Rob Bakker was appointed Professor for the new Research Group Food Production in a Circular Economy at HAS University of Applied Sciences on 1 September 2021. The Research group is one of three Research Groups financed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) with a view to accelerating the transition to circular agriculture. The new Research Group will lead to a reassessment and expansion of the Sustainable Production lectureship in the Agrifood Sector.
The aim of the Research Group Food Production in a Circular Economy is to facilitate businesses in the agri-food sector in producing with minimum impact on the environment while making the most efficient use of natural resources. This is mainly done by closing loops and making production processes more sustainable. The Research Group aims to develop solutions that contribute to the circularity of food production and food processing.
Tools for success
The aim is not so much to develop innovations in-house, but rather to focus on tools to measure the sustainability process. Together with the businesses, the Research Group is putting together an inventory of feasible options for increasing circularity in agriculture. In addition to technical and economic feasibility, the revenue models and organisational forms required for realisation will also be examined.
The Research Group focuses mainly on current sustainability issues that are tackled in experimental areas in the southern Netherlands designated by the Ministry of LNV, and collaborates with other knowledge institutions, businesses and governments. Experimental areas are physical locations where different partners meet, tackle issues and perform trials. Examples include Agro Proeftuin de Peel, Foodtech Brainport and the Delta Agrifood Business centre.
Sustainable Production in the Agrifood Sector
The Research Group Sustainable Production in the Agrifood Sector kicked off in 2019 with the appointment of Elies Lemkes-Straver as lecturer. She left the position after two years to become a member of the Provincial Council of Noord-Brabant. Nevertheless, practical research continued and with the appointment of Rob Bakker, HAS University of Applied Sciences is taking a new step in developing knowledge to make the agri-food chain more sustainable and close loops in agriculture.
Researcher and lecturer
Rob Bakker is well known within HAS University of Applied Sciences. He has earned his spurs as a researcher and lecturer in the fields of sustainability, environmental science, bio-economy and circularity, at HAS University of Applied Sciences and Wageningen University. Rob studied Agrotechnology at Wageningen University and obtained his PhD at the University of California on sustainable use of residual flows from grain cultivation. After his studies, he worked as a post-harvest researcher at the international agricultural research centre IRRI (CGIAR) for several years, followed by a period as a senior researcher with ATO-DLO in Wageningen (now WFBR). Rob has been with HAS University of Applied Sciences since 2015 and was already active as a lecturer-researcher in the Centre for Bio-based Economy and the Research Group Sustainable Production in the Agrifood Sector.
Putting things into practice
Rob Bakker is looking forward to the next few years: "I feel that in the Netherlands we talk a lot about sustainability and circularity but we do not put it into practice enough. I hope to work with students and businesses in this Research Group to experiment more with sustainability methods that can be put into practice, to contribute to future-proof, circular agriculture."
Lines of research
The main lines of research of the Research Group programme are: adding value to circularity, closing loops and making production processes more sustainable. In addition, the lectureship is committed to combating food waste in the chain.
Transfer to education
The Research Group also facilitates the transfer of developed knowledge in higher education by actively contributing to the development of university-wide minors. One example is the minor Innovating Agricultural Production Systems, which was recently started, and a minor on Circular Food Production, which is under development.
The Research Group is partly financed from the grant scheme for Circular Agriculture Lecturers of the National Taskforce for Applied Research SIA and the Ministry of LNV. The scheme encourages stronger connections between universities of applied sciences and other knowledge institutions in the field of circular agriculture. The aim is to strengthen research and innovation in the field of circular agriculture and increase the availability of well-trained (technical) talent.