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The impact of 18 months of collaboration within the Green Circle Sustainable French Fries Chain

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On 15 March 2019, Farm Frites, HAS University of Applied Sciences, Wageningen University & Research and the province of Zuid-Holland signed the ‘Green Circle Sustainable French Fries Chain’ covenant at Farm Frites in Oudenhoorn, the Netherlands. Since then, the parties have been collaborating to reduce greenhouse gasses, stimulate sustainable energy and promote biodiversity and a healthy soil containing sufficient organic matter.

Coen van Ruiten works for the partnership as a consultant and HAS University of Applied Sciences project leader. He looks back on 18 months of fruitful cooperation. “The combination of different partners is precisely the reason we’re achieving such great results in these topics," he says. "Farm Frites has an ambitious sustainability strategy and wants to halve its carbon footprint by 2030. As one of the architects of Green Circles, the province is keen to encourage this because it contributes to a better balance between living environment, health and economy. For their part, Wageningen University & Research and HAS University of Applied Sciences contribute their knowledge and expertise in this field."

Strip cropping is the future

"Our added value as a university of applied sciences within such a partnership really lies in applied research,” he continues. “For example, this spring, within the HAS minor Challenge Sustainability, students developed a model to study which arable farming system is the most sustainable. They assessed the qualitative and quantitative aspects of three systems: monoculture, organic and strip cropping. The result was that strip cropping is the most sustainable. The students presented their conclusions to both scientists and farmers. Although the scientists reacted very enthusiastically, the farmers were more reserved. For us at HAS University of Applied Sciences, it’s understandable that the farmers reacted like this: it’s no small task to convert your conventional arable farm into an entirely different system. Our students, many of whom will later become entrepreneurs, will be confronted with this themselves. As a university of applied sciences, we always act as the link between science and everyday practice."

The 'Living Nature Wall'.

Monitoring biodiversity

Another good example of a project that was carried out with the help and expertise of the Green Circles network is the construction of a ‘Living Nature Wall’ around the grounds of Farm Frites. As part of their graduation research project, in recent months HAS students have developed a plan to monitor the biodiversity of this new wildlife-friendly dike. In addition, they also collected information they could later use in public communications with local residents.

Improving the natural environment

In a press release, Sustainability Manager at Farm Frites and HAS Environmental Studies alumnus Rutger de Kort said, "Sustainability is not only about reducing CO2 emissions and conserving natural resources; it is also crucial to focus on biodiversity. Farm Frites is essentially an agribusiness; we rely on nature to allow us to harvest the tastiest potatoes for our products. That makes us highly dependent on nature and hence we have a great responsibility for preserving our natural environment. The ‘Living Nature Wall’ is a way of setting a good example and inspiring our business partners, from farmers to customers and from ‘farm to fork’. Together, we are making a serious impact on improving the natural environment.”

Coen van Ruiten

Circular agrifood system

HAS University of Applied Sciences has therefore been able to play a significant role in inspiring initiatives already underway within the 'Green Circle Sustainable French Fries Chain'. “In the past 18 months, we have already taken steps that actively contribute to the transition to a circular agrifood system,” says Coen. “We have also gained knowledge and experience which will be reflected in our education. The integrated approach of HAS University of Applied Sciences’ is bearing fruit in these kinds of projects: by bringing together students from all kinds of study programmes, we bring the results up to a higher level. The different disciplines reinforce each other."

Sustainability solutions

Green Circles consists of an extensive network of innovative companies, academic institutions, government bodies and civil society organisations. The partners work together on sustainability solutions in which nature plays an important role. That allows us to improve the balance between nature and the economy and to actively contribute to a better living environment, a circular economy and a healthy future. The Green Circle Sustainable French Fries Chain partners have agreed to collaborate on projects for a minimum of 3 years.