Recently Tjeerd Jongsma on behalf of Fascinating and Dina Boonstra on behalf of the NOM signed a cooperation agreement. The aim is to closely involve northern SMEs, in addition to the four large agricultural cooperatives and knowledge institutions, in realizing a circular food system.
It was a special moment, so halfway through the Food & Business Event that took place last May 12 at the Avebe Innovation Center on the Zernike Campus in Groningen. After a cake, including an ice fountain, was carried into the atrium of the beautiful building, the cooperation between Fascinating and the NOM was symbolically cut.
Nutrition of the future
For indeed, Fascinating and the NOM are joining forces to make food production and food processing ready for the future. This is necessary, especially now that the sector, especially prompted by climate change and global population growth, is being challenged to look at food, crops, processing and biodiversity in the field in a new way. A new way of looking at value, to be precise. These include research into healthy eating, developing innovative applications of protein, fiber and carbohydrates, and increasing the supply of protein-rich crops.
Testing and innovation program
Fascinating, which stands for Food Agro Sustainable Circular Nature in Groningen, is an open test and innovation program that was officially launched over a year ago. Since then, agricultural cooperatives Avebe, Agrifirm, Cosun and FrieslandCampina have been working together with the UMCG, LTO Noord and others on possibilities for realizing a circular food system. In other words, a system that balances sustainability, healthy food, natural value and economic impact.
Tjeerd Jongsma, director of Fascinating, speaks of a promising first year. 'There is very open and constructive cooperation,' he emphasizes. 'You can tell from everything that everyone wants to put their shoulders to the wheel.' But Jongsma also knows that the four large cooperatives are not going to make it on their own. To actually shape the food transition successfully, more parties are needed, including SMEs. And that is precisely one important reason why Fascinating and the NOM decided to work together.
'The cooperatives have entered into a unique collaboration on this urgent challenge,' says Dina Boonstra, director of NOM. 'But in order to develop all the necessary innovations, they desperately need SMEs. As NOM, through our broad national and international network, we can play a role in connecting SMEs with Fascinating. In addition to that network, we naturally make time available to help realize Fascinating's objective. Simply because food transition is an important theme for NOM that is reflected in various NOM programs. This is why we wholeheartedly support an initiative like Fascinating. '
More than just Groningen
Fascinating is funded by a grant from the Groningen National Program. And so, of course, the activities are considered from the perspective of Groningen. 'But the more closely you take that, the fewer opportunities and clout you have,' Jongsma knows. 'For the transition to succeed, you also have to involve relevant parties from Friesland and Drenthe, for example.' And yes, that too is an important part of the cooperation agreement. After all, NOM explicitly wants to contribute to a more sustainable, healthier and smarter Northern Netherlands. 'We have therefore been asked to carry the ideas and initiatives developed in the program to Friesland and Drenthe,' says Boonstra. 'In addition, we also ensure a connection to projects and programs outside the North. Because within the national ROM network there is also a lot going on to cooperate with.'
When is the cooperation actually successful? 'When we and the NOM manage to connect at least 30 new companies to Fascinating in the first year,' Jongsma says decidedly. 'As far as that is concerned, the Food & Business Event, in which we, together with the NOM and Food2020, enthused and stimulated SMEs to help with the food transition, went above expectations. As many as ten concrete leads came out of it, for example. That is, of course, a very nice start.'
Would you like to know more about Fascinating? Or are you working on innovative products, services or processes for the agrifood sector? Then contact us or check out the website fascinating-groningen.nl. We would love to see what we can do for each other!