The Netherlands invests in innovative agriculture & food production

The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and the private sector will make available 40 million euros for innovative projects and start-ups in the agri-food sector. This has been confirmed by Minister of Agriculture Van Dam during the AgriFoodTech congress, which took place in Den Bosch on December 14 and 15, 2016. Significant investments in high-tech innovations should safeguard the Netherlands’ world-leading position in sustainably produced food and in knowledge & innovation in the agriculture and horticulture sector.

Minister Van Dam: “The Dutch agri-food sector is one of the most productive ones in the world and we want to keep that leading position. We can strengthen this position by applying the newest high-tech and ICT innovations. In the future, the Netherlands does not only want to be a significant exporter of food products, but also an important exporter of knowledge and technology.”

To make these pioneering innovations possible, the Minister intends to mainly support young and small companies in transferring their technological and creative knowledge in applicable products or services. The Ministry of Economic Affairs has made available 12 million euros for two so-called SEED capital funds: the Future Food Fund and the Shift Seed Fund. Through these investment funds the contribution of the Ministry will be at least doubled resulting, in 24 million euro of risk capital for innovative start-ups in the agri-food sector.

Read the full article (in Dutch)

Strong commitment Dutch government to reduce food losses

On October 19, 2016, the Dutch government has published a letter to Dutch parliament about the results of Dutch policy on Food Security.  You can find the policy letter here (only in Dutch).

In this letter Dutch Government reaffirms its strong commitment to reducing food losses. It refers to the conference in June 2015 “No More Food to Waste” in The Hague and the Champions 12.3 initiative that resulted from this conference.

The letter also mentions the recent launch of the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste and Yieldwise, an initiative of the Rockefeller foundation.

The letter includes the action programme that the Postharvest Network has written together with some Dutch NGO’s. This action programme has three pillars:

  1. The exchange of information between Dutch actors that contribute to the reduction of food losses in supply chains in developing countries.
  2. The start of a couple of joint pilot projects at state level, starting with fresh fruit, fish and shallots chains in Indonesia to reduce food losses.
  3. Upscaling and enduring funding of initiatives that have a demonstrable positive impact on the efficiency of food supply chains developing countries.

The Postharvest Network is executing the pilot projects together with Dutch NGOs.

Edanso team wins the Food Connection Challenge

On November 5, 2016, the Food Connection Challenge (FCC) Final took place at the Afrikadag in Amsterdam. Dutch students pitched their innovative business solutions, developed to address postharvest issues of Ghanaian companies. The teams used the innovative expertise of Dutch entrepreneurs to support their business cases and aimed at adapting these technologies to the Ghanaian context.

The jury of the Food Connection Challenge (FCC) consisted of Froukje Verreijt of RVO, Anitra van der Kraan of NABC and Maaike Veen of ImpactBooster. They had a difficult task in selecting the winner, because of the variety of cases. “We liked the winning solution, because it is very easy and feasible”, explained the jury when they picked the Edanso team, consisting of Poppy Eyre and Naomi Berns, both studying International Food & Agriculture at HAS University of Applied Sciences in Den Bosch. Edanso is a company that processes groundnuts into paste. Because there is a shortage in certain times of the year, Edanso could get a better price for its products when they would manage to store the groundnuts for three months. However, storing is not easy because aflatoxin forms a big risk.

The team found a solution by using innovations of the Dutch company VQM Packaging, consisting of a vacuum pump, a heat sealer and special plastic bags. In addition the team proposed Edanso to create an aflatoxin awareness program in which they educate the farmers they collaborate with on the effects of aflatoxin and how it affects their business.

It was an exciting final, as the fit-to-purpose solutions of the students really showed how Dutch and Ghanaian companies can work together to fight postharvest issues. Currently, the organizers explore the possibilities to pilot the different solutions.

Reduction of food losses & waste in cities – Side Event at CFS 43 in Rome

How to tackle food waste and losses in our cities, which will increase drastically the coming decennia? How to connect the producers from the rural areas in a fair and sustainable way with the city consumers? This is an interesting topic with beautiful examples that inspire and need to be shared among each other.

