Imke de Boer and Evelien de Olde win Rockefeller Food Prize

They wrote a vision paper outlining a sustainable food system for the Netherlands

Imke de Boer. Photo: Maurits Giesen

They wrote a vision paper outlining a sustainable food system for the Netherlands

De Boer and De Olde, who work in the Animal Production Systems chair group, sketched the contours of a healthy and circular food system in the Netherlands in 2050, entitled ‘Rerouting the Dutch Food System: from more to better’. The Rockefeller Food System Vision Prize consists of 15,000 dollars.

10 winners

More than 1300 teams submitted a proposal to the Rockefeller Foundation to write a vision paper. In March, the foundation selected 79 teams to follow up their proposal, including the Wageningen teams led by Imke de Boer and Marian Stuiver. Team De Boer is among the 10 winners. They drew up their vision in consultation with farmers and nature organizations.

Makeover

The writers propose a makeover for the Dutch food system so that all crops are consumed by humans and 40 per cent of arable production is no longer destined to be livestock feed, as it is now. Dutch livestock would be fed entirely on grass and food waste. Cows would graze in herb-rich meadows, pigs would rootle in the mud, and chickens would take dust baths.

Samphire

They also argue in favour of increasing urban farming, with fruit and vegetables being grown on a small scale, and for eating more food such as marsh samphire and sea lavender grown on brackish soils along the coast, and seaweed from the coastal waters. In these ways, food producers can improve biodiversity, keep the soil healthy, and stop using pesticides. A consequence of their vision is a reduction in intensive pig and chicken farming in the Netherlands, and a big drop in food exports.

Mentors

De Boer and De Olde will use the prize money to ‘really take steps towards a healthy and sustainable food system’ with the team of farmers and nature organizations they work with. They will be supported in this in the coming period by a large group of mentors from the Rockefeller Foundation. A makeover of the food system is only possible, say the authors of this vision, if all the actors in the food system do their bit. When they complete this final lap, the 10 teams can win a further 50,000 dollars.