‘High-tech agriculture can be circular too’

Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality Carola Schouten presented an implementation plan for circular agriculture this week. The minister should be sure to look at the various existing forms of circular agriculture, says honours student Anne Hendriks (Plant Sciences). She and some fellow honours students made a documentary about circular agriculture.
Anne Hendriks

You were amazed by the many forms of circular agriculture being practised?

‘There is a polarized discussion going on: soil-bound and organic versus efficient and high-tech. As a consumer, this can give you the idea that regular and organic farming are worlds apart from each other. But when we made the documentary Kringlooplandbouw doorgrond (an analysis of circular agriculture), we noticed that high-tech can be circular too.

How did you notice that?
We visited a horticulturalist who grows vegetables in water, so without soil. That is very sustainable: all the water with the nutrients goes back into the farming system. But that is not the image people have of circular agriculture. And that is logical, because it’s not easy for a consumer to select products from circular agriculture. The only distinction you can see in the supermarket is between conventional and organic.’

What struck you the most while you were making the documentary?

‘I saw horticulturalists with solar panels and geothermal energy with which they heat houses in the neighbourhood. I didn’t know it could be as sustainable as that. We also went to an organic cheese factory that initially had difficulty marketing its cheese. The farming system and feed regime made that cheese much more expensive than regular cheese. The company only started getting that price for it when they were able to stand out for exceptional flavour, and not for the narrative that the company is very sustainable. Farmers are always looking for the right form of circular agriculture for them.’

If I was Minister Schouten, I would…?

‘Incentivize sustainable agriculture in all cropping, horticulture and livestock systems. And I would consult supermarkets about a label so that consumers can see which products meet the circular criteria.’

Watch the documentary below:

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