On Thursday October 20, 2016, the Postharvest Network co-organized a Side Event in the context of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) Plenary Session 43 at the FAO Headquarters in Rome. The Side Event was entitled “Food losses and waste in the context of metropolitan food and nutrition security” (download the flyer) and co-organized by the Postharvest Network, Wageningen University & Research, CCAFS, the Dutch Ministries of Economic and Foreign Affairs and FAO.

Nina Waldhauer, project leader of the Postharvest Network, presented how Wageningen has translated knowledge into local solutions for this topic. (download the presentation)

Furthermore, Guido Santini (FAO) gave a presentation on “City Region Food Systems and Food Waste Management: Linking Urban and Rural Areas for Sustainable and Resilient Development“ (download the presentation) and Larissa Uwase (Carl Group) focused on “The role of innovations in reducing food losses and wastes for sustainable urban food systems”.

Chairman Hans Hoogeveen, the Dutch Representative to the FAO, led the session. Hans appealed to those present to make it happen in practice and challenged the audience to act!

Pilot Postharvest Losses Vietnam, identifying solutions to reduce food waste in a value chain

As part of the process of identifying solutions and best practices in Vietnam, the project team consisting of Peter Prins (Land Water Food Consult), René van Rensen (Fresh Studio) and Françoise van den Broek (PhN/Duoinlog) went on a fact-finding trip to Hanoi, HCMC and Da Lat from August 22 till 26, 2016. Awareness and understanding are prerequisites for doing business in Vietnam and Asia. One of the purposes of the meetings was to understand the mindset of the different target groups.

By Françoise van den Broek, Postharvest Network/Duoinlog

Visit Hanoi

In Hanoi we first paid a visit to Fresh Studio and the Dutch Embassy to discuss the planning for the upcoming week, the meetings that had already been scheduled and the focus areas. Fresh Studio is a food consulting company, assisting clients with every aspect of their food provision. Assuring food quality and safety is one of their core competencies, and by that, inspiring clients with insights into their sourcing, quality assurance and marketing opportunities.

In the afternoon we visited a wet market for flowers and a shopping mall with a supermarket. The wet market was really wet, because it was raining. The assortment and variety of fresh products in the supermarket was overwhelming. We saw some good examples of the very nice way of presenting the fresh products. But it was also made clear to us, that the sorting of products differs from the way we do it in Europe. And the plastic wrapping around the (cut) products contains a lot of condense due to the temperature differences during handling and transportation. And of course, we also saw the more traditional street vendors, selling the fresh cut products in the streets or bringing them to restaurants for instance.

Visit Ho Chi Minh City

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the project team met with the Association of Vietnam Retailers, International Finance Corporation (IFC), Natural Fruit and Viet Exotic Fruit, Saigon Trading Group (Satra), Nong Lam University (Faculty of Food Science & Technology), The Fruit Republic and Zespri. Almost all conversations were about the need to extend shelf life and to learn about storage possibilities with the aim to bring fresh product to customers. Major concerns are about food safety (less chemicals: pesticides and fertilisers), followed by proper packaging materials and handling for export). Improvements in post-harvest handling/-management are needed. The current level of agricultural technology for harvesting is not good enough. In Vietnam there’s a lot to learn and to do: quality of seeds and seedling material, logistics, challenges due to the different climate types within the country, long traveling distances for products from farm to market, quality of the product due to transportation issues, lack of cold storage facilities within the value chain, etc. In many cases, the current situation is that: harvesting is done early in the morning, products are put into a cold storage facility (if available), transported by regular truck without cooling facilities (the driving takes about 4 – 5 hrs) and put in a cold storage facility again (if available). The temperature fluctuations have a large impact on the quality, freshness and shelf life of the product. Several methods are used to treat crop to improve shelf life, but most methods are not suitable for tropical fresh cut products.

Farmers, retailers, research institutes, governments, do not have a tradition of close cooperation. Farmers and all other supply chain partners will not change their current way of working, unless they see that a solution is going to work. Demo farms/pilots are crucial in dissemination of knowledge: seeing is believing. The success of New Zealand’s Zespri Kiwi is based on the integral chain approach, controlled by only one supply chain partner: Zespri. Several technical solutions help to optimise the value chain, such as the use of data loggers during transportation (also fruitful to prevent from pests/diseases), optimum temperature for storage, the effect of packaging. Close collaboration between farmers and applied research could become key success factors in finding, testing and implementing new solutions.

