Thesis Opportunity: Generating Buzz, Making Futures: Enthusiasm and Investment at Food Events

Food events such as Food Tank and Seeds and Chips are becoming important venues for steering the food innovation and food policy agenda. We are interested in gaining a better understanding of the types of innovations, policy agendas, and politics that are articulated and silenced in these spaces.  We seek one or two Msc students who will conduct a stakeholder mapping, event ethnography, and media analysis of these organizations and their events. This research will shed light on the uneasy relationship between finance, innovation, and politics in the food sector, and the role of enthusiasm and celebrity as modes of communication and policy making for more or less just and sustainable food futures.

green pineapple fruit with brown framed sunglasses beside yellow surface

Photo by Lisa Fotios on


  • You have some training in qualitative methods and critical social theory
  • You are an interested in celebrity and food politics
  • You are willing to develop new methodologies to analyse digital media and events
  • You are registered for one of the following MSc programmes: MID, MCS, MLP, MFT, or MOA
  • You have completed at least 2 RSO courses (or relevant social science courses)

Questions? Please get in touch!

Supervisors: Oona Morrow (RSO) & Prof. Mike Goodman, University of Reading

Thesis Opportunity: The TEDification of Food Activism

Increasingly TED talks are becoming trusted sources for food politics and policy making, and an important medium for food activists to communicate through. Yet, there are also limits to what can be communicated in a TED talk and how. These limitations affect the types of knowledge and activist performances that are deemed suitable. We would like to understand what TED talks are doing to and for food politics, by conducting a comprehensive analysis of recent TED talks on the theme of FOOD. We are interested in the celebrity, bodily, and visual performances that compose these talks. The effects of these talks on public opinion and policy. And the limitations and possibilities of TED talks as a mode of food activism.



  • You have some training in qualitative methods and critical social theory
  • You are an interested in digital media and food activism
  • You are willing to develop new methodologies and tools for analysing digital media
  • You are registered for one of the following MSc programmes: MID, MCS, MLP, MFT, or MOA
  • You have completed at least 2 RSO courses (or relevant social science courses)

Questions? Please get in touch!

Supervisors: Oona Morrow (RSO) & Prof. Mike Goodman, University of Reading

Thesis opportunity: the gentrifying foodscape part II

The urban foodscape is in constant transition, among others due to gentrification. This has effect on options and choices of both newcomers and people who have been living in the neighborhood for longer.

Sophie Visser, MSc student Health and Nutrition, studied the gentrifying Amsterdam neighborhood ‘Van der Pekbuurt’ (see Sophie’s blog on her results) by mapping its food establishments, interviewing both older and newer inhabitants and making observations. She found that due to gentrification the number of establishments in the neighborhood increased immensely. While this has positive aspects – the increased offer leads to an increased choice – not all inhabitants feel comfortable in all these new establishments.

We are looking for a student to continue Sophie’s work on gentrification and foodscapes. Preferably the student would follow up on the previous thesis by updating the mapping of the foodscape, and executing more interviews with a broader group of people. Alternatively, the student chooses another neighborhood (in Amsterdam or elsewhere) in a further state of gentrification, in order to get a broader view on how gentrification can affect foodscapes.

Pre-requisites: completed at least two social sciences courses (preferably with RSO); keen interest in foodscapes; able to conduct qualitative research, preferably but not necessarily in Dutch

Supervisor: Esther Veen (RSO):

Questions? Please get in touch!

Thesis opportunity: What are food systems anyway?

Mapping and analysing the diversity of food systems research at WUR

MSc Thesis Project
Rural Sociology & WCDI 

Supervisors: Jessica Duncan (RSO) and Herman Brouwer (WCDI)

The topic: The concept of food systems has emerged recently as a buzzword. Across Wageningen University and Research (WUR) researchers are using the concept and applying it in different ways. This thesis will review the different ways food systems are being defined and applied across WUR.

The research process will involve:

  • Literature review on food systems
  • Data collection (e.g. comprehensive analysis of WUR-based activities around food systems; interviews)
  • Analysis with the aim of: 1) mapping the food systems landscape at WUR; 2) categorizing the diversity of concepts and approaches; 3) analyzing points of coherence and contention across these concepts.
  • Conclusions with possible recommendations

Pre-requisites: completed at least two social sciences courses (preferably with RSO); keen interest in food systems research; interdisciplinary background an asset.

