Interview: Frederike Praasterink on the foresight for Brabant agrifood
What’s does the future hold for the agrifood sector in Brabant? This is a burning question to which there is no ready-made answer. This is because, we can’t look into the future and the world is changing at such a rapid pace. Nevertheless, it is possible to prepare for the future by developing scenarios, considering their implications and by working together. That’s precisely why Brabant Advies, together with the Wing agency, carried out a foresight on behalf of the newly elected provincial council of North Brabant for Brabant agrifood.
As a member of the Provincial Council for the Living Environment, which is part of Brabant Advies, Professor Frederike Praasterink of HAS University of Applied Sciences participated in the study. She shares her thoughts.
Why carry out a foresight?
“In order to carry out this foresight we set up a broad coalition of agrifood companies, social organisations, academic institutions and government bodies. Together, we drew up 4 scenarios looking towards 2050. The aim is that the new provincial council can use these over the coming years as a source of inspiration and as a guideline to help make political decisions and draw up the resulting policy,” Frederike explains. “The scenarios that are drawn up as part of a future perspectives study are not intended to be used as a prediction. The aim is to give an idea of how things could develop. We focussed on the most uncertain trends. And although, in the end, you still don’t know what’s going to happen, you are better prepared."
What is the value of this project?
The value is in the process of carrying out the study with such a large number of participating organisations. This ensures you get input from lots of different sources of experience and expertise. It also generates broader support. And, of course, we can use the results, in particular when translating the future perspectives into strategy: what can we really do to prepare and to make sure we’re future proof. According to the Brabant Advies website, the scenarios help us take a new look at the future of agrifood in Brabant and are “a source of inspiration for the dialogue about the long-term agenda for agrifood in Brabant, the associated strategy and actions the stakeholders need to undertake.” On 28 February, Annemarie Spierings, member of the provincial council, was presented the first copy of the study’s findings."
How did you draw up the scenarios?
Frederike: “The scenarios were developed using a method based on 2 axes. We first carried out a trend analysis, where we placed the 2 most uncertain trends on the axes: ‘will the markets stay open or not? and ‘how will the relationship between people and planet develop’? We focussed on what this means for agricultural companies, as well as on the influence such developments could have on the production and marketing of food. We then expanded on the 4 scenarios. Finally, we looked for common denominators between the scenarios: which topics are important in every scenario? What is a ‘no-regrets-strategy’ for this issue? These are the points we included in our recommendations to the province, for areas to work on. Examples include scarce raw-materials and a circular agrifood system; food security, also in relation to climate change; digitisation and the importance of data; and the public’s connection with food and nature.”
What is the added value for you as a professor at HAS University of Applied Sciences in participating in a study like this?
“A foresight like this is an important part of my lectureship. It helps me take a step back from daily dilemmas with a group of relevant stakeholders, and think about an inspirational future. To create new stories about the future of our food, which encourage participation and make you want to get involved, and offers a basis for action, for example via backcasting. Both the participative process in carrying out the study, and the resulting perspective for action are important. And you can see who are the leaders in the group: the companies and people already prepared for such a future scenario. These, of course, are organisations we want to work with as HAS University of Applied Sciences."
Do you also work with these scenarios in practice?
“Yes, they provide inspiration for my work, and we’re also using the scenarios for a new future perspectives study that I’m currently carrying out together with PJ Beers and a large group of people from Transitie Coalitie Voedsel (Transition Coalition Food). In this new study, we’re using a different method, so it’s also interesting to assess which different impressions arise from a different approach. Ultimately, one of my ambitions is to further integrate ‘future thinking’ in education at HAS University of Applied Sciences. Together with ‘systems thinking’, these are important skills when working on the sustainable development and transformation of our food system.”