The Corona pandemic has major consequences for everyone, including TiFN. Fortunately, the team is healthy and flexible and we can largely work from home. We are easily accessible by e-mail. The planned TiFN project meetings are now set up as telcos, and fortunately our Zoom technology works flawlessly for good meetings at a distance.
There are concerns for the running projects. Most research has come to a standstill and in many cases this will lead to extra costs and extra lead time. Since it is not clear how long this situation will last, it is currently difficult to estimate what the damage will ultimately be. Naturally, we will work with the project leaders and stakeholders to see how we can solve this per project. We are currently assuming that we can organize the TiFN Retreat again in September and have started the first steps to organize it.
We decided to send out the TiFN InTouch because there are also some bright spots. The 2 new cross-over projects that were approved by NWO at the end of last year will be started up in the near future. The project leaders introduce themselves in this InTouch. There is also news about our way of working. Esther Vermandel is hired as an office assistant / secretary in our team and she also introduces herself in this newsletter.
We wish you all a lot of strength and strength in this difficult period.
On behalf of the entire TiFN team: Ronald Visschers
“If we genuinely want to work towards making agriculture more sustainable, we have to dispense with the old way of management in the primary sector which has a strong emphasis on managing problems,” Professor Peter Groot Koerkamp of Wageningen University & Research believes. As part of the new Synergia project, working together with a broad consortium of businesses and knowledge institutions, he will be investigating how new technology and management can contribute to an agricultural system based on technology for ecological principles.
“For time immemorial, agriculture has been set up to respond to imminent dangers. If a crop or animal is at risk of disease, farmers react by using pesticides or medicine. Of course, a great deal of attention is given to prevention, but things would be a lot better if biological and ecological mechanisms form the basis of the system, rather than the farmer with of a lot of external inputs,” explains Groot Koerkamp. “In our new programme, we will be investigating how we can get agricultural systems to work as much as possible like an natural ecosystem and where management is no longer based on the ‘control paradigma’”.
“Take a field of crops for example. Arable fields are now given over to a single crop and this monoculture only increases the risk of diseases and pests. If several crops are cultivated at the same time and the right combination is chosen, crops can make each other more robust. For example, as a result of crop B containing natural pest-control organisms, disease in crop A can be prevented”.
“With new measuring principles and instruments we can better understand and follow the biological processes in individual plants and animals and develop new ecologically based solutions for the design and control of production in greenhouse horticulture, arable farming and dairy farming.”
TU Eindhoven, TU Delft, the University of Twente, Radboud University Nijmegen, OnePlanet, TiFN and various companies will be taking part alongside Wageningen University & Research in the project, for which TiFN will carry out overall management and knowledge integration. As far as Groot Koerkamp is concerned, this is a big bonus: “The TiFN approach is a highly effective one. For example, I have seen how valuable the Ambition-to-Results session is in other TiFN projects. This means going back to the basis of the project idea. From this basis an effective project structure can be set up in which the activities of each work package tie in effectively with those of other work packages, making a successful contribution to the project goal.
“The TiFN approach also ensures that the transfer of knowledge between project members is significant. TiFN is experienced at speaking the language of both scientists and industry. For that reason, TiFN forms a strong bridge between both parties and the interests of both groups can be properly taken into account. Ultimately everyone feels the benefits, because only in this way is it possible for the project to stay on track and deliver the right results.”
There are a couple of weeks left before we close the books for 2018. I know everybody is busy this time of year, but I do hope you will find a few minutes to read though our InTouch newsletter.
The venue in Burger’s Bush provided a charming African safari background for our one-day event. The TiFN staff did a great job in organizing the event. With close to one hundred participants (PhD students, project leaders, staff and board members) we discussed the benefits of being part of a TiFN project and shared our best practices. For many it was the first time to look beyond the scope of their own project and see what TiFN is all about. We have defined many follow-up actions which include creating an alumni database, setting up new collaborations and a project leader intervision group that will convene early next year. For me it was very inspiring to learn what drives the individual researchers in our TiFN projects.