Start date: ASAP

For more information:


Gentrification and the Van der Pek foodscape

Written by Sophie Visser

‘Gentrification’ transforms cities all over the world. Neighbourhoods are upgraded and there is an influx of new, affluent inhabitants. This often has a negative effect on the longstanding inhabitants of that neighbourhood, as they can no longer afford the housing and no longer feel welcome due to the neighbourhood’s changed cultural and social atmosphere. Gentrification influences the foodscape as well. While there may be an increase in food availability, food accessibility for longstanding inhabitants often decreases due to an increase in price and because longstanding inhabitants do no longer feel welcome in the facilities in their neighbourhood.

With this thesis I aimed to investigate the effects of gentrification on the foodscape, the food choice and food accessibility for the inhabitants of the gentrifying Van der Pek neighbourhood, located in the North of Amsterdam. I used semi-structured interviews, observations, informal conversations and food mapping to collect data.

I conclude that the Van der Pek neighbourhood is at an early stage of gentrification. There is an influx of new inhabitants and a slow decrease in the number of longstanding inhabitants, who are aging and passing away. Over the past years, the number of establishments in the Van der Pek neighbourhood increased immensely. This appears to be positive at first sight because the increased offer leads to an increased choice for the inhabitants. However, not all inhabitants feel comfortable at every establishment. The new establishments are often more expensive, which is unsuitable for longstanding inhabitants: they base their food choice on price and often have lower incomes. Additionally, while some new establishments try to target both new and longstanding inhabitants, mostly new inhabitants are attracted to these establishments. Hence, even though the number of establishments has increased, as the gentrification process furthers, access to food might increase for new inhabitants but decrease for longstanding inhabitants.  

voorblad Sophie

As this thesis provides an in-depth analysis of the foodscape and food choices of inhabitants of the gentrifying neighbourhood, it can provide valuable information to the municipality of Amsterdam – who wants to prevent a division between the two groups of inhabitants in gentrifying neighbourhoods. Besides that it can lead to further research on other gentrifying neighbourhoods to provide a better overview of the influence of gentrification on foodscapes and food choice.


Internship/Thesis Opportunities: Enabling Edible Nijmegen

Nijmegen has been elected European Green Capital 2018. A beautiful award that resulted  from many years of hard work on greening the city and making the city more sustainable. However, still many challenges need to be addressed to ensure a continuity towards a more sustainable future. It is within this context that the municipality of Nijmegen sees opportunities for improvement by focussing on issues related to food provisioning. For example, the municipality aims to become more sustainable by: supporting local/regional food provisioning practices, hence, reducing food miles and CO2-emissions; by facilitating a multiplicity of food production activities within the city such as vertical farming, community supported agriculture, food forests and urban foraging; by enclosing metabolic cycles to retain raw materials, minimalize waste production and save on water and energy use, and; by stimulating ‘food citizenship’ which implies an involvement of consumers within the food provisioning networks who are willing to make food choices more consciously.

In her aim to support existing and stimulate the set-up of new social and ecological sustainable food provisioning activities, the municipality offers 3 MSc students the opportunity to do an internship/carry out research for a period of 4 – 6 months. There are three projects to which you can apply (see below) by sending your CV and letter of motivation to

The municipality of Nijmegen offers you the opportunity to see and learn what it implies to work for a governmental organization. At the municipality you will have your own workspace and access to all the facilities the municipality offers its employees. In addition, you will be offered a monthly fee of €400 (depending on amount of months and hours/week).


  • You are willing to work for a period of 4 – 6 months at the municipality of Nijmegen
  • You need to be available for at least 32 hours a week
  • You are able to conduct qualitative research in Dutch.
  • You are able to engage diverse stakeholders in participatory and collaborative research
  • You have an interest in diverse economies and social innovation
  • You are registered for one of the following MSc programmes: MID, MCS, MFT, or MOA
  • You have completed at least 2 RSO courses (or relevant social science courses)

Start date: May or June 2019

Questions? Please get in touch!

