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Feeding an urbanizing world

Report Round table “Feeding Cities”, April 18, 2017
Report Feeding Cities April 18, 2017
May 8, 2017 By: F&BKP Office Image: F&BKP Office

Dutch agrofood companies are reflecting on the role they can play in the increasing worldwide demand for (fresh) food produce. To feed growing cities in a sustainable way, they need to speed up the pace of innovation, share knowledge and position themselves better. These were some of the conclusions of the “Feeding Cities” meeting, held on April 18, 2017.

Over 25 invitees attended the Round table event which was held in the Demokwekerij Westland and organized by MVO the Netherlands and the F&BKP. Participants discussed the opportunities that exist for SMEs in feeding rapidly growing cities. “We are looking for complete systems that can alter the paradigm of “linear agriculture”. There is no longer a demand for a “total solution package” or a standardized approach to feeding future cities. It is more likely that different micro-economies together will feed future metropolitan cities. So it is not about either urban farming, or vertical farming, or glasshouse horticulture, but about integrating these initiatives to provide real solutions.”

New ideas

During the presentations and round table groups, both experiences from investments done in emerging economies as well as experiences with different instruments of government support were discussed. Collaboration with colleagues within consortia and with other (local) partners is still perceived as a challenge. Sharing experiences gained in small scale initiatives as well as within ambitious large scale projects resulted in some interesting new ideas.

General conclusions

What is needed to act upon the need to feed a growing urbanized population worldwide? General conclusions and recommendations:

  • Formulate a strategic focus (mission, vision). Drafting a list of prioritized, viable countries and/or cities where the Dutch sector, with support of government, research institutes, and NGOs would want to invest, creates opportunities for joint collaboration. What kind of initiatives would the Netherlands like to start in these cities and countries? Without excluding local initiatives.
  • Focus on a demand driven approach – in two ways. Embassies are in the position to map initial local opportunities and accordingly work together with local partners to better understand the existing local demand. Working with local partners is crucial.
  • Stimulate collaboration and the formation of coalitions. Communicate about running initiatives to provide the possibility for other relevant organizations to join, share information on initiatives timely, and include companies or other stakeholders based on the value they add to a partnership. Showing commitment and making this commitment explicit in an early stage is important.
  • Initiate innovative and scalable projects. “Lean” with the aim to create impact. Do not only focus on horticulture, but involve the broader agrofood sector (logistics, recycling, infrastructure, urban planning)
  • Brand what the sector has to offer with a univocal voice. Demonstrate what the Netherlands has to offer in ‘feeding cities’ by presenting showcases.

Next steps

Participants embraced the idea of an “Innovation Network Feeding Cities” (tentative name) and expressed the wish to come to concrete action. Articulating the vision and mission of such a network is important, but equally important is the engagement of the private sector, the provision of opportunities  for matchmaking and networking for early movers, the initiation of new (pilot) projects, and generation of government support where needed.

The meeting of April 18 shows there is a need for sharing knowledge and collaborative action. MVO the Netherlands and the Food & Business Knowledge Platform (F&BKP), together with other parties, would like to initiate an innovation network around Feeding Cities to increase collective action on this theme. An action oriented platform, in which knowledge and experiences are shared to strengthen current initiatives and bring them to scale, and to develop new initiatives. To kick-start and finance the network, MVO the Netherlands and F&BKP will collaborate with partners, of which some attended the event. On the short term they will talk with several other platforms and government departments to further shape the content of Feeding Cities.

In the last quarter of 2017, MVO the Netherlands and the F&BKP will organize a follow-up meeting to talk about the interpretation of the Feeding Cities network.

Background information

More information on the Round table (in Dutch only)

More inspiration (in Dutch only)

More ideas around collaboration to provide metropolitan cities with food? Read these examples (in Dutch only):

Or read the report: ​Feeding Future Cities – kansen voor Nederlands bedrijfsleven




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