Paula Rijkens, Innovation Lead Circular Agrifood: “Together, we can build new circular chains, from farm to fork”

“Balancing supply and demand, focusing on sustainability in crops, raw materials and technology, is the key.” Paula Rijkens, Innovation Lead Circular Agrifood at Foodvalley NL, firmly believes in the power of chain-wide collaboration.

Why is transition to a circular agrifood system crucial?

“To feed a 2050 population of ten billion with tasty, affordable, healthy and sustainable food, we need to achieve a circular production and consumption system: to meet the pressing need to create more value, with less raw materials, energy and waste, across the whole food-production chain. We urgently need to find new and sustainable production methods. There are already promising initiatives in agriculture, food and feed, but these three are not yet well-enough connected. In the late 1990s I already worked with companies selling whey products for high-quality applications to the food and baby food industries. We did not see this as waste, but as a valuable product with high added value. And, today, I realize that there are still major steps to be taken to valorize all residual flows in the agrifood chain. As the Lead for Circular Agrifood at Foodvalley NL I am strongly committed to bringing together partners who have yet to see the benefits of working with each other. Together, we can build valuable new chains, from farm to fork.”

Why is Foodvalley NL involved in the transition?

“For almost 20 years, Foodvalley NL has been creating and developing a strong ecosystem of entrepreneurs, scientists and policy makers in the fields of agriculture, food and feed: the perfect springboard for building new, circular chains. In the past few months I have spoken with many people in this field: companies large and small, educational institutions, government organizations, facility providers and more. All are willing to work towards this global transition, but not all are ready to start today. Restrictive legislation, the abundance of cheap, less-sustainable alternatives and a conservative market stand in the way. Therefore, I really believe in the power of chain-wide collaboration to bring things in motion. I see this as one of my main goals: to connect and mobilize the  ecosystem to support organizations that have the desire to make change happen. We help to find the right partners, the necessary finance and facilities to maximize productivity and speed up innovation.”

How will Foodvalley NL contribute to this transition?

“In the field of sustainable, circular, raw materials we are active in four key areas:

  1. New sustainable crops: we work, for example, with seed cultivation companies on methods for accelerated crop development and we form chains around new sustainable crops, such as potatoes from seed. We would also like to get started with developing crops that have a higher nutrient value.
  2. New raw materials: across the chain, I see an increasing activity on using insects as a raw material. More and more companies are joining Foodvalley NL to contribute to this transition, as we bring companies of the entire supply chain into the ecosystem to form new chains in food and feed.
  3. Circular raw materials: I believe we are creating a new vision on circular raw materials. We become increasingly aware that when designing an end product, we have to start with the potential losses in the process, the 'waste', to know what we are going to do with the residual flows. Leaders in this market, such as Van Rijsingen and PeelPioneers, have already built successful business models based on this awareness. They are an inspiration for many other companies. In 2021, I will create a company network dedicated to waste-stream valorization, connecting companies with each other, sharing knowledge, adding new technologies and developing new business models.
  4. Sustainable production: from gender-typing in egg production to sensors monitoring the supply chain, I see many new, cross-chain methods appearing for sustainable production. Technology companies often look at agrifood production companies to apply innovative tech. Manufacturing companies benefit from being aware of technological trends and developments. I intend to bridge the gap by connecting these worlds in the Foodvalley ecosystem.”

Have you some project examples that give a flavor of your work?

“Currently I am involved in a project in which spent brewer's grain finds a new application as a valuable raw material for bread. Here, I connect companies and governments with the aim of setting up new supply chains. Another example is a two-year study on food-waste reduction across food supply chains: a collaboration with four Netherlands' universities of applied sciences. Students from varying disciplines will conduct the research, while we will bring in the entrepreneurs. This to assure the uptake of the learnings and enhance the change process.”

Who do you want to attract into the ecosystem?

“From agritech specialists to food manufacturers: every organization wanting to build new circular chains, from farm to fork, is welcome to join the Foodvalley ecosystem. Ideas about where we should focus on in 2021? Then let us know!”

Want to know more?

Please contact Paula Rijkens,

In this interview series, eight members of the Foodvalley NL team share their ideas, ambitions and latest milestones in the transition to a sustainable global food system. Read the previously published interviews of Edith Schippers, Chairman Foodvalley NL, Marjolein Brasz, Managing Director Foodvalley NL and Judith van der Horst, Innovation Lead Food & Health. More interviews to come in the next coming weeks.

About Foodvalley NL
Shaping the future of food together: building and strengthening the Foodvalley ecosystem so that we can realize the transition to a sustainable global food system. That is Foodvalley NL’s mission. In this interview series, eight members of the Foodvalley NL team share their ideas, ambitions and latest milestones.


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