Supervisors: Martin Ruivenkamp (RSO) and Joost Jongerden (RSO)

Daily supervisor: Ton Verhoeven (Nijmegen)

Msc Thesis Subject 1 – Mapping food provisioning activities

A diversity of food provisioning practices is emerging within the urban area of Nijmegen. While the municipality recognizes the urgent need to define propitious pathways to feed the city in a multiplicity of more sustainable, safe, culturally appropriate and nutritious ways the societal embedding of these diverse food provisioning activities is still in its infancy. Firstly, because there is no clear view on these activities. This makes it hard for the municipality to offer support or to facilitate their further embeddedness in any way. Secondly, the many different kinds of food provisioning practices, varying from kitchen gardens to food forests, from Community Supported Agriculture to edible gardens contribute each to the development of a regional food provisioning network. However, these food practices mainly operate on individual basis. What seems to be lacking are linkages between these various food provisioning practices as well as clear collaborations between ‘food citizens’ and social and ecological sustainable food provisioning practitioners. This project seeks to inventory and categorize food provisioning practices in the Nijmegen region. You will construct a database and map of food initiatives and develop a typology for categorizing these initiatives in terms of their organizational model, viability, multiplicity of values they produce, services they offers, etc. You will identify the potentials for these initiatives to build linkages or create collaborations. And, you will strengthen existing relations by bringing practitioners together. Hence, your research will offer the municipality of Nijmegen insights how to further develop a regional food provisioning network and participation of food citizens. You will do independent research, but support is provided by a team of policy advisors at the municipality of Nijmegen.

Msc Thesis Subject 2 – Edible green in residential areas.

Nijmegen aims to make the city more green, literally, by replacing 200.000 stones with plants and flowers. However, in some residential areas, such as ‘Neerbosch Oost’ and ‘Heseveld’, the municipality experienced some resistance. These neighbourhoods are characterised by high unemployment rates, high criminality rates and low socioeconomic status. Public green is in these areas not used much. Inhabitants of these neighbourhoods, especially people with a migrant background, associate public parks with dog poo. In their view, planting more green would lead to more poo in their borough. For this reason they were hesitant to participate to the ‘greening the city’ initiatives as organised by the municipality. However, while being hesitant towards public green, many inhabitants of these residential areas grow food in their front garden (like potatoes, zucchini, eggplant). This research project aims to gain insights in the motivations to grow edible products in (easily accessible) private gardens and ways to transfer these motivations in an appreciation of ‘public edible green’. In practice this implies that next to your research activities you will be able to encourage inhabitants of Neerbosch Oost and Heseveld to participate in greening their neighbourhood in the way with which they would feel most comfortable. You will collaborate with the community centre, residents’ association and the municipality, but will conduct independent research.

Internship project – Kitchen gardens and orchards on public schoolyards

Within the context of greening the city Nijmegen the challenge has been issued to plant a kitchen garden or (small) orchard on the playground of every public elementary school in Nijmegen. This would enable schools to offer youngsters the possibilities to ‘learn by playing’ for example where food – from somewhere, rather than nowhere – comes from, how plants grow, how to pick greenery and fruits and how these produce taste, and what lives in the soil. These lessons all contribute to the development of a conscious view on nature, (healthy) food and (ecological) sustainability. In Nijmegen, there are 42 elementary schools that offer ‘regular’ education and more or less 12 schools that offer specified education. However, while funding as well as assistance is available, just a few of these schools have applied for support to start food provisioning activities on their yards. And, even if there is kitchen garden present, it does not necessarily imply that it is actively being used by growing food or offering (biology) lessons to the pupils. This project aims, on the one hand, to encourage primary schools to actually start laying out the foundations for either a kitchen garden or orchard on the schoolyard. On the other hand, it aims to gain insights in what approaches most efficiently stimulate primary school employees to work in the kitchen garden/orchard and to develop educative programs addressing issues related to (valuing) food and sustainability. You will conduct independent research, but will collaborate with policy advisors from the municipality of Nijmegen.

Also a consultancy (Beleef en Weet) is conducting an investigation together with health organizations and the Nature&Environment Education Centre ‘De Bastei’ to find out what the problems are with maintaining kitchen gardens. You will also have to connect to that investigation too.

MSc thesis subject – How can the world feed itself?
Revaluing food, strengthening local economies

Wageningen University is often questioning how to feed the growing world population. Possible ways are technological innovations, increasing the food production, decreasing the food waste and gene technologies focussed on drought or disease resistance.  Although these are important topics, the question ‘how can we feed the world’ is an old-fashioned, colonial way of thinking. (Who is ‘we’? The west? Why should ‘we’ tell the world how to be fed?) More interesting is the question: “How can the world feed itself?”

