Green Deals nature-inclusive agriculture agreement signed on 9 March 2017

News 12 April 2017
Green Deals HAS University

"HAS University of Applied Sciences is acting as catalyst in this process, by developing solutions and sharing these with farmers, partners in the chain and educational institutions."

On 9 March, HAS University of Applied Sciences signed 2 Green Deals that create a legalised context in which to experiment with the innovative ‘pasture pigs’ business models of Den Elshorst and the ‘gentlemen farmers’ of Herenboeren Wilhelminapark. Dutch Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, Martijn van Dam, had the honour of being the first to sign both of the Green Deals.

Innovative business models for a more sustainable agricultural landscape

The companies, Den Elshorst in Baarschot and Herenboeren in Boxtel are both frontrunners when it comes to nature-inclusive agriculture. Their motto is Balancing farming with the farmer, the neighbour and nature! The key to their approach is the fruitful cooperation between agriculture and nature. The revenue model is the short production chain. The pigs at Den Elshorst roam freely in a natural environment, in which they take on the role of conservationist. The Herenboeren produces on the instructions of a residents’ cooperative consisting of 200 households. There is innovation in 3 aspects of sustainability: the production process, the product and the market!

HAS role and ambition in the Green Deals

When these business models are developed further and scaled up, they will make a major contribution to creating a sustainable agricultural landscape, with a robust agrifood sector in which different business models can coexist, including nature-inclusive agriculture. HAS University of Applied Sciences is acting as catalyst in this process, by developing solutions and sharing these with farmers, partners in the chain and educational institutions. As far as the Green Deals of nature-inclusive agriculture are concerned, HAS is contributing by helping set up a location for practice-based learning at Herenboeren and carrying out research at Den Elshorst. This is all taking place with the support of the Natuurlijk Boeren (natural farming) programme, together with the Natuurlijk Boeren Community.

Legalised context for experimenting with innovative business models

Green Deals offer the legalised context necessary for experimenting with this kind of innovation during the development phase. This is because innovations don’t always fully comply with current legislation, and legislation is often not updated until after the further development and upscaling of an innovation. One example is that pigs are officially categorised as barn animals. This means that they are not allowed to roam freely in the forest, their natural habitat, like sheep are allowed to do. Another example is that young calves need to be ear tagged within 3 days of their birth if they live in small woods, but not if they live in forests larger than 100 ha (247 acres). The Green Deals provide a context in which to test potential legislative changes.

Who signed the Green Deals?

The Green Deal for Nature-Inclusive Pig Farming (also known as pasture pigs) has been signed by: Den Elshorst (B. Bruurs, T. Moonen), the Dutch ministries of Economic Affairs (Secretary of State, M. v. Dam) and Infrastructure and the Environment (Secretary of State, S. Dijksma), the Province of North-Brabant (Representative for Agriculture, Energy & Management, A. Spierings), the municipality of Hilvarenbeek (Alderman, J. v. Doormaal), Southern Agriculture and Horticulture Organisation (ZLTO) (Chairman, H. Huijbers) and HAS University of Applied Sciences (Study Programme Director Animal Husbandry & Animal Care, E. Dijkman).

The Green Deal for Nature-Inclusive Ground Use Herenboeren has been signed by: Marggraff Foundation (F. Bevort), Herenboeren Foundation (G. vd Veer), Herenboeren Cooperation Wilhelminapark (B. Tooren), the Dutch Ministries of Economic Affairs (State of Secretary, M. v. Dam) and Infrastructure and the Environment (Secretary of State, S. Dijksma), the Province of North Brabant (Representative, Spierings), the municipality of Boxtel (Alderman P. vd Wiel) and HAS University of Applied Sciences (E. Dijkman).

Programme Natural Farming

As part of the Natural Farming programme, HAS University of Applied Sciences is currently working together with the ‘Natural Farmers’ community to facilitate nature-inclusive agriculture. The programme started on 1 January 2016 and comprises of research projects, including final-year project, projects during study modules and community events. At the moment, there are 3 groups of students carrying out research into ‘Target groups and market concepts’, ‘Switching from current to Natural Farming techniques’ and ‘Monitoring the effects of pasture pigs’.

The HAS study programmes Spatial and Environmental Planning, Environmental Studies, Animal Husbandry & Animal Care, Business Administration & Agribusiness, Applied Biology and Geomedia & Design are working together in the new programme. Important partners are the pilot farmers, B. Bruurs, J. Verhulst, Van Roessel and J. Wersch, the Brabant Agricultural Innovation Fund, Rabobank, the HBO Centre of Expertise Agrodier, Food-Up!, the Brabant Environmental Federation and other players in the production chain.