Boer aan het Roer is the agricultural program as part of the Regio Deal Foodvalley. This deal is a collaboration of multiple years between the Dutch government and eight parties in the Foodvalley region. Together they invest and support knowledge and innovations for healthy food and a more sustainable food system. The Regio Deal is divided in three main themes:
- Future-proof farming (Boer aan het Roer)
- Healthy food for everybody
- Knowledge & innovation cluster
The Boer aan het Roer program is part of the first theme, future-proof farming. Within this program farmers, research institutes and governmental organisations work together on implementing and testing innovations and sharing knowledge for animal farming systems of the future. This is done in order to connect scientific research with the practice of sustainable animal farming and ultimately to strengthen the position of farmers within the food chain and in society.
In the Foodvalley region a testing ground will be set up that consists of 70 pilot farms. The experiments on the pilot farms are focused on five research topics: Soil management, Reduction of emissions, Animal feed as part of a circular agro-food system, Sensoring and monitoring and Valuing sustainable food production.
Regional farmers can sign up their farms in order to take part in the pilots. In addition, innovators (which can be individual people or companies from anywhere) can sign up innovations that fit into one or more of the five research topics and that can be implemented and tested on the pilot farms. In total more than 40 innovations will be tested. The innovations will be tested on the effects of the innovations on technical results, animal welfare, animal health, emissions, manure quality and/or economic feasibility. The results of the tests are monitored using real time monitoring as much as possible. Innovation techniques that prove to have positive outcomes will become available for implementation in the whole country.
We are looking for innovations that strengthen farms and their environment, such as soil quality, water quality, local production of protein and biodiversity. Examples of this are alternative catch crops, alternative land management (e.g. permanent grassland, crop rotation), manure quality or alternative ways of manure application.
Emissions reduction measures
The focus of this research topic is on the poultry, calf and goat sector. Mainly we are looking for measures and techniques that help to reduce odour, fine dust and ammonia. These could be innovations that reduce emissions at the source (e.g. manure separation or feed adjustments), innovations that treat the internal air (e.g. ionisation) or end-of-pipe solutions (e.g. new types of filtering). Innovations that improve the inner climate are preferred.
Animal feed as part of a circular agro-food system
Innovative ideas that help to replace a substantial part of non-regional protein sources in feed (such as soy) can be registered. Animal feed should originate from regional protein sources (plant-based or derived from insects) as much as possible. Other topics that will be studied are the use of meat and bone meal and the introduction of residual flows in feed.
Sensoring and monitoring
In order to execute the pilots on the farms, we are looking for tech companies that can help to monitor the results of the implemented techniques. For example, developers of dashboards or producers of sensors that monitor animal behaviour or emissions.
Valuing sustainable food production
Within this research topic revenue models will be developed that allow farmers to earn more as a result of more sustainable farming methods. This is a necessary condition for farmers in order to be able to invest in new techniques that adhere to more sustainable practices. Examples can be found in short-chain solutions and local sales. Farmers can apply for this topic in order to follow courses on business models or take part in creating new revenue models.
- Farmers who make their farms available for implementing and testing of innovations receive standard compensation for expenses made during the pilot.
- Innovators install and implement their innovation technique on a pilot farm for free. In return they receive access to the data of the implementation during the pilot.
- The measurements will be covered financially by the Regio Deal
The activities on the pilot farms are executed within a period of three years, up to and including 2022. Preparatory work is done until the summer of 2020. The first pilots will start after the summer of 2020. The application of innovations and pilot farms is open continuously, the selection of pilots will take place in multiple phases.
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