In order to answer this question, we need to look at the concerns and ideas of the food producers themselves. Many (peasant) farmers address that in order to continue feeding their communities in a sustainable way, it is of crucial importance to obtain a fair income. Farmers can only keep on producing food if they can make a living from it. This thesis or ACT project will be all about this main challenge addressed by (peasant) farmers.

While we are talking about ‘feeding the world’, more and more rural workers are leaving the land – often by force (be it actual violence or strong economic pressure). The Netherlands –the example of a ‘developed country’, full of ‘modern agriculture’ – certainly does not escape this trend: in 2016, this country alone has lost 22 farms every single day (CBS, 2017). They don’t go bankrupt because of a lack of modern technologies – we are one of the leading countries in terms of agricultural technology. Neither do they go bankrupt, because they don’t have access to proper schooling, infrastructure, or good soils – the Netherlands has it all. There are other factors playing a role: the prices farmers obtain for their produce are decreasing (sometimes even below the cost of production), while the costs are increasing more and more.

Securing the local economy via CSA

It is unjust that everyone in the Netherlands has the right to a minimum wage, but farmers don’t, because they are entrepreneurs and should set their own price. But this is very misleading, because the price of food is so low, that they cannot ask the actual price. Supermarkets will go to another farmer, in the Netherlands or abroad.

One way to secure a fair income is via Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), where there is a direct link between producer and consumer. The producer can set a price, and the money goes directly to the producer. Yet, setting a ‘fair’ price within a CSA is not as easy as it seems, since consumers have linked the cheap supermarket price to the food. So, in order to strengthen the local economy and give farmers the right to a minimum wage (including insurance, retirement money etc), another way of relating to food is needed.

Delinking food from money

Peasant farmer Elske (Ommuurde Tuin, Renkum; also connected to La Via Campesina), therefore has the idea to ‘delink’ food from money, as to break down the idea that food should be cheap. Instead she wants to link food to value, in this case to labour. “Uurtje voor pakketje” (“one hour for a veggy bag”) is the project to tell consumers it costs one hour to prepare a veggy bag (administration, putting compost, sowing, planting, lots of weeding, harvesting, cleaning, making the veggy bag). Then she wants to ask the consumer which wage they want to give the farmer, preferably related to their own wage, so that everyone pays according to their capacity. In this way, she hopes to reconnect people to the real value of food and thereby strengthen local economy and food sovereignty.

The Project

There are several ways of revaluing food. “Uurtje voor pakketje” is one idea. Elske would like to know if there are other ideas regarding valuing food in order to strengthen the local economy. For this project (ACT or thesis), we are looking for a student who can look for these kind of ideas of revaluing food. The second part of the project is to conduct interviews with consumers and/or shareholders of CSA farms (e.g. Ommuurde Tuin) in order to see preferences / concerns / ideas for implementation.

This project will be very supportive to the peasant movement, strengthening local economies and thereby food sovereignty!


Thesis of stage project  Versterken Vernieuwende Landbouw Beweging


Er is een forse toename in het aantal netwerken en pioniers op gebied van innovatieve agri-food systemen. Ze ontstaan vanuit de agrarische productiekant alsook vanuit de consumentenkant en bieden een alternatief voor de dominante voedsel- en landbouwpraktijk. Ze richten zich vaak op de lokale context, werken integraal met aandacht voor biodiversiteit, koolstof vastlegging, betrekken van burgers en een gezonde leefomgeving.  Voorbeelden zijn Heerenboeren, Community Supported Agriculture, Food Forests, Agro-ecological agriculture, bodemboeren en toekomstboeren. Bij veel van dit soort innovatieve agri-food systemen wordt uitgegaan van agro-ecologische principes.

De verschillende initiatieven ontwikkelen zich tot grotere netwerken die de ambitie hebben om te komen tot een gezamenlijke beweging. Wellicht met een gezamenlijk loket en/of steunpunt om zo aanspreekpunt te kunnen zijn voor beleid, onderzoek en andere partijen.

Om een goede strategie en aanpak te ontwikkelen voor het creëren van een sterke beweging met impact is het van belang de verschillende initiatieven en hun onderliggende waarden en principes goed in beeld te brengen.

