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About us Campus Fryslân Research at Campus Fryslân Research departments Centre for Sustainable Agriculture Transition

About us

The Centre for Sustainable Agriculture Transition aims to make the sustainable agriculture transition successful and accelerate it.

The Centre believes that the Netherlands, as a prosperous country with a historical role in the agricultural sector, faces major ecological and climatic challenges. Intensive agriculture has led to declining biodiversity and nature, and is criticised by international bodies. The current system of price competition has led to economies of scale and intensification of production, but does not solve these problems. 

The Centre advocates multi-sectoral solutions that address social inequalities, as small changes within the current system are not enough. There is an urgent need for a new agricultural system that reduces social costs and addresses ecological challenges.

Mission, vision and strategy

The Centre for Sustainable Agriculture Transition designs and guides innovative and sustainable solutions in the agricultural sector for the sustainable production and consumption of healthy food. Our mission is to realise sustainable production and consumption of healthy food in co-creation with all partners in the agriculture sector and to support farmers and chain parties in the transition to sustainable agriculture.

Our vision is a future of agriculture where ecological health, economic vitality and social justice go hand in hand. We aim to create a world where farmers are recognised as cornerstones of sustainable food systems, where diversity in crops and practices is celebrated, and where agriculture contributes to a healthy planet for future generations.

The centre's strategy can be divided into the following four components:

  1. Co-creation of new sustainable solutions. We work in direct cooperation with farmers and chain parties on sustainable solutions for the production and consumption of healthy food. We promote transdisciplinary, interdisciplinary and basic scientific and applied research to design, implement and perpetuate practical solutions to the challenges of farmers and chain parties in the transition to sustainable agriculture.

  2. Co-creation of new sustainable support and guidance: We work in direct cooperation with farmers and chain parties on transition programmes and actively support farmers and chain parties in designing, implementing and perpetuating sustainable solutions.

  3. Co-creation of new sustainable ecosystems: We work in direct cooperation with farmers, chain parties, knowledge institutions and governments to create a new ecosystem for sustainable agriculture. In this way, we will accelerate the awareness and impact of sustainable agriculture

  4. Co-creation of new sustainable knowledge and acceleration programmes. We work in direct collaboration on new knowledge and acceleration programmes for international regions where the transition to sustainable agriculture is urgent.

With this co-creation strategy, we realise a new, sustainable and regenerative agricultural sector and new, sustainable and regenerative ecosystems for the production and consumption of healthy food that restores the balance between the value of nature, the value of incomes and the value of health.

What and why

What is the challenge? 

The Netherlands is a prosperous country with an important role in the agricultural sector, producing high-quality food at low prices. Dutch agriculture is one of the world's largest dairy producers, with export earnings exceeding EUR 100 billion for the first time in 2021, mainly due to rising prices and volumes. These achievements are due to economies of scale, efficiency, growth, mechanisation and improved knowledge of food and agricultural production processes.

Despite the success of the Dutch agricultural sector, the current system is at the limits of growth. The system is no longer sustainable due to increasing social costs. Intensive agriculture has led to rapidly declining biodiversity and nature in the Netherlands. Current nature policy has proven insufficiently effective, resulting in declining numbers of animals, plants and fungi. Also, Dutch water does not meet European standards and this may lead to new crises, similar to the nitrogen problem.

Internationally, the Dutch agricultural sector is criticised. Both the European Commission and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have criticised Dutch agricultural policy. The size of the Dutch livestock population is seen as a major factor contributing to environmental, biodiversity and climate problems. In addition, current production methods pose health risks to farmers and citizens.

Why sustainable agriculture?

The goal of sustainable agriculture is to create a sustainable food and ecosystem, good for people, animals, landscape and environment. For example, by sowing herb-rich field edges and grasslands, grazing for cows, soil improvement through crop rotation, and nature-oriented mowing. 

Sustainable agriculture has always been evolving and has taken off with various methods including organic, nature-inclusive, biodynamic, circular, regenerative, community, sustainable, agro-economic and vegan agriculture. These innovations are alternatives to conventional farming methods and intend to balance nature and healthy food production with stable business models.

Existing reports indicate that sustainable agriculture has similar yields to conventional agriculture. Sustainable agriculture uses less energy and produces fewer greenhouse gases, develops better soil quality (partly because the soil contains more organic matter and therefore suffers less erosion), uses little or no artificial fertilisers, herbicides and insecticides (and therefore has less pollution to ground and surface water) and recycles more nitrogen and phosphorus than conventional farms. The food produced by sustainable agriculture contains little or no chemical pesticide residues.

Last modified:30 January 2024 3.51 p.m.
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