The protein transition offers many opportunities for greater self-reliance
Collaboration may be more urgent than ever before, as it is in the protein transition as well, due to the geographical developments in 2022. On Friday, 2 September, various international parties took the lead in this regard during The Green Protein Challenge at Floriade Expo 2022.
The day programme covered various aspects of the protein transition. In the morning, the participants divided themselves in the run-up to the joint afternoon conference. At the Floriade, one group discussed the possibilities of the short chain for the field bean, especially in the northwest of the Netherlands. The more international group was given a tour of the test fields (including soya and field beans) of the Farm of the Future near Lelystad and the soya test fields of SoyConsultant. In the afternoon, this national focus was looked at from a more European point of view. Four major players in the ‘protein field’ shared their ideals and results.
The Netherlands, a bright future in the Fields of EuropeFor instance, Leopold Rittler of the exemplary Danube Soya Association from Austria indicated that the cultivation of soya in Europe can have a significant positive impact on the climate. After all, then it would no longer have to be shipped from far away. Although more and more supply chain partners are joining, the advocacy group notices that in public opinion it is sometimes seen as an ‘alien’ crop. While, according to him, it was in fact already grown in the Netherlands in 1875 and it grows well here. This has given him every reason to increase the scale of cultivation, which is being further developed under the working name Field of Europe.
Germany sees growth opportunities for the NetherlandsMartin Miersch of the Deutscher Sojaförderring showed that Germany is making great strides. In 2022, its soya acreage will have grown to more than 50,000 hectares, an increase of almost 50% compared to 2021. While the day’s chairman Jeroen Willemsen of the Green Protein Alliance pointed out that only 120 hectares of soya are grown in the Netherlands. What’s causing the difference? In addition to the fifth crop subsidy in the high-producing state of Bavaria, arable farmers in Germany are less tied to a crop plan containing potatoes, carrots and onions. As a result, it is easier to integrate into a rotation. However, Miersch of the German advocacy group also envisages the Netherlands as suitable acreage for soya, especially because of the increasingly mild climate.
Eko Plaza makes friends for lifeReturning to the Dutch market. Research shows that no less than 20% of consumers are very positive about increasingly protein-rich plant food, which comes down to about 3.5 million Dutch people. Steven IJzerman of retail chain Udea/Eko Plaza notices this in the increase in the number of stores, with already 85 located in the Netherlands. They are full of organic products, with an increasing emphasis on plant-based products. One of the pillars is to promote the short chain, for example by increasing transparency regarding the cultivator. According to IJzerman, this strengthens the relationship between consumer and cultivator and between shop and consumer. One such method is the Eko Vriend concept, which increases the involvement of the consumer in the cultivation.
The must-have and protein-rich vegetables from HAKJoachim Nieuwhoff of food producer HAK also proved that they listen carefully to the customer. In addition to the glass canning jars, the Dutch company launched the HAK Fresh concept in 2017, with trendy packaging and dishes, including many protein-rich legumes. A parallel development is that it now makes more use of the short chain. No less than 85% of the raw materials are now obtained from within 125 kilometres of the parent company in Giessen. Moreover, HAK believes that sustainability goes even further. It also includes personal contact with the cultivator and from that relationship experiments can be conducted with crops that may have been put on the back burner, such as the red kidney bean. Because sustainability is not only good soil management, it also means a fair price.
The baskets are filled to the brim with Dutch EdamameDeputy Jan Nico Appelman of the province of Flevoland concluded that cooperation in the chain, nationally and internationally, contributes to the protein transition. And that is real improvement, because it contributes to food security, healthier soil and a fair price for the cultivator and the chain. Looking back at 2017, when he first received a basket of fresh soya (Dutch Edamame), he believes that a lot has already been achieved, such as by signing the Green Deal Protein-rich crops. And with the Food Forum pavilion and the collaboration with Aeres Hogeschool at the Floriade, the importance of the protein transition is shared even more publicly.
Thanks to all speakers and attendees of Bean me up!, Flevoveldboon, Dutch Edamame, SoyConsultant, Green Organics, Voedsel Verbindt, Provinces of Flevoland and North Holland. The organisation was carried out by Stimuland.