Innovation Challenges

Nutritional impact on specific health aspects aims for greater understanding of the age-independent link between the composition and metabolic activity of microbiota, and biomarkers for various health conditions. These insights will support the development of food products with scientifically-substantiated effects.

Research scope

  • Association studies between specified metabolome, diet and microbiome, on gut health and the gastrointestinal epithelial and immune barrier, resulting in the selection of a biomarker profile.
  • Investigate which nutritional components/ingredients impact the selected biomarker profile.
  • Change the dietary intake to affect biomarkers and measure the impact of this on immune fitness, epithelial integrity and function in different age groups (young, adult and elderly). Eczema, in combination with mucosal integrity, would be an easy way to measure relevant health phenotypes in infants, and might have a partial overlap with low-grade inflammation in the elderly.
  • For infants we must focus on naturally-occurring, immune-related problems. In the adult/elderly population we can consider challenge models.

Make healthy choices easier and improve consumer appreciation. Nutrient balance and attractive foods is developing a methodology for this, based on the Nutrient Balance Concept: a new metric that reflects the overall nutritional quality of foodstuffs, diets and meal plans.

Research scope

  • Develop validated criteria for healthy nutrition and for sustainability.
  • Understand how consumers respond to nutritional information.
  • Translate nutritional and sustainability information into understandable, impactful recommendations.
  • Investigate specific health aspects of macro- and micronutrients.

Effective nutrition for you is developing effective, personalised, nutrition and lifestyle coaching. The programme will increase our understanding of individual responses to changes in diet and lifestyle, and provide insight into what motivates consumers to make and sustain healthy changes.

Research scope
An important target in this research programme is glucose metabolism. The programme is also developing new research methodologies as an alternative to conventional, randomised, controlled trials.

  • How do changes in diet and lifestyle mediate individual responses?
  • Which research methodologies are needed? Should one shift from randomised, control trials to individual time series?
  • What are the motivators of, and effective coaching routes towards, personalised lifestyle interventions?

Many of the current farming systems are not sustainable in the long term. Regenerative farming business models aims to develop proofs-of-concepts for how regenerative production can be achieved within one generation, from both biophysical and socio-economic perspectives.

Research scope

For (parts of) the Dutch agricultural landscape: develop proofs-of-concepts for how regenerative production can be achieved within one generation.

  • Bio-physical flows
    • What mix of land-based and land-less (stables, greenhouse) production systems fits best within global, environmental limitations?
    • What type of production can best be done at what location?
    • How much output can be achieved in a net-positive system?
  • Economic transformation model
    • Farming business models include differentiation, revenues for ecosystem services and minimised inputs.
    • Implications for agrifood value chain players (for example: local processing).
    • Implications for taxes, subsidies, regulation.
  • Social innovation model
    • How to enable transition of a majority of farmers towards net-positive production?
  • Consumer engagement with Dutch agricultural landscape
    • How to engage with consumers to promote choices that drive net-positive
    • Production and restoration of Dutch agricultural landscape?

Redesigning food production for minimal waste and footprint is the goal of Mild processing and optimal use of biomass. The programme is identifying how best to valorise existing biomass, long term, through enzyme technology, fermentation and other mild-processing approaches.

Research scope

  • Identify long-term potential to improve valorisation of existing biomass through mild processing (e.g. enzyme technology, fermentation).
    • Functionality from food; less waste.
    • More protein available for human consumption; potentially substituting animal for plant proteins.
    • More biomass available for biomaterials.
    • Use of alternative sources (algae, insects).
  • Identify pathways and requirements to deliver the identified potential.
    • Mild-processing technologies.
    • Substituting conventional assets with mild-processing technologies.
    • Plant breeding to enable improved biorefinery and valorisation of biomass.
    • Implications for value chain beyond processing.

How to prevent food waste in food processing, at point of sale and by the consumer is the key issue in Minimize food waste. The programme aims to identify the long-term potential of waste-prevention solutions, and to develop proof-of-concepts and business models for the most promising solutions.

Research scope

  • Identify long-term potential of waste-prevention technologies and develop proofs-of- concept for most-promising technologies.
  • Processing to extend shelf-life.
  • Fermentation for ‘recycling’ of unsold products and by-products into foods.
  • Packaging.
  • Develop proofs-of-concept for feedstock flexibility in food processing and related B2B acceptance of side streams.
  • Develop proofs-of-concept and business cases for logistics-optimisation solutions.
  • Collection and distribution of side streams and overripe products.
  • Optimised, purchasing algorithms for retail and food services.
  • Social-innovation model: how to enable consumers to avoid food waste as much as possible and accept less-standardised food products?

What is health? How do we define sustainability? Integrated measurement and modelling combines existing methodologies and datasets to create a holistic methodology for measuring performance, and to set improvement targets for sustainable production and healthier and more-sustainable diets.

Research scope

  • Combine existing methodologies and datasets into a holistic methodology to measure performance and set improvement targets for:
    • Sustainable production.
    • Reducing the gap between existing diets and diets optimised for health and sustainability.
  • Develop models to apply this holistic methodology.
    • To production areas (across all relevant agricultural sectors in that area).
    • To supply chains (across a number of different sourcing markets).
    • To consumer markets (across all major food categories in that market).
  • Methodology development.
  • Applying big-data analysis, together with complexity science, to formulate cross-domain models based on correlational, structural networks at different scales.