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Wageningen, where AgriFood startups are born

In light of Startup Week Wageningen, we take a look at the town of Wageningen, its university and the things it is really good in: Agriculture and Food.

This week was Startup Week in Wageningen, organised by Starthub Wageningen. 33 people follow an intensive one-week programme. All attendees have ideas, and eventually some of them will become entrepreneurs. A lot of those ideas will be related to agriculture and food, as Wageningen UR is actively supporting startups in these areas.

Today (Friday, January 5) the attendees will pitch their business plan. The best plan receives a microcredit to start up the company.

Key sector AgriFood

The export of agricultural products (AgriFood) is an important part of the Dutch economy. In 2015, total exports in the AgriFood sector rose again compared to the previous year and accounted for 82.4 billion euro, which is 18.8 percent of all Dutch exports. The Netherlands is the second largest exporter of AgriFood products in the world, only topped by the United States.
The AgriFood sector contributes to nearly 10 percent of Dutch BBP and is accountable for 10 percent of all jobs in The Netherlands.

As AgriFood is so important for the Dutch economy, the government has selected it as one of the nine so-called key sectors (‘topsectoren’). These are nine especially competitive areas of the Dutch economy, areas which the government wants to excel. The main goal is to keep The Netherlands in the top five of the world’s most competitive economies. This is done by investments and guarantees as well as reduction of red tape and bureaucracy. One of the criteria for becoming a key sector, is being knowledge-intensive. AgriFood certainly fits the bill here. Several Dutch universities have departments or faculties that focus on agricultural or life science research. But Wageningen has a whole university devoted to it.

Wageningen UR

With less than 40.000 inhabitants, 10.000 of whom are students, the small town of Wageningen has the highest student-to-inhabitant ratio of all the university towns in The Netherlands.
Wageningen University and Research Centre (Wageningen UR) used to be called the Agricultural University of Wageningen, a name which reflects the important role this university has always played in agricultural research. Being located right in the middle of an area where food crops are grown and chicken are reared, the so-called Food Valley, it was only natural for the university to specialize in this area.

Even though the name changed, the Wageningen UR is still a top player among agricultural universities. In 2015, it ranked number one in the agricultural university category of the NTU university ranking, for the third consecutive year.

Currently, the sole focus of Wageningen UR is the theme of ‘healthy food and living environment’. Two of the Dutch key sectors fall within that theme: AgriFood, and Horticulture.

Startups

Wageningen UR actively supports students who have entrepreneurial aspirations in the AgriFood or life sciences sectors. The university states it “intends to help startups succeed and transfer technologies from the lab to the marketplace”. To do so, it has its own information desk called StartLife, for people who want to get information about setting up a startup in the AgriFood or life sciences sectors.

Some interesting examples of AgriFood startups that originated in Wageningen:

Pherobank
Develops and sells sex pheromones of over 150 species of insects (mostly moths and butterflies).

The Algae Factory
Makes food out of algae. Their first product is a bar of algae chocolate!

Plant-e
Wants to use living plants as electricity sources. Proof-of-concept field tests are being conducted right now.

Ceradis
Develops environmentally friendly plant nutrition and crop protection services.

Nsure
Is a global leader in the measurement of gene activity in crops. It developed tests to improve the quality of fruit and vegetables.

Isolife
Develops isotype-labelled compounds derived from plants and algae.

 
Photo by Pieter van Marion (creative commons via Flickr)

Joffrey Mandersloot
Joffrey is a freelance writer and editor for startupjuncture, with a background in biology and environmental studies.

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