Brightlands Future of Farming Institute: driving innovative strength in North Limburg

Maastricht University's Venlo campus is about to gain another research institute: the Brightlands Future of Farming Institute. This institute focuses on the development of fruit and vegetables that are healthier for humans and grown in a more environmentally friendly way. “It’s no longer just about the best tomato; it’s about a combination of technology and botany.” Maastricht University is setting up thi new institute to shore up the region’s innovative strength and contribute to the technological innovation that is needed to find answers to the major social issues in the agri-food sector.

The Brightlands Future of Farming Institute (BFFI) arose from the Faculty of Science and Engineering. Dean Thomas Cleij and director Bakir Bulić are the driving forces behind it. “The main focus at our faculty is on natural sciences and technology. We have already set up a cluster of institutes at the Brightlands campuses in Maastricht and Sittard-Geleen. This technical side is also a great opportunity for agri-food, a very strong sector in Limburg. This is what this new institute is going to focus on.”


The university already has considerable experience with setting up satellite organizations, or research institutes combined with education at locations outside of Maastricht. In addition to Brightlands Chemelot Campus, the university already has a number of laboratories at Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo that focus on healthy nutrition and food innovation. The new BFFI will add technology to these other elements.


According to Thomas, the main difference with Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Geleen is that Venlo is all about SMEs. “Chemelot is a multinational campus with large chemical players. In Venlo, we will be connecting with smaller parties. Our experience with these external locations is that researchers end up working right in the middle of the community, making it very easy to come in contact with the companies and organizations based at the campus and in the region. It takes some time, but ultimately the parties find each other.”


Funding for the new institute has been arranged and a “commander” has been appointed. R&D manager at BASF Vegetable and extraordinary professor of Plant Envirogenetics at Maastricht University, Jan van den Berg will be bringing parties, individuals and potential partners together. The search has also begun to find capable people who want to build the BFFI from scratch. “We want to bring in real top expertise: people who are actively working on this theme and who will work with others in the region to determine where the focus should be,” says Thomas. In addition to the research facilities and existing educational programs, a new academic program is being developed to ensure students can also start working at the new institute.


The institute will physically open its doors at Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo in mid-2021. According to Thomas and Bakir, the campus is the ideal setting for the BFFI. “In Venlo, we are bundling the strengths of the region, Maastricht University and the campus. Researchers and students will be working in the middle of the region, surrounded by companies active in agri-food. We are literally neighbors: our doors are always open for each other.”

Entrepreneurs are welcome to contact the BFFI. For further information, please contact Bakir Bulić,

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