Heb je interesse om mee te werken aan de ontwikkeling van de vernieuwende landbouwbeweging? Neem dan contact op met jan.hassink@wur of

Onderwerpen van een thesis of stage project kunnen zijn:

  • In beeld brengen van de initiatieven en netwerken
  • In beeld brengen van de onderliggende visie/principes van de verschillende initiatieven en initiatiefnemers
  • In beeld brengen aan welke maatschappelijke uitdagingen initiatiefnemers een bijdrage willen leveren.
  • Strategie en aanpak ontwikkelen om de impact van deze vernieuwende initiatieven meer bekend te maken en breder ingang te laten vinden en bruggen te slaan met meer reguliere vormen van landbouw productie.


Collaborating towards Berlin Food Policy: Exploring civic-state collaboration in current urban food governance in Berlin – The Case of the Berlin Food Strategy

dinah thesis coverDinah Hoffman, MSc student Communication, Health and Life Sciences
Specialization: Health and Society, Wageningen University

Below please find the abstract of the MSc thesis Collaborating towards Berlin Food Policy: Exploring civic-state collaboration in current urban food governance in Berlin – The Case of the Berlin Food Strategy

The full thesis can be downloaded from the WUR-Library by clicking on the hyperlink


Urban food policy is an area that joins actors from civil society, academia, the local state and the market. To accomplish sustainable changes of local food systems these actors work together in governance arrangements. Two prominent instruments that are used in urban food governance where these actors collaborate are the food policy council and the urban food strategy. Both can be initiated through top-down or bottom-up processes or a combination of both with the relationship of local government and civil society having an impact on the success of the initiatives. One of the cities where civil society and local government engage in collaborative food governance is the city-state of Berlin, the biggest city in Germany, surrounded by the agricultural region of Brandenburg. Drawing on data from 11 interviews and 40 documents, this thesis describes and examines the nature of the relationship and governance arrangement of the two main actors in current Berlin food governance. The collaborative governance framework, a categorization of civic-state relationships found in urban food governance and the concepts of integrated food policy and institutionalization were used to guide the analysis. The objective of this thesis is to understand how civic-state collaboration in urban food governance looks like in Berlin, what impact the local context has on the development of the governance arrangement and what strengths and challenges involved stakeholders perceive. The two main stakeholders were found to be the civic food policy council Ernährungsrat Berlin and the Berlin Senate Administration for Consumer Protection. It was found that the Ernährungsrat Berlin’s food policy activity brought forward a relationship where they are striving for independence but are linked to the government through a secondary agency, being the aforementioned administrative department. Although not embedded in municipal institutions, which has been identified as crucial for a food policy councils’ success, the Ernährungsrat Berlin proved to be an agile and resilient structure able to successfully be an independent advocate for civil society and a valued advisor to the government. Their collaboration resulted in the development of a Berlin Food Strategy. In this thesis I investigate the process of developing this strategy as a form of collaborative governance. Regarding their governance arrangement around the Berlin Food Strategy, the involvement of the Green Party in the current coalition was found to have had a big impact on the position the Ernährungsrat Berlin but also food policy was able to occupy on the urban agenda. This research identified a number of strengths and challenges of the governance arrangement including a strong interdependence, a strong and long history of civic action, the presence of political food champions in the coalition and the administration, the limiting structure and functioning of the Senate administrations and the limited inclusiveness and representatives of the Ernährungsrat Berlin.

Key words: urban food governance, urban food policy, food policy council, urban food strategy, collaborative governance, Berlin food strategy, Ernährungsrat Berlin, Senate of Berlin

Internship Opportunity at Greendish

This is an internship for Dutch speaking students who can make a five month commitment.

Over Greendish

Greendish heeft sinds haar oprichting in 2011 professionals uit de food service industrie geholpen in hun transitie naar gezonde en duurzame menu’s en werkwijzen die goed zijn voor de mens, het bedrijf en onze aarde.


In de food service industrie zien we veel onwetendheid en misverstanden over duurzaamheid en gezond eten; het zou bijvoorbeeld duur, moeilijk en niet lekker zijn. Door de dreiging van klimaatverandering en de stijgende behoefte aan voedsel, kunnen we deze misverstanden niet langer negeren. Als verantwoordelijke professionals, moeten we het heft in eigen handen nemen om de transitie te starten die nodig is voor de toekomst van de sector en van onze planeet. Wij geloven dat juist deze sector-pioniers uiteindelijk boven de rest uit zullen stijgen en over de hele linie het meest succesvol zullen zijn.


