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Opportunities and barriers of Circular Agriculture

Insights from a synthesis study of the Food & Business Research Programme
F&BR synthesis study - Circular Agriculture
February 24, 2020 By: F&BKP Office Image: NWO-WOTRO

A synthesis paper has been produced discussing Research for Development insights and innovations regarding three principles of circular agriculture: (1) preserving and enhancing natural resources, (2) efficient use of resources, and (3) multi-purpose use and recovering value from waste. This thematic synthesis builds on the insights gained and innovations developed by twelve Food & Business Research projects funded by NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development, which have all addressed aspects of circular agriculture and its application in low and middle income countries. The identified socio-economic drivers and barriers to scaling of circular approaches are put forward, as well as some concluding critical reflections on circular agriculture.

This paper “Opportunities and barriers of Circular Agriculture” is the first thematic publication of a larger series of publications commissioned by NWO-WOTRO, together forming a synthesis study of the Global Challenges Programme (GCP) and Applied Research Fund (ARF) projects under the Food & Business Research programme, executed by Daniëlle de Winter and Ellen Lammers. 

Global agriculture is facing a major challenge: feeding a growing world population while keeping its footprint within planetary boundaries. Those seeking solutions to restructure our food system are looking for answers to some challenging questions.

How can we combine technological innovation while maintaining -or even enhancing- our ecological values? How can we improve agricultural efficiency to feed a growing population without damaging the environment or raising production costs? And, are there ways to combat or mitigate the climate change impacts that affect the reliability of our harvests?

Circular Agriculture can provide answers to some of these questions. Yet, there is no blueprint to adopting such an approach. A collective pursuit by farmers, citizens, businesses, researchers and policymakers is needed to find the right combination of technological, ecological, social and economic principles.

This synthesis paper provides useful research findings which could support the further exploration of solutions and the collaboration towards uptake of promising solutions at different levels of scale.


Authors: Felix Bianchi and Christy van Beek; Daniëlle de Winter and Ellen Lammers.

Lunch & learn webinar

On september 9, 2020 a lunch & learn webinar was held on “Rethinking food production – Opportunities and barriers for circular agriculture”. Please find a short blog, including recordings of the introduction and two main speakers here.



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