On our way to the Nong Lam University we passed by a modern industrial zone and logistics park, still under construction.

Tuesday night we visited the whole sale market of Satra. This was really impressive to see. We could only visit part of the market. If we would have been wearing rubber boots, we could have visited the meat and fish market as well. Now we concentrated on the fruits and vegetables and also saw the flower market. The market place is well equipped with a restaurant, toilet facilities, a pharmacy, gas station. etc. And during the night, it is a very busy place. Trucks, scooters and other vehicles are driving on and off, to trade and bring the fresh products to the shops, restaurants and other locations as soon as they can.

Visit Dalat

On Thursday morning we flew to Dalat where we had meetings with Vien Son / Garden Mountain, a packing company, the Post-Harvest Department Lam Dong Province and the Fresh Studio office in Dalat.
Vien Son has a factory of 6,000 m2 to prepare fruit and vegetables for export. Export is done with fresh and processed (frozen) products. The main business of Vien Son is export of fresh and processed sweet potato, but other products like sweet pepper, carrot, dragon fruit are also processed and exported. Main export markets are Japan, Taiwan and Singapore. They have 1,500 m2 cold storage available. The company has several quality assurance certificates, incl. Global GAP. We visited all the processing facilities and saw various equipment to clean, cut, wash and freeze (IQF) produce.

In the afternoon we visited a packing company, a wet market where meat, fish and vegetables were sold and we had a meeting with the Post-Harvest Department Lam Dong Province.

On Friday, Françoise had an intense and in-depth meeting with MARD where we discussed our findings in much detail. Finding solutions to extend the shelf life of fresh products is a very important topic. So far, focus has been on the quantity of the product and not on the quality. Overall products are cheap, fast processing is necessary and therefore, they are looking for simple techniques that can be implemented at farm level. Packaging and cold storage capacity is still rather limited. Focus is on high value products, both fruits and flowers. It was suggested to start with smaller projects, in which you can also take the farmer along. Farmers need to understand the benefit in order to pick it up by themselves. The Ministry is also rather concerned about the investments needed to improve crop planting, husbandry, processing, new harvesting and cold chain techniques and equipment.

Debriefing & conference

During the debriefing at the Dutch Embassy we presented our first findings. A lot of interesting appointments and visits provided for a good first overview regarding post-harvest management of fruit and vegetables in Vietnam. It is not yet possible to directly determine / present projects for the conference, as most contacts were met for the first time. Follow up meetings / discussions need to take place.

The conference will take place in the first quarter of 2017. The date has been extended, because the conference has already attracted a lot of high level interest from the region. This also allows the organization to extend the duration of the conference from one to two days. Of course we will keep you updated on the developments. In case you are interested to become actively involved in a pilot project, or if you have any questions and/or suggestions for post-harvest interventions in Vietnam, feel free to contact us at office@postharvestnetwork.com.

Please download the full trip report, including pictures (PDF) here.

Launch APHLIS+ to improve techniques to reduce postharvest losses

The African Postharvest Losses Information System (APHLIS) is a scientific model producing calculated estimates of postharvest losses of food crops across sub-Saharan Africa. Members of the APHLIS network gathered in Accra from September 5 till 8 to attend the launch of APHLIS+.

APHLIS is a scientific model which provides evidence-based estimates on postharvest cereal losses (PHLs) across 38 countries in sub-Saharan Africa since 2009.  APHLIS+ is a five-year initiative which will seek to upscale the current model, as well as introduce new crop varieties.

Launch APHLIS+

The Natural Resources Institute hosted the launch of APHLIS+ in Accra at the beginning of this month. The event was attended by members of APHLIS network, including postharvest experts from over 30 sub-Saharan African countries and representatives from FAO and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The experts exchanged information on their respective use of the system and methods of loss data collection, and discussed and planned the roll-out of APHLIS+.

Background

800 million people worldwide suffer from hunger but too much of the food that is produced doesn’t even make it past the farm gate. In fact, it is estimated that between 10% – 23% of total cereal production goes to waste in Africa at harvest and afterwards. Of this, 2% – 5% is due to inadequate farm storage (e.g. consumption by rodents, insects or mould infestation), 1% – 2% occurs during the transport to the market phase and a further 2% – 4% goes to waste in the market storage facilities (resulting in loss of quality and value).