TiFN is delivering a steady stream of PhD’s and Dr Mariya Tarazanova was the 200th PhD from our institute. Mariya did a great job defending her thesis supported by her promotor Prof. Jan Kok and co-promotor Herwig Bachmann. Like many TiFN PhD’s, Mariya already found a great job with a former partner of our institute, Avebe. To celebrate this occasion, I presented Mariya with a glass TiFN sculpture. I am sure it will find a nice spot and serve as a great memento for Mariya of this special occasion and her achievement as a TiFN PhD. Of course, I hope that the 199 PhD’s that preceded Mariya also have fond memories of their TiFN days. In fact, we are now compiling a list of this alumni to create a new network of professionals that have a strong background in making public-private partnerships work.
TiFN is gaining momentum in its portfolio. We have started our first project in the theme Sustainable Food Systems and we will also start a new project in the Consumer Engagement theme. We have assisted 3 teams that filed preproposals for the NWO cross-over call and, if all goes well, we will finalize two more project proposals on infant microbiome studies and innovative dietary assessment tools before th end of this year.
Looking back, I am confident that next year will be even better with exciting results, new projects and inspiring events. We’ll keep you posted!
5 October – Nutrition sciences and their ultimate applicability to daily life should always go hand in hand, according to Dr Peter van Dael, Senior President Nutrition Science & Advocacy at DSM Nutritional Products, who joined the TiFN board in August 2018. “The challenge is to find the optimum balance between research with short-term benefits and long-term fundamental science.”
Van Dael had only been at DSM for a few months when TiFN invited him to take up the position from his (DSM) colleague Krijn Rietveld, who passed away earlier this year. “Selecting and bringing together companies, research organizations and goals, to meet societal needs, is a challenge I welcome and value”, he says. “I did not have to think for very long before accepting the offer.”
The Senior President, who spent ten years of his career at Mead Johnson Nutrition in the USA (see text box for biography), was not that familiar with TiFN, but already knew a number of experts in the field. “I worked as a medical director with the (originally Dutch) company Royal Numico, in France, and collaborated with several research organizations in the Netherlands, including Wageningen University & Research, NIZO food research, TNO Nutrition and RIVO, the Dutch organization for Fisheries Research”, he illustrates.
Van Dael’s first impressions of TiFN are very positive. “This initiative is a beautiful example of the entrepreneurial and collaborative spirit abundant in this country”, he explains. “Working together has always been a Dutch strength; now ‘we’ have taken it to the global level.”
Collaboration is essential to achieving the quality and applicability this research demands, according to Van Dael. “It allows you to work with top researchers around the world, bringing together the best talent, state-of-the-art research facilities and the latest insights in the field. It also increases the social and industrial relevance of the work”, he explains. Collaboration within the TiFN collaboration is just as important. “Insights, values and approaches should be shared – and carried – by all our industry and research partners, in order to create a strong and solid basis for the future.”
From insight to application
Strengthening and extending the TiFN network is an important focus for the new board member, though not the only one. “I want to identify even more opportunities to translate TiFN insights into daily life applications”, he stresses. “The challenge is to find the optimum balance between long-term fundamental research – enabling radical industrial and societal innovations – and short-term benefits.” This will require a more-pragmatic approach, with realistic expectations of research time-frames and budgets.
Van Dael, who has already invited TiFN’s Managing Director Ronald Visschers to meet his DSM colleagues in Basel, is looking forward to the next board meeting in October 2018. “Together we will make great strides, strengthening and extending TiFN’s global influence.”
Dr Peter van Dael is Senior President Nutrition Science & Advocacy at the DSM Nutritional Products, based in Basel, Switzerland. He is responsible for developing, translating and executing DSM’s global nutrition science strategy. Prior to joining DSM, in August 2017, he worked for Mead Johnson Nutrition (Evansville, Indiana, USA), Nestlé Nutrition (Vevey, Switzerland) and Royal Numico (Rueil-Malmaison, France). Van Dael obtained an MSc in Human Nutrition at the University of Lausanne and successfully completed PhDs in Philosophy, and Food Chemistry at the University of Antwerp, where he also obtained his MBA.