Dutch Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, Carola Schouten opens academic year 2019-2020

News 16 September 2019
HAS University of Applied Sciences

“I call on all students to become ambassadors of the circular agriculture sector.”

On Monday 9 September 2019, Dutch Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, Carola Schouten was at HAS University of Applied Sciences in ‘s-Hertogenbosch to open the new academic year 2019-2020. During her speech, she called on all students to become ambassadors of the circular agriculture sector. “Dig up old knowledge,” she said. “Come up with new methods. Talk to members of society. Sketch the dilemmas. Experiment, and dare to make mistakes from time to time. It’s hard, but also educational. That’s how you will shape the new future for the sector.” In addition to students and members of staff, mayors Jack Mikkers of ‘s Hertogenbosch and Kees van Rooij of Meierijstad, as well as North-Brabant Provincial Deputy for Health, Energy and Agriculture, Annemarie Spierings also attended the opening ceremony.

Wizards and prophets

First to take the floor was Chairman of the Executive Board of HAS University of Applied Sciences, Dick Pouwels. He outlined his vision of the future of the sector: “Things need to change”, he stressed. "It is obvious that we are in a period of transition and that we have to deal differently with our food production and our living environment. And if you have to do things differently, where do you start? In my opinion, with ‘amazement’. We need more amazement in society!” Pouwels spoke of wizards and prophets (Charles Mann). “‘Prophets’ see solutions for our future food supply and living environment in terms of ‘less of this and less of that’. ‘Wizards’, on the other hand, seek solutions in technological inventions. Both are necessary, but they don’t properly understand each other.”

Green passion

“We have something in common, you and I,” Carola Schouten told the audience. “We share a passion for green education. We work with matters that form the foundation of life: food and our natural living environment. And these are things that affect us all. The past decades were mainly about more efficient food production. This approach filled the shelves and gave us access to a large quantity of different products. However, there is also a downside to this: the pressure on the environment has become too great and there are now numerous public debates about, for example, animal welfare and crop protection. It’s becoming clear that we have to do things differently.”

Knowledge is essential

Minister Schouten then presented her vision on a circular agrifood system. “It’s a principal as old as nature itself,” she explained. “Nature is the ancient cycle and an ancient source of food. Humans became farmers when they found their place in this continuous cycle and reaped the benefits of it. However, a circular agrifood system doesn’t mean we need to turn back the clock. Because the applications of a circular agrifood system are often ultramodern and technologically advanced. A circular agrifood system is about creating a natural balance. If we restore this balance, we’ll also reduce emissions. This can give farmers back their future perspective if this approach also has a decent commercial model. We desperately need the practice-based, socially relevant knowledge and expertise of HAS University of Applied Sciences students in order to be able to realise the change we want to make in the coming years in our agricultural sector, our natural environment and in our food supply.”

Share your passion

Finally, Minister Schouten addressed the students directly: “You have to think about your position in this whole process, and how you view the future. Can you still see a future? And, if so, do you keep on doing the same thing you've already done, or do you take new paths? Form your vision and think about alternatives; about solutions. You’ve already taken the step to follow your green passion, and for that you deserve respect, from me and from society. My message to you is ‘don’t turn your back on that society. Face it with an open mind and share your passion."