In developing countries, reliable loss data is scarce, and consequently there is little indication of what impact losses have on smallholder productivity and welfare, and on food security. The current APHLIS+ system was launched to remedy this situation (for cereal grains), but the new model will look to expand on this. By giving reliable estimates of losses to decision-makers, it will help them design interventions to improve the efficiency, yield and income of agricultural providers – at a national and provincial level – in an effort to combat food poverty.

To find out more, please visit the APHLIS website.

Postharvest Network in Argentina

In the first week of September, Martijn van Dam, the Dutch State Secretary of Agriculture, was accompanied by 20 Dutch companies to Argentina. The visit aimed to create cooperation and business opportunities on the themes of Water Management and Agro-logistics.

At one of the round table discussions, Peter Ravensbergen of the Postharvest Network was invited to speak on the topic of “Quality Controlled Agro-logistics”. The new Argentine Minister of Agro-Industry, Mr. Ricardo Buryaile, and his State Secretary Mr. Ricki Negri were very confident to develop a new relationship on agro-logistics with the Netherlands. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed which included “logistics and marketing of agro-industrial products, especially fruits and vegetables” to be added as a theme in further cooperation. Peter Ravensbergen will take further action to follow up on this subject together with Bart Vrolijk, the Dutch agricultural attaché in Buenos Aires.

Please download here (PDF, in Spanish) an article of the Argentine newspaper “La Nacion” about postharvest research and agrologistics at Wageningen University & Research centre.

Launch Global Agri-business Alliance (GAA)

Thirty-six leading agri-business companies have launched the Global Agri-business Alliance (GAA) on September 15, 2016, in Singapore. Their aim is to collectively tackle the major environmental and social challenges facing agricultural supply chains and rural communities across the world.

Announced at the Building Sustainable Futures Forum sponsored by Olam International, the newly-formed GAA is a CEO-led private sector initiative seeking to contribute significantly to the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, most notably SDG 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

Launch member companies span continents and commodities

The companies already involved are headquartered across the world with representation from Africa, Asia, Australia, USA and South America and are involved in multiple commodities including grains, dairy, edible nuts, edible oils, pulses, rubber, sugar, as well as agro-chemicals.

Unique and substantial role

The GAA is unique in bringing together the companies operating closest to the ‘farmgate’ and therefore having the greatest influence on the stewardship of natural resources and surrounding communities, many of whom may also be employed by the sector. Member profile includes growers and producers; traders; fertiliser, agro-chemical and seed suppliers; agri-service providers, primary processors and agri-tech suppliers for both food and non-food crops.

Please visit the GAA website for the full press release, including the list of GAA members as well as quotes from company management.

AU-EU Investing in a Food Secure Future, July 4-7, 2016

The African Union and the European Union have long-standing traditions in agricultural and rural development policies. Agriculture is a cornerstone for economic development and sustainable growth in both regions. Recognizing the challenges, both regions need to step up their efforts to transform agriculture in a sustainable way in order to achieve food security, improved nutrition and rural growth. Strengthening and deepening of the cooperation between these regions is clearly needed.

The AU-EU conference on “Investing in a Food Secure Future” was built around a two-day Experts’ segment followed by a High Level Ministerial segment on the third day, giving political orientations to improve AU-EU agricultural cooperation and build on previous international efforts and existing structures.

The Conference put forward partnerships on the main themes of AU-EU cooperation, in order to accelerate the implementation of relevant agreements and actions as well as to strengthen the cooperation with the private sector, especially through public private partnerships. This will be a rolling agenda for the AU-EU cooperation the coming years.

