06 January 2021
An innovative wind has recently blown through Foodvalley NL. Newly appointed managing director Marjolein Brasz has a clear mission: Shaping the future of food together. Her vision is even brighter: “In 2050 our food system offers food security to ten billion people worldwide. Tasty, affordable, healthy and sustainable food with respect for animals and our planet.” In 2020, the independent organisation has grown in many ways. New board, new strategy, 40 percent new employees and as of 26 November appointed as European Food Innovation Hub - an initiative of the World Economic Board. Foodvalley NL is also a partner of Brave New Food. Marjolein: "By collaborating with innovative initiatives in the food & agri sector we aim to stimulate and support entrepreneurship and drive innovation.”
The new approach
Since 2004, Foodvalley NL has been developing and strengthening the Foodvalley ecosystem; an international network of organizations that jointly work on the transition to a sustainable food system. Foodvalley celebrated its fifteenth anniversary last year and is taking the step to maturity this year. “We have our roots in the Foodvalley region, are of national importance and have international ambitions. To achieve systemic change, more disruptive and faster innovations are needed,” stresses Marjolein. “These will include adoption and scaling of new technologies, further and different forms of cooperation and unlikely partnerships along the value chain, across sectors and across borders. As always, we need each other, because we can only do this together. This ecosystem runs on open collaboration.”
Brave New Food fits very well within this cooperation. "To improve the ecosystem, we look at what is already there and what is still missing in order to achieve our goals. We develop programmes for that purpose," explains Marjolein. "Brave New Food fits perfectly within the 'Entrepreneurship' programme, which also includes our StartLife accelerator and ScaleUpFood programme. It is our vision for the future to be able to offer a one-stop-shop for innovative agri-food entrepreneurs who want to set up or scale up a business.”
Extra incentive to grow
She knows from research that investments in innovative companies in the early-stage phase lag behind other countries and too few young, promising food and agribusiness drivers succeed in scaling up. “With its valuable network in the food sector, experience with open collaboration, challenge platform and financing opportunities, Brave New Food offers innovative ventures an extra opportunity to grow."
50,000 innovative thinkers
The ability to set challenges via Brave New Food is valuable to Foodvalley NL itself, but also to its hundreds of affiliated partners. "Through Brave New Food we have access to over 50.000 innovative thinkers that can help solve the challenges and answer questions that we will arise from the programs that we develop on Protein Shift, Food & Health and Circular Agrifood to accelerate the transition of the food system. I very much believe in the cross-fertilisation between different sectors. Solutions in one sector could also work well in another. The same goes for countries."
As an example, she mentions the nappy project she pioneered for 1.5 years as Challenge Lead Circular Economy of the Amsterdam Economic Board. "With the right techniques, logistics processes and consumer mindset, you can convert thousands of kilotons of nappy waste into valuable raw materials. The costs and benefits of such a project are in various organisations. The challenge is to get the right parties at the table and to formulate the business case. For such a project to succeed, absolute transparency and honesty are needed. Foodvalley NL has no commercial interest in this; our only interest is the success of such a project and with it the growth and impact of the ecosystem. One of the challenges is to attract innovative ventures and entrepreneurs from adjacent ecosystems and sectors and utilize their talents and innovations to speed up the transition. The approach of Brave New Food could give a boost to that.”
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