New future farming institute launched at Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo

To contribute to technological innovation in the agri-food sector, Maastricht University (UM) is establishing a new research institute at Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo: the Brightlands Future Farming Institute (BFFI). The institute will combine the triple helix strengths of UM, the Province of Limburg and the region of North Limburg, BASF Vegetable Seeds as a potential private partner, and Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo. The total investment over ten years will be more than 40 million euros.

Agri-food focused on sustainability

The agri-food sector is one of the strongest industries in the Netherlands. The sector is vital to the Dutch economy and employment, contributing approximately 10 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product and providing 10 percent of the country’s jobs. It is also capable of making a major contribution to the development of a more sustainable economy by producing with less impact on nature and the environment. Agri-food can play a key role in making our society and economy circular in the future.

Plant breeding

Work at the new institute will include functional plant genomics aimed at breeding plants which are healthier for people and the climate, and which can be grown in a more environmentally friendly way in the highly innovative setting of greenhouse and indoor farming engineering. The institute will make the connection between the primary and plant breeding sector on the one hand and nutrition and health expertise on the other. It will thus be a crucial link in the chain of high-quality plant varieties through balanced cultivation and nutritional concepts to promote the healthiest region in the Netherlands.

Entrepreneurship and knowledge development

The choice of Brightlands Venlo as the location for the institute guarantees fertile ground for mutually reinforcing entrepreneurship and knowledge development, which will result in innovation in the private sector, including regional SMEs. As a partner in Brightlands, BASF has expressed its intention to support this initiative for research into healthy vegetables and cultivation methods in relation to consumer characteristics.

Greenhouses for Research & Development

The institute will be located on Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo, in Brighthouse, which will be completed in mid-2021. North Limburg, where the Venlo greenhouse was invented and where the entire chain, from seed to consumer, is strongly represented, makes an ideal region to combine research and development. In addition, new R&D greenhouses will be built here in 2021, some of which will also become available for private enterprise, including SMEs. Fields of work will include modern breeding techniques, sensor technology, artificial intelligence, robotics and advanced systems analysis, concentrating on flavour, convenience, and sustainably circular food production.