Increasing investments of the Dutch Agri-food sector in emerging economies
Sufficient and healthy food for the booming African cities is a huge challenge. Dutch agri-food companies already play a significant role in the increasing worldwide demand for (fresh) food produce. It is believed that the agri-food sector can even do better, using the opportunities offered by the growing cities and contributing to sustainable food systems. On January 16, 2018, the Food & Business Knowledge Platform (F&BKP) and MVO Nederland (CSR Netherlands) organized the second meeting of the “Innovation Network Feeding Cities” to facilitate sharing of experiences in practice, matchmaking of ideas and people, and looking for improvement of the enabling institutional environment.
The ambition of the Innovation Network Feeding Cities is to be an informal network of professionals from companies, sector organizations, consultants, knowledge institutes, policy officers, and civil society organizations. In this second meeting which took place at the Rabobank in The Hague, the following objectives were central:
- Sharing experience of ambitious small and large scale initiatives and the innovative ideas that they brought forth;
- Match-making and networking for early movers: linking with running projects and initiatives with hands-on experience;
- Explore what can be done at policy and institutional level to support initiatives even better.
The meeting built on concrete cases of businesses and NGOs operating in the agri-food sector, starting with three inspirational presentations in plenary followed by discussions in six subgroups where experiences where shared and ways forward for specific initiatives were crowdsourced.
The lessons learned and advice from the participants on each of the cases are included in the report.
Some recommendations for strengthening the enabling environment evolved from the case discussions:
- Collaboration and bundling of Dutch knowledge.
- Allocating R&D budgets to find a better fit with initiatives, start-ups and SMEs.
- Well-functioning sector organizations, which are essential for scaling. Sectoral knowledge is needed in the development of business cases and to assess their potential for scaling.
- Connecting Centres of Excellence to value chains. The knowledge and skills needed by Dutch companies can only be acquired if the centre is firmly embedded in sectors.
- A shared vision on opportunities, focus and priorities; TopSectors, government (Ministries of Economic Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Nature & Food Quality), the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO).
During the event the case groups provided the Innovation Network Feeding Cities with the following suggestions for future activities:
- Organize meetings with more specified teams so you really meet people for potential collaboration and consortia.
- Share knowledge and experiences on Food Systems concepts (content and organizational) including nutrition security (health), circular economy, etc.
- The people gathered in this meeting are very diverse and complementary to each other which is a great asset. In a next meeting you could focus more on facilitating active networking by putting people together who would normally not easily find each other.
- Organize a more focused meeting around a specific city or theme so people with different backgrounds and expertise can discuss one topic together and come to concrete action.
- Organize specific, thematic meetings that fit within the broader framework of feeding cities (e.g. circular economy).
These suggestions call for more focus on specific themes or areas within the broader framework of Feeding Cities. For future events, the F&BKP and MVO Nederland will actively search for collaboration with other parties.
A follow-up activity that is already planned for is a session on “Coalitions of Dutch and local SMEs to feed the growing cities in Africa” during the FoodFIRST conference which is scheduled for April 2018.