“Vertical agriculture must be recognized by the market”

“Over the past ten years we have had several conversations about vertical farming and specifically why produce is labeled organic in the US but not in the EU. While I strongly believe that vertical farming plays an important role in feeding, I don’t think , that the growing world population should put the organic label on it, since the plant’s roots are not in the soil and cannot determine what it needs from it,” says Michaël Wilde, director of Bionext.

Support other cultivation techniques
“Did you know that a tablespoon of soil contains more than 9 billion microorganisms and that 25% of the world’s biodiversity can be found in the soil? I think this is why there must always be a connection between our food and the soil and the vertical agriculture cannot therefore get an organic label, but that does not mean that I am against it.’


Michael Wilde

Create visibility for the organic sector
Bionext is an organization that represents the entire ecological chain. This can be divided into three different parties: growers, traders and importers and organic specialists. According to Michaël, ‘organic’ is increasingly on the agenda of supermarkets, NGOs and political decision-makers, which means that Bionext is invited to advise on the transformation of the food and agricultural system.

“We have three main strategies. First, we will develop the organic market so that more and more growers switch to organic cultivation methods. Second, we will strengthen the sector further through research and knowledge development. And finally, we will play a central role in the connection from the social partners within the sector. Bionext wants to play a major role in transforming the food and agriculture sector,” says Michaël.


Photo taken at Harvest London

Creating a vertical farming sub-brand
Although Michaël represents the organic movement in the Netherlands, he is also positive about vertical farms, as they are ideal for urban areas where fresh food is of great importance. He hopes that these cultivation methods will be recognized as sustainable and that the products can be sold at a premium. A special label would certainly help.

Take, for example, the PlanetProof brand, which is now increasingly becoming the basis for growers. According to Michaël, a grower must be rewarded by the consumer through the product price for complying with sustainable cultivation methods.

The strength of the organic label
According to Michaël, an organic brand has many advantages. One of these is the proven sustainability model. “And I mean holistically in the areas of climate, water, soil, animal welfare, health and biodiversity. However, this does not mean that ecology is the highest in all aspects compared to other forms of sustainable horticulture.

In addition to sustainability, the organic label is also a strong and reliable label based on European regulations. This means that organic growers can sell their products at a high price. But organic is much more than just regulation, it is based on four important principles: ecology, care, health and justice.

View of the future
For the future, Michaël sees more real sustainability in the food chain, now that big steps are being taken to reduce the amount of CO2 emissions and water consumption. “There is not one golden one-size-fits-all solution that can solve all the crises in our food and agriculture system, and therefore we have to focus on the various forms of future-proof horticulture where food can be grown in harmony . with nature. As far as I can assess, it is vertical farming, just as organic cultivation methods and other forms of food production are part of that solution.”

For more information:
Michael Wilde
bionext
wilde@bionext.nl
www.bionext.nl

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