The Netherlands is
known around the world for its highly efficient agricultural sector, with high
production levels per unit of input, low resource use and low emissions and
losses to the environment per kilogram of food produced. Over the last decades
impressive results have been achieved in the reduction of environmental
Despite these results, Dutch agriculture faces serious challenges to achieve the sustainability goals of the UN (Sustainability Development Goals), the EU and the Dutch government with respect to planetary boundaries (climate change, biodiversity loss, freshwater use, nutrient cycling and land system change), as well as society (consumer and societal acceptance, risk of zoönoses). Meanwhile many farmers are facing significant challenges to earn a living income.
A team of researchers from Wageningen, Utrecht and Amsterdam universities, coordinated by TiFN, is exploring how the Dutch agricultural system can become regenerative, with positive impact on nature and the living environment, and with healthy farmer business models. This team is collaborating in a public private partnership program that is funded by FrieslandCampina, Cosun, BO akkerbouw, Rabobank, Topsector Agri & Food and TiFN.
The research program will deliver:
The team of researchers cooperates with a community of practice of 20 farmers in the Netherlands. This community is set up to facilitate the sharing of best practices between farmers, to measure the impact of best practices and helps researchers to learn from farmers what systemic changes are needed to enable a transition towards regenerative agriculture.
Building on scientific
literature we have defined regenerative agriculture as ‘an approach to
farming that uses soil conservation as the entry point to regenerate and
contribute to multiple provisioning, regulating and supporting ecosystem
services, with the aspiration that this will enhance not only the
environmental,but also the social and economic dimensions of sustainable
food production’ (Schreefel et al., 2020).
In addition to this definition at farm level we propose the following vision for a regenerative agriculture system at landscape or higher levels:
A regenerative agriculture system enables production of food & biomass and enables ecosystems to maintain a healthy state and evolve, while contributing to biological diversity, integrity of the biosphere, human well-being and economic prosperity of society.