F&A Next 2018: from knowledge to application

F&A Next brings together start-ups, corporates, and financiers to help them move from knowledge to application. This year, Wageningen University & Research (WUR) will open its doors to offer visitors a glimpse into the science behind Food & Agri.

The third edition of F&A Next will take place on May 30 and 31 on Wageningen Campus. Start-ups, investors, and decision-makers at large companies will be coming together for a program full of knowledge exchange, discussions, and showcases by the most innovative start-ups. Sebastiaan Berendse, Director of Value Creation at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and co-organizer of the event, explains what visitors to F&A Next 2018 can expect.

What does ‘value creation’ mean at the leading F&A university of the Netherlands?

“Value creation is WUR's third core task along with education and research. We develop valuable knowledge that has an economic and societal impact through its practical applications. Our aim at F&A Next is to establish connections between all the parties necessary for us to move from knowledge to application: scientists, start-ups, corporates, and financiers.”

“Large corporates get to see the next big thing at F&A Next”

- Sebastiaan Berendse, Director of Value Creation at WUR

How does that work in practice?

“Take the example of protein. Humans need protein, but the Western diet with its emphasis on meat is not sustainable at current world population levels, and certainly not if these increase significantly. That’s why people are searching for meat substitutes such as alternative proteins derived from vegetable sources or cultured meat. All kinds of solutions are being developed by start-ups that will be present at F&A Next in May.

“At F&A Next, large corporates that work with meat get to witness the next big thing in food and how the market will develop. Meat substitutes based on soy or nuts are already on the shelves of supermarkets, but there are more companies with the same ambition. They could be interesting for a large corporate looking for meat substitutes for its ready meals, for instance. In fact, that is exactly how the plant-based 'meat' balls made by Vegetarische Slager (the Dutch for vegetarian butcher) ended up in Unilever's tomato sauce and satay sauce.”

Does F&A Next also focus on innovative applications?

“Certainly. Bayer, for example, is busy working on digital farming and gave a lecture on this topic at last year's event. The company's digital tools can analyze data on the weather, the soil, and the condition of crops so that farmers can make informed decisions. The result? Higher yields with fewer pesticides.”

“We want to foster the discussion, ‘What’s in it for me?”

- Sebastiaan Berendse, Director of Value Creation at WUR

Why is WUR showing its own research projects at this year's F&A Next?

“We want to achieve two things with WUR Insights. Firstly, to demonstrate scientific challenges and the latest F&A high tech. And secondly, to foster the discussion: What does this high tech mean for corporates and financiers? What does it mean for start-ups? And for farmers and growers? All parties need to ask themselves the question: ‘What’s in it for me?’ Once that’s clear, we are one step closer to value creation.”

Can you give an example of a WUR project?

“A good example is the meat substitute developed by Professor Atze Jan van der Goot. It is a sustainable meat substitute derived from legumes that has the fine texture of steak. Van der Goot developed a production method for it known as Shear Cell Technology (SCT). SCT uses just 10% of the energy needed for other methods of producing meat substitutes. We are now working with 10 large corporates, including Unilever and Givaudan, on the next step: to start selling a meat substitute based on this new technology.”

An impression of F&A Next 2017