The open innovation programme Fascinating is working on the agricultural sector of the future. A circular agricultural system that balances sustainability, nature, healthy food and economic impact. Marieke Kanon, Marketing Manager at Royal Avebe and also Communications Project Leader at the ISPT (Institute for Sustainable Process Technology), explains the programme.
“Fascinating is a unique innovation programme in which we collaborate with various parties on the agriculture and food of the future. These include cooperatives such as Royal Avebe, Agrifi rm, Royal Cosun and FrieslandCampina, but also knowledge institutions, University Medical Centre Groningen, the University of Groningen (RUG), Rabobank, the Investment and Development Company for the Northern Netherlands (NOM), LTO Noord, the province and the community. We really have to do it together, and this programme shows that very clearly,” Marieke says.
Fascinating covers four topics:
1. Healthy and balanced diet
2. Sustainable production of nutritional crops
3. Energy-effi ciency and sustainable processing
4. Utilisation of residual flows
“By working together on these four tasks, we aim to make the agriculture sector of the future a reality within ten years. That is the dot on the horizon,” Marieke points out. So ambitions are high. “It started regionally, in Groningen, but projects are now also running on a national level, and Fascinating has been given plenty of attention. Eventually, we hope to continue this internationally. All over the world, we clearly benefi t from a future-proof agricultural and food system.”
Avebe is one of Fascinating’s founders. “Of course, we have been innovating with potato protein for healthy food for decades. Producing and consuming more plant protein – and less animal protein – is important for the climate and our health. This makes it an essential part of the future agricultural sector and an important pillar within the Fascinating programme. This fi ts very well with our mission,” Marieke explains. “We believe it is important to work for the future of agriculture and are happy to join forces with other parties.”
“Together, you achieve more than alone,” she continues. “What is unique about this programme is that we work intensively with many parties and share knowledge. Consider the ‘Promising Protein Crops’ project, in which we look into which protein crop best suits which soil type and how healthy those crops are for the human body. Another great example is a project where we are collaborating with Cosun. They get protein from the sugar beet leaf, and we get it from the potato. It pays to join forces and look at processes and areas for improvement together. We are also working with the UMCG and the RUG on a study of anti-nutritional substances that we can extract from potatoes, which are then used as inhibitors against infl ammation. These substances protect the potato plant from diseases, and these properties can also be used to inhibit infl ammation. Here, we investigate how potato protein can counteract infl ammations such as baby rashes or intestinal infections (such as Crohn’s disease). Potato protein can play an important role, not only in food but also in health. In short, we look at the complete picture. And that is also what makes projects like this so interesting.”
When asked why Marieke thinks the Fascinating programme is so important and how she envisions the future of agriculture, she is clear. “We all know something has to change. Social and political pressure has increased enormously. For that reason, we must continue to work together as a chain and off er future prospects for the entire sector.” But there should also be room for pride, says Marieke. “We sometimes forget what we have already achieved as a relatively small country. We are at the forefront of innovation in the agri-food sector, and great things are happening. We as a sector have reason to be really proud of that! And we can also put out that message more.”