Regional transitions towards circular agriculture

The applied research group ‘Regional transitions towards circular agriculture’ is concerned with the creation of circular agriculture at the farm and regional levels. The agricultural sector is facing major challenges: from the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and nitrogen compounds, the restoration of (soil) biodiversity and both water quality and availability. Preconditions for this vision are earning capacity, food security, public health, landscape quality and societal valuation.  This answer requires new business and revenue models, forms of organisation and rules, in other words: systemic changes.

Farmers, suppliers, consultants, researchers and students are working and experimenting with various forms of circular agriculture. Together they are striving for economically and ecologically robust production methods and a food system that produces valuable and valued food (Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, 2019). By keeping nitrogen (N) and phosphate (P) losses within the cycle, emissions are greatly reduced. Working with researchers, they are striving for higher energy efficiency, such as linking arable farming, livestock farming and horticulture, energy-efficient processes, contributing to energy production, re-deploying energy cycles and sequestering carbon in soils, biomass and trees.

Projects are organised in Living Labs, in which students, researchers, (agricultural) entrepreneurs and other interested stakeholders work together in an area-specific manner to shape circular agriculture. The aim is to learn and innovate together towards an economically, ecologically and socially responsible food system that includes production, processing, trade and consumption. To this end, the applied research group commits itself to the experimental areas designated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) in the Achterhoek, Twente and Northern Netherlands.

The applied research group focuses mainly on the Netherlands, but it also disseminates Dutch knowledge abroad through various companies. Focused on this objective, it participates in the ‘European University Alliance for Innovations in Regional Sustainability’, with partners from Greece, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Finland. We also actively participate in a Living Lab in Maharashtra, India.

About the professor

Rik Eweg studied Spatial Planning at Wageningen University. He obtained his PhD based on research into the application of geographical information systems in forecasting. He then worked in Wageningen as a project leader at the Centre for Geo-Information and took a postdoctoral position at the C.T. de Wit Graduate School Production-Ecology. From 1998 to 2006 he was an alderman in Wageningen. His portfolio included Spatial Development, Nature & Landscape, Environment and the Knowledge Economy. He was also a board member of the Vallei and Eem Water Board and the foundation Economische Stimulering Knooppunt Arnhem-Nijmegen (ESKAN). Since 2006, he has worked as a project director at the innovation programme TransForum Agro & Groen. Subsequently, between 2012 and 2020, he was professor of Sustainable Agribusiness in Metropolitan Areas and lead professor at several research groups of VHL University of Applied Sciences (VHL).