The agrifood sector needs new perspectives, new ways of thinking. Designers are in charge, not policy, and create new possible futhers for farming.
The agrifood sector in Brabant (Netherlands) is worldwide known for being one of the most efficient agrifood sectors in the world (National Geographic Magazine described it as: “this tiny country feeds the world”). This success is mainly due to a strategy which started after WWII in the Netherlands (never hunger again) led by Minister Sicco Mansholt (the later EU commissioner). A lot of problems & challenges in the agrifood of today are tackled with the same thinking: more efficient production methods, scaling up, lower cost & higher production volume. In order to solve these challenges today, we need new methods of thinking, new strategies & new solutions.
This is where the designer comes in, takes over the process & starts asking questions. By working like this a new way of looking at the problem & a new perspective is developed which leads to prototypes, tests and implementation.
This methodology is used by:
- Agri Meets Design: We started more than 5 years ago with small projects between one farmer & one designer, scaling up a little bit & started creating a network. Soon we have developed a big (online) community. Unlike the example of LIC, Agri Meets Design mainly focus on solving one problem (e.g. one farmer) with one designer.
- Landbouw Innovatie Campus (Agricultural Innovation Campus) (LIC). We created the LIC at the request of our regional minister to use the design approach to look at the agrifood sector and its challenges at a more fundamental level.
Agri Meets Design, apart form little extra project based money is financed by public money (200.00 euro a year) and in-kind project leader form ZLTO. LIC was funded by Province of North Brabant: 1.5 year about 400.000 euro.
Evidence of success
We’ve been working for more than 5 years with designers & one of the biggest achievements is the connexion made between the agrifood sector (farmers, food processing companies and retailers) & the design community (designers/artists, design academies). We have also helped a lot of farmers directly by enabling them to work together with a designer & indirectly by organizing big inspirational meetings. We have helped approximately 100 people directly & 500 indirectly.
The logic of a political/bureaucratic organization is the biggest barrier. We try to overcome this by investing lots of tima and money in understading the processes. It is very important to keep in close contact with the organization, keep them informed and if possible involve them in the process.
Potential for learning or transfer
Good (social) designers who have the opportunity to in-depth investigate the challenges of the farmers are essential. This means you need to able to find good (social) designers and invest in them so they have the time to really do their job. Furthermore, It would be great if you have some kind of stage in a public space (let’s say a festival, can be food festival, can be design festival) where you can prototype and test the newly developed solutions.
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