more plant-based diets and lower environmental footprints. Animals have a new ‘upcycling’ function in circularity. It means that several animal production farms will be transformed into plant production.

3 Years | Describe 3 key milestones that you would need to achieve within the next three years for your Vision to be on track?

Food System transformation a complex challenge. We developed transition paths by backcasting every scenario from 2050 to 2020, which go in many directions. But we noted when discussing about this in our team that are two main paradigms that drive change: (1) reactive, ‘doom’, fear, if we do nothing disaster will strike, and (2) pro-active, we can do something, and even though it is not perfect we are part of the solution. The latter is the driving force that we want to increase by inspirational leadership, by initiatives of pioneers in the TcV community, by supportive (applied) research and integrating this into education so that future professionals can build on this. At HAS we stimulate students to experience ‘the overview effect’ astronauts often have; seeing the ‘whole’, how everything is connected. This is a cognitive shift towards awareness of a more sustainable life. This is the paradigm shift in individuals and in the food system that we aim to provoke. Because we know that activities transcending the paradigm are transformative on the system.

Key milestones:

1. TcV has become an influential bottom-up movement that connects inspiring frontrunners and regime players with game-changing initiatives and a national food system transformation agenda with business, NGO, research and education and governments connected to a diversity of regional, landscape approaches that accelerate ‘net positive’ food systems. Within TcV, the 2+ coalitions formed based on the scenarios (Boerenraad and Food Communities) have become influential themselves and scaled up a diversity of initiatives with a good business model.

2. A national protein strategy is implemented integrating production and consumption.

3. TCA methodology internationally harmonized with successful applications in value chains, businesses and with consumers.

4. More young professionals become change-leaders thanks to our new ‘Rockefeller programme’ called “New leadership for food system transformation”

10 Years | What progress will you need to make—by 2030—that would set your Vision up to become a reality by 2050?

1. Transition coalition Food retires. Our vision has become part of the system, it has become the new paradigm. Lobby in NL and EU is successful: The EU Green Deal-II is implemented. It supports growth of agroecological agriculture to 25% in 2030, and reduction of pesticides and chemical fertilizers by 40%. Agricultural subsidies are conditional to ecosystem services rather than to productivity only, in support of more nature-inclusive farming practices. The Dutch have an integral food policy, instead of agricultural policy.

2. True Cost Accounting is mandatory, so that the most sustainable product is the cheapest. Farmers receive a fair price through a transparent value chain.

3. Large food system stakeholder communities engage in one or more scenarios and work together in a transdisciplinary systems approach developed by 2030. Eg. embed all farms in circular food systems and work according to agroecological principles. Circularity is fully established by increased cooperation between plant and animal production, food processing, and development of new circular business models. While remembering, there is ‘no one size fits all’. There are international linkages to similar coalitions and supply chains. We are driven by inspirational leadership, not doom.

4. All consumers eat healthy and sustainable diets, according to their wishes and cultural preferences.

5. The (food) Systems approach is fully integrated into economic activities and policy. This includes incorporating reinforcing and balancing feedback and optimize relationships/synergies with other systems (eg. energy) instead of the individual parts. A new definition of ‘success’ is the norm (eg. no. of people fed per hectare) with value maximization (eg. biodiversity, health) as driver.

6. All Dutch are food literate. We have significantly reduced the number of people with NCDs through education, preventative healthcare, healthy food and a healthy environment. We enjoy delicious, nutritious food together!

If awarded the $200,000 prize what would you do with it?

The prize money would be split 50-50 between the two leading organizations behind this submission, and they will continue working together with the large transition coalition of 200 organizations.  

TcV would invest their $100,000 on the further development of partnerships and coalitions to support the realization of these scenarios. Examples are further establishment of the Boerenraad (regen. Farmers coalition) and the food communities (CSA) coalition. In addition, further work will be done on a number of leverage points such as true cost accounting.  

The Future Food Systems research group at HAS University of Applied Sciences would put their $100,000 towards furthering the applied knowledge base on food system transformation and especially on developing transdisciplinary education that is now a white spot in agrifood education (we all are disciplinary, but food system transformation requires inter- and transdisciplinary cooperation). This may include:

- HAS-wide, transdisciplinary specialization on ‘new leadership for the future system’ to educate our agrifood professionals to become game-changers in the international food systems. We will, with TcV, establish new partnerships and work closely with frontrunners in practice.

- Graduation projects in cooperation with TcV partners for students from the various study programs at HAS (horticulture, agribusiness, food technology, food design, landscaping, etc) to develop market-based interventions that propel this Vision, supported by our applied research.

If you are chosen as a Top Visionary, The Rockefeller Foundation would like to share your Vision widely with a global audience. What would you like the world to learn from your Vision for 2050?

Food systems are not about systems, they are about people.

Transitioning the food system can’t be achieved with one silver bullet, we need the involvement of all the food system stakeholders to find a realistic, feasible, but also radically innovative solution to the problems and challenges we are currently faced. We can’t do it alone, and there is no one size fits all. We need a mosaic of different sub-systems that complement one another to function well at both a local and a national, or even larger scale.

Our Vision celebrates the diversity of values, opinions and needs of different stakeholders in the Dutch Food Systems and connects those through the different puzzle pieces that we call scenarios in our Food System Mosaic. There is a red-thread through all of this though, that we must reconnect people with nature (whether that is by embedded our production in it, or decoupling from it) in order to prosper as a healthy and fulfilled humanity on a thriving planet.

Being transformative is about addressing the paradigm of a system. An individual can shift their mind-set in a split second, to see something with ‘new eyes’. But to do this on a system level we need to work as in collaboration with one another. This is why we advocate for collective inspirational leadership to continue working to working towards transforming our food system to one that is healthy, nutritious and thriving – for everyone involved.

Please share a visual that communicates the structure and operation of your food system in 2050. Describe the visual.

Video: a journey through the Food Mosaic, where you meet actors in each scenario.

Images: the 2050 landscape, city and kitchen.

System map: how the scenarios are linked, categorised according to the six themes. They are grouped according to the two streams of production ‘high-tech’ and ‘regenerative agriculture’. There are elements that are visible on ‘high-tech’ but equally apply to regenerative agriculture. https://kumu.io/verl/dutch-food-mosaic#dutch-food-mosaic-trade-offs


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Spam
Photo of Rene Shahmohamadloo
Team

Good morning Lauren Verheijen,

My team had an opportunity to read your vision in detail and commend the work you are doing. We would like to bring our vision to your team's attention and see if there might be a substantive point of engagement between our two groups:

Envisioning a food system based on truly integrative agricultural practices for 2050
To develop a framework outlining a set of practices that will maximize food production and minimize environmental footprints
https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/food-system-vision-prize/open-submission/envisioning-a-food-system-with-integrative-agricultural-practices-for-2050

We look forward to your reply.

Kind regards,
René Sahba Shahmohamadloo
School of Environmental Sciences
University of Guelph

Spam
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Team

Hi René, thank you very much for your comment. We have had a look at your team's Vision, one point that stood out is your intention to use indigenous knowledge as an element of improved and integrated agricultural practices. Our Vision aims to show that the application of improved knowledge of nature - such as being guided by the principles in nature - in combination with monitoring technologies should allow us to sustain high levels of agricultural production while also allowing the land to prosper. It might be interesting to look further into the connection with indigenous knowledge from other regions further in this regard. Best, Lauren

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