HAS University of Applied Sciences has been working intensively with AgroProeftuin de Peel for several years on long-term research in two key areas: making soil and food processes more sustainable, and closing loops. Two research groups are taking the lead in the projects: Healthy Plants on Vital and Sustainable Soil, and Food Production in a Circular Economy.
AgroProeftuin de Peel is a partnership between government authorities, the business community, and knowledge institutions in the Northeast Brabant region, driven by AgriFood Capital. It has been designated by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) as one of the leading testing grounds in the area of circularity. “We’re a testing ground serving agricultural businesses looking to innovate in the area of circular agriculture,” says programme manager Celine van Soest. “Our physical site covers 35 hectares with 15 plots for businesses, but we also carry out small projects elsewhere.”
Celine continues: “AgroProeftuin de Peel has lofty ambitions. HAS University of Applied Sciences is an important partner, because of the knowledge and network it provides. All the knowledge acquired at AgroProeftuin de Peel is public, and all experiments are shared. Our aim is to learn together, and take circular agriculture to a higher level. There’s a lot of cross-pollination between different sectors.”
AgroProeftuin de Peel is an important experimental area for HAS University of Applied Sciences. It’s a living lab, where practical knowledge and insights can be acquired with partners in the sector. The aim of the Food Production in a Circular Economy research group is to enable companies in the agri-food sector to continue production while minimising the impact on the environment and using natural resources as efficiently as possible. This is mainly achieved by closing loops and making production processes more sustainable. The research group wants to develop solutions that take both food production and food processing closer to achieving circularity. The aim is not so much to develop innovations itself, but to work on tools with which the sustainability process can be measured.
The Healthy Plants on Vital and Sustainable Soil research group is examining the interaction between plants and soil. It focusses particularly on the interaction between soil biology and plants, and how this interaction can be exploited to make soil more vital and sustainable. Project leader Lyanne de Haan is a junior researcher within the group. She supervises various experiments at AgroProeftuin de Peel in the context of long-term soil research.
Examples of topics that are currently being studied by the research groups:
- Measuring food waste in specific agro-chains, and implementing practical interventions that reduce waste
- Developing and testing measuring methods for recording circularity in the chain; what is the impact of circular production, and how can it be made transparent and measurable for producers and customers?
- Developing and applying new circular fertilisers/fertiliser substitutes
- Developing innovative concepts to process residual flows on or around the farmyard, such as cooperative composting
- Monitoring soil quality, organic matter build-up, and plant-soil interactions
Martine Overdijk is the Agri & Business cluster director at HAS University of Applied Sciences, and recently became a member of the steering committee of AgroProeftuin de Peel. This makes her partly responsible for the strategic management of the living lab. She says this cooperation is indispensable to the way HAS conducts education, knowledge transfer, and research. “Working together with the professional field is crucial for us. Our goal is to acquire knowledge and expertise that can be applied in practice. Combining forces and tackling issues in an integrated way is the perfect way to make progress. A good revenue model for agricultural businesses and the developments needed to make the sector future-proof go hand in hand.”