Met ons ambitieuze team van voedingsdeskundigen, chefs en gedragswetenschappers werken wij er hard aan te zorgen dat gezond- en duurzaam eten makkelijk, lekker en overal toegankelijk is voor iedereen.


Het project ‘Restaurants van Morgen’

“Gezond voor de consument, duurzaam voor de samenleving en kostenbesparend voor de horecaondernemer! Dat is wat Greendish en Natuur & Milieu met Restaurants van Morgen willen bereiken.”


Over het project

Restaurants van Morgen (afgekort RvM) is een project waarin Greendish samenwerkt met de organisatie Natuur & Milieu. Binnen het project begeleiden we 23 restaurants in de Regio Foodvalley (gemeenten Ede, Nijkerk, Rhenen, Veenendaal en Wageningen) naar een duurzamere toekomst. Het project bestaat uit drie fases: de nulmeting (T0), de begeleiding, en de T1 meting. De nulmeting is afgelopen jaar uitgevoerd. Hierin gingen we bij alle restaurants langs en hielden we een interview met de chefs/eigenaren. Verder onderzochten we onderwerpen zoals de samenstelling van de menukaart, waste en inkoop. Ook de top-5 populairste hoofdgerechten werd volledig doorgemeten. De restaurants zijn inmiddels op de hoogte gebracht van de resultaten. Momenteel zijn wij bezig met de tweede fase van het onderzoek, de begeleiding. Voor deze begeleiding zijn er twee trajecten opgezet, light begeleiding (LB) en intensieve begeleiding (IB). De intensieve begeleiding wordt gegeven aan acht daarvoor uitgekozen restaurants. Voor hen wordt samen met ons een plan op maat gemaakt. De rest van de restaurants krijg light begeleiding, waarmee we op een wat algemener niveau informatie met de restaurants zullen delen over verschillende onderwerpen rondom duurzaamheid. Na afronding van de begeleidingsfase zal er een tweede meting worden uitgevoerd, de T1 meting. Dit is waar jij potentieel je steentje zult gaan bijdragen!


Wat zul je zoal gaan doen?

De meetmethoden voor de T1 metingen hebben we inmiddels ontwikkeld. Jouw bijdrage aan de T1 meting zal onder andere bestaan uit:

  • Het inplannen van afspraken
  • Langsgaan op locaties met Greendish medewerkers
  • Interviews houden of aantekeningen nemen (kwalitatief onderzoek)
  • Wegingen doen van gerechten in de restaurants, vergelijkbaar aan de T0 meting (kwantitatief onderzoek)
  • Het effect laten zien van de interventie op hoeveelheden, bereiding, inkoopbeleid en meer
  • Analyse van de resultaten en het verschil tussen T0 en T1
  • De resultaten visualiseren aan de hand van een presentatie
  • Adviezen samenstellen voor restaurants


Overige werkzaamheden

Werken bij Greendish is erg divers, en in overleg kunnen er dus zomaar andere leuke taken bijkomen waarmee jij een inkijk krijgt in de dagelijkse werkzaamheden van onze stichting!


Wat verwachten wij van jou?

Greendish bestaat uit een klein team, waar we onderling leuk met elkaar omgaan. Zo lunchen we gezamenlijk en organiseren we maandelijks een borrel of andere activiteit. We zijn open en informeel en bieden veel ruimte voor eigen inbreng. Zowel het werken in teamverband als zelfstandig kunnen werken is belangrijk. Een stage bij Greendish is uitdagend maar leerzaam en op het grensgebied tussen Wetenschap en praktijk.


Wil je impact maken en bijdrage aan verandering in de samenleving waarbij miljoenen eetmomenten van consumenten onderweg op stations, luchthavens, in restaurants en tijdens de lunch op kantoor gezonder en duurzamer worden, dan bij je bij ons aan het juiste adres!
Meld je aan via




Indoor gardens for nursing homes

By Paulien van de Vlasakker

Advanced technology and alternative food-production methods, such as vertical farming and hydroponic cultivation, are part of an upward trend of initiatives for the support of the transition of conventional food-production methods to more decentralized and local production systems. The development of high-tech urban agriculture is one strategy for more sustainable and resilient urban food systems being explored by cities worldwide to feed their increasing populations.

