A healthy appetite for knowledge
Future of food, feeding the city
Recognizing the great challenges ahead for feeding the growing amount of people in cities, this year 129 mayors from around the world committed to devote more attention to the future of food in their city’s plans. Being relentlessly intertwined with almost every aspect in society however, a push towards a sustainable and equitable food system is a highly complex matter to achieve. Working closely with Aeres, the Province of Flevoland and the City of Almere, AMS Institute launched The Feeding City this year, a comprehensive research program on the future of food at the Flevo Campus, Almere.
“A smart food system will enrich the city and really give it a head start. Which is why this theme is one of the main dishes on the AMS menu,” says Henk Wolfert, program manager of the Vital City theme at AMS Institute. “When Almere’s city council approached us, as they were planning to set up a new educational program with food as a specialism, we were immediately keen to get involved as a partner.”
“Our institute is a kind of knowledge broker: we for example connect researchers, governments, citizens and companies eager for innovation. Generally, those worlds are miles apart. We encourage them to get together and exchange ideas and encourage students to get out into the real world. You always find better solutions when you brainstorm with other people about your problems. To achieve this ‘meeting of the minds’ we join forces with government bodies, educational institutions, technical businesses, agricultural firms, innovative thinkers et cetera.”
Boost your knowledge economy
Almere wants to give the knowledge economy a major boost. Alderman René Peeters explains: “In the next 20 years our city will grow with 50% – an increase of 100,000 inhabitants. Naturally we’d like all these newcomers to contribute to the city’s economy. We can only achieve that if we also succeed in attracting academic education and research to the city. We want to boost food production in Almere. If we can produce 20% of our own food, that will bring savings on transport, waste and healthcare. And when it comes to food, we want to promote the connection between the agricultural province of Flevoland and Almere as an example for metropolitan regions all over the world.”
Set to open in January 2017, the Flevo Campus brings together students, researchers, start-ups and established companies to work on solutions for food and urbanization issues. The initiative is both physical (with research facilities and meeting places) and virtual (online platforms and digital networks). Almere’s city council and the regional authorities of Flevoland are working closely with several partners to develop this breeding ground for innovation. AMS Institute will provide the academic research program for the campus and works together with Aeres University of Applied Sciences in setting up its educational program.
Flevo Campus is a fertile mix of research, education and entrepreneurship. A melting pot of knowledge and skills where participants stimulate each other to fine-tune their plans, or work in partnerships to come up with entirely new ideas. Companies describe their challenges, the knowledge institutions study the potential solutions, start-ups and seasoned entrepreneurs then open their doors to test ideas, and the students then analyze the results. Start-ups generate ideas and inspiration from a fresh perspective. AMS Institute facilitates the cross-pollination by finding the right match between researchers, organizations and companies for the projects. So, all the organizations involved deliver added value.
AMS Institute brings together these visions for the future in the academic program The Feeding City and pours them into an inspiring mold. “We’d very much like to present the innovative prototypes and process improvements which we create in the Flevo Campus at the Floriade in 2022,” says Henk Wolfert. It’s not entirely a coincidence that one of the themes of this internationally renowned horticultural exhibition will be ‘Feeding the city’. And it’s logical that Flevoland, as a green province which plays a leading role in the global agriculture sector, will be hosting the 5-annual event this time
Keeping a close eye on Almere
Companies, local authorities and knowledge institutions throughout the Netherlands are watching Almere and its innovative plans with great interest. Nina Tellegen, director of the Amsterdam Economic Board: “Innovation knows no borders and we’re always on the lookout for innovative ideas. We’re seeing a lot of interesting projects in Almere. The topic circular economy, in which food plays key role, will also become more and more important for Amsterdam in the coming years. We’re keeping a close eye on developments and will be investigating the opportunities for our metropolitan region.”
Combine ingredients in living labs
The institute’s research program on the Flevo Campus continues to work on sound solutions for food and urbanization challenges. “Together with students, residents, the local government and businesses we’ll be investigating options for future food systems,” says Henk Wolfert. “At AMS Institute we test our research outcomes in real-life test beds. This gives us the opportunity to adjust and fine tune them
to real-life situations and give innovations a jump-start to really be implemented. We hope to do this at the Flevo Campus too and give solutions for issues raised by urbanization a major push.”