Every intermediate step in the transition to a different food system is one, is the motto at Foodvalley. Thanks in part to an impressive network and the ability to join forces across sectors, CEO Marjolein Brasz and her team have already made considerable strides.
Marjolein Brasz: 'We help entrepreneurs access facilities that are otherwise out of their reach'
Complicated puzzle pieces are right up Marjolein Brasz's alley. As CEO of Foodvalley, she deals with them every day. "The good news is that there are already a lot of good puzzle pieces. We encounter them daily in practice, but they are not always in the right place yet. And that is exactly where our added value lies: finding matching pieces, clustering them in manageable steps, getting your noses in sync and going! We make sure things get moving and stay moving."
Foodvalley operates at the heart of the food transition. Marjolein explains: "We do this with the in-depth expertise the organisation has at its disposal and the network around it: our experts have earned their stripes in the field and are in constant contact with some 450 interesting partners, about a third of them international. As we have no commercial interests, this role is entrusted to us."
Foodvalley exists since 2004 and was founded as an independent knowledge platform for valorisation of food innovations. The current organisation ensures action on key themes and combines relevant forces. This involves a very diverse group of stakeholders: investors, tech companies, doctors, regional and (inter)national governments, farmers, educational institutions, caterers, retailers, food industry partners, SMEs, start-ups and scale-ups. The focus is on three themes: protein transition, food & health and circular agrifood. For instance, the organisation was one of the initiators of the Bean Deal, a collaboration between 56 parties with the aim of putting protein-rich crops in the Netherlands (including lupin, field beans and soy) back on the map. "We make sure that those parties come together and create a long-term vision, ensuring that everyone - especially buyers - commits for the long term as well. No market, no sustainable product," says Marjolein.
The Bean Deal is an intermediate step towards the bigger goal. "But one that we celebrate, because having farmers and government at the table together on this issue is highly desirable. Cooperation - in harmony - is the magic word."
Foodvalley is also organising access to facilities for research, pilots and real-world applications. "The Shared Facility Finder is a great example of how, in cooperation with WUR, we practically help entrepreneurs access facilities - including research - that are otherwise out of their reach. We also offer targeted support through entrepreneur programmes, suitable for the phase of a company still entering young, uncertain markets."
Foodvalley is also working hard with partners in the field of nutrition and health. "Within that theme, we are looking for a future-proof market for personalised nutrition applications," she continues. "In this, insurers are collaborating with the hospitality sector; we even have McLaren on board. We have also set up the Food Boost Challenge initiative together with Medical Delta and HortiHeroes. This involves the target group - teenagers in this case - working together with students from HHS (De Haagse Hogeschool). They have developed ideas and concepts that ensure that, when it's snack time, they do make the healthy choice. One example is the PowerTower: a tower system with pieces of fruit and vegetables that fits in the fridge door. More than 30 parties are now connected. And new editions will follow: Limburg started during the summer, and a third and fourth Food Boost Challenge are in development."
Foodvalley's third focus theme is circular agrifood. This includes an upcycling initiative, where the food industry puts residual streams to high-value use. "We have identified a number of large residual streams that now end up in feed or the incinerator. Beer brew, for example, is a protein- and energy-rich ingredient. But to be able to use that for food, new technologies and applications are needed, so we need to cooperate across sectors. To this end, we set up communities in which parties work together for a long time. In doing so, we ensure a joint agenda, launch new initiatives and address obstacles."
According to Marjolein, the biggest challenge in Foodvalley's work is to maintain urgency among those involved, especially in turbulent times like these where the short-term reigns. "Personal contact is crucial - at the end of the day, this is people work. So we always look for people who also feel it is rough in their own domain and are looking for peers with similar questions. They understand very well what we are doing. And they are everywhere, in every organisation. Luckily, because thanks to them, we can achieve a better future for our food."
Photo: © Marnix Klooster
Source: Vakblad Voedingsindustrie 2022