To contribute to the development of urban high-tech agriculture, I established Vegger in October 2016. Vegger is a start-up located on the Wageningen University & Research campus. During the first few years, my colleague and I designed and developed high-tech indoor gardens for the cultivation of vegetables and herbs inside people’s working and living environment. The indoor gardens that we created are cultivation systems equipped with horticultural led lightening, soilless cultivation methods and a controlled environment system. Vegger is part of StartLife, the business facilitator of Wageningen University. We rent our office/working space in StartHub, located in the Atlas Building.


For my internship, as part of my MSc Organic Agriculture, I conducted a pilot project with high-tech indoor gardens in two nursing homes of Stichting Innoforte located in Velp, Gelderland. Growing vegetables inside nursing homes can be a response to the need for an increased intake of fresh and local vegetables by elderly people. In addition to increasing vegetable intake among the elderly, this pilot project also focused on contributing to the creation of a healing environment in the nursing homes. A healing environment is a (physical) environment that aims to promote the well-being of patients, their family and the employees, and to reduce their stress. This way people may heal faster (or the (physical) environment does not worsen their situation). The goal of my internship was to explore how high-tech indoor gardens can contribute to: 1. the consumption of fresh vegetables and herbs among the residents, and 2. the healing environment of the location.

I placed the indoor gardens in two locations. One of the locations was specialized for elderly people with far stage dementia. The other location offered housing for elderly people that do not need (intensive) care. It is important to mention that the locations make use of a different food delivery system. In the location for demented elderly, the staff cooks with fresh foods and matching recipes delivered by their food supplier. The meals for the ‘healthy’ elderly from the other location are ready-to-eat frozen meals. These meals do not contain any fresh ingredients.

During my internship I supported the indoor gardens by delivering gardening services. These services consisted of the maintenance of the indoor garden, including the cultivation of plants. The staff was responsible for harvesting the fresh vegetables and herbs. A food expert was appointed by the health care organisation to assist with the contact between me and the end users (staff and residents of both locations). As research methods I used informal conversations with staff, elderly and friends and family of the elderly, observations of the use of the gardens (including harvesting, engaging with the garden, and talking with others over the garden), and measuring the number of plants harvested by staff.

The results of the study were different between both locations. In the nursing home where the demented elderly live, the indoor garden was especially useful to enhance the healing environment. The residents of the home liked to sit next to the indoor garden; the aesthetic aspect of the indoor garden contributed to an improved living and relaxing environment. The vegetables and herbs growing in the indoor garden, however, were not used to their full potential. This was due to the fact that the home for demented elderly was already being supplied with fresh ingredients by their food supplier. In the other home, where ‘healthy’ elderly people live, on the other hand, full usage was made of the vegetables and herbs from the indoor garden. This was because previously no fresh ingredients were used in the meals. Staff used the fresh vegetables and herbs to prepare side dishes such as soup or salad.

The difference between the use of the high-tech indoor gardens did not only relate to the difference in food supplier, but also to the mental health of the elderly. Elderly with dementia experience on average higher stress levels than mentally healthy elderly. Optimizing a healing environment with indoor gardens can therefore have a greater impact on providing a quiet and relaxed environment for the residents. In addition, the elderly who live in the home for ‘healthy’ elderly people were more aware of the meals that were served. The residents of the home indicated that the fresh vegetables and herbs not only made the meal taste better, but also contributed to the experience of the meal because there were ingredients used from their own garden.

Pesticide Politics in Africa

Kees Jansen presented a keynote at the conference on Pesticide Politics in Africa in Arusha, Tanzania during the last week of May. The participants came from different regions in Sub-Saharan Africa, half a dozen European countries and North America and  discussed current approaches towards pesticide problems. Conference participants formulated a call for action addressed to politicians and international organizations. The conference made clear that a very interesting body of social science research on pesticide governance and organic alternatives in Africa is currently being carried out. Scientists at INRA-France and related organizations have been the driving force behind this conference, bringing all these people together and stimulating good social science research on pesticide issues. A remarkable positive feature of this conference was the absence of wifi, leading to a much more attentive audience than usual.