Reducing Food Losses and Waste

One of the 5 themes was Reducing Food Losses and Waste (FLW). The outcome for this theme can be found below:

Key action areas identified:

  1. Measure to Manage – Establish technical collaboration – involving countries, companies, and other institutions – on quantifying FLW at national level to empower countries to set baselines and monitor progress over time.
  2. The FLW Innovation Challenge – Launch a “Food Loss and Waste Innovation Challenge” wherein funders/financiers offer financing to farmers, entrepreneurs, small/medium-sized enterprises, or others in both AU and EU on a competitive basis for the most promising innovative proposals for FLW reduction.
  3. FLW Technology Incubator – Roll out the use of transportable units enabling on site, rapid, experimental testing of FLW-reduction technologies and approaches for perishable foods. Containing small cold-storage facilities and basic research.
  4. Private Sector “Anchor Buyers” – Develop a scaled-up “anchor buyer” initiative wherein companies active in food supply chains contract to purchase foodstuffs from farmers agreeing to implement practices or technologies that reduce FLW.
  5. Global Community of Practice on Food Waste – Establish a “Global Community of Practice on Food Waste”, a public-private partnership that facilitates exchange of information and best practices, enables access to practitioners, promotes networking around mutual interests, identifies food waste hotspots, and promotes solutions.
  6. Roundtables on Food Security and Nutrition – Establish annual, national, multi-stakeholder roundtables on food security and nutrition across both regions. Connect in-country farmers, local businesses, and relevant government.

To this end partners committed themselves to the following:

  • Support for developing technical collaboration between AU and EU on quantifying FLW at national level, WRI and UNEP volunteered technical assistance, with open invitation to FAO;
  • Interest in participation in the FLW Challenge, and WRI volunteered to spearhead and engage Champions 12.3. With Rockefeller as a knowledge partner;
  • Rabobank committed to intensify their commitment for the Patient Procurement Program;
  • Zimbabwe is committed to further promote contract farming as a means of preventing FLW;
  • UNEP offered to host and mobilize the Community of Practice on Food Waste;
  • UNEP expressed interest in orchestrating the National Roundtables on Food Security and Nutrition, and FARA offered to help facilitate it.

The Netherlands, as co-organizer of the AU-EU Investing in a Food Secure Future Conference, committed themselves to funding two to four agri-business incubators for Africa, and invited to further exploring this approach with other partners.

Start Vietnamese Dutch Postharvest Network in October 2016

The ambition of the Vietnamese government is to develop a sustainable agri- and food sector with a well-developed post-harvest system. In which losses of agricultural produce are significantly reduced during transport, storage and processing. Addressing the issue of food losses is a critical element to ensure the availability of affordable food. While Vietnam is striving to increase its agricultural production, gains in productivity are offset by large postharvest losses which range between 13-15% or even 25-30% depending on the type of product. In some chains around 50% of the harvest is lost before the product even reaches the consumer. In Vietnam food losses mainly occur during handling, storage and transportation within fresh produce chains.

Vietnam authorities have the ambition to upgrade its agro- and food sector to create a more efficient food supply in the country and to add value to the agricultural production. Besides, with a focus on the reduction of food loss and waste in its fresh produce chains, Vietnam strives to contribute to improved food security in commitment to the global sustainable development goals.
But Vietnam lacks the needed technology and knowledge to achieve a sustainable agri- and food sector with a well-developed post-harvest system. To adequately address the issue of food loss and waste Vietnam seeks to collaborate with their international counterparts.

Access to capital, knowledge and technology are major constraints to innovation in Vietnam. The Netherlands is an important counterpart for Vietnam in providing access to these enabling conditions. To get the Dutch knowhow implemented into the Vietnamese context, projects with practical interventions in which the Dutch technology and knowledge institutions are involved, need to be designed. In 2014, a Strategic Partnership on Agriculture (SPA) was signed by the two prime ministers of Vietnam and the Netherlands. In this SPA it is agreed that the Netherlands will facilitate Vietnam in developing a sustainable agri- and food sector. In 2015 the Dutch (vice) Minister of Agriculture and the Vietnamese minister of Agriculture agreed that the focus of the development of the Vietnamese agri- and food sector will be at Sustainable Blue Growth and Reduction of Food Losses and Waste. As a follow up of the bilateral resolution of the two ministers, a Dutch-Vietnamese regional (Asia) conference on Climate Smart Agriculture will be organized at 06 October 2016 in Hanoi.

The Postharvest Network will present some case studies and practical solutions for postharvest food loss in Vietnam during this conference. These cases will serve as good examples of the close cooperation between Vietnamese and Dutch organizations to investigate the causes of postharvest food loss and finding practical solutions adjusted to the local needs. And as such serve to inspire others to join the Vietnamese-Dutch Postharvest Network that will be launched during the conference.