Flanders wants to become 'Silicon Valley of sustainable food production'

Flanders wants to become 'Silicon Valley of sustainable food production'
A harvester in West Flanders, Belgium. 19 July 2022. Credit: Orlando Whitehead

Flanders has created a new regional food strategy which is seeking to attain strategic autonomy in the sector and help make the region become the "Silicon Valley of sustainable food production."

During the Flemish Food Summit on Tuesday, the region's Agriculture Minister Jo Brouns presented the strategy titled GO4Food, built on the lessons learned from the pandemic and the energy crisis. While Brouns recognised that people in Flanders must be able to enjoy high-quality foreign food, the region must not "become dependent on it."

This new strategy aims to ensure the region develops a "strong, sustainable and well-performing" agriculture which also respects the planet's limits and can ensure sufficient pay for farmers through a total of 19 objectives to achieve this goal, ranging from fighting food inequality to fair food pricing and increasing confidence in food chains.

Brouns stressed that the goal is to achieve some of these objectives in the short term through 11 "food deals" or leverage actions, for which concrete steps have already been taken. In the coming months, the food deals will be further refined and supplemented.

With these deals, Flanders "may have the ambition to turn Flanders into the Silicon Valley for sustainable food production", Brouns said. "With our agricultural companies, research centres, knowledge institutions and food industry, we have all the trump cards to do so." He added that the region will invest €12 million a year in fundamental and applied research.

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The plan was launched ahead of the Belgian EU presidency in the first half of 2024, when it hopes to put the concept of 'strategic autonomy' high on the agenda, which Brouns noted is necessary when it comes to working on food security.

"With this food strategy, we are going for healthy and sustainable food for all, a thriving food economy with fair remuneration for farmers and a food system that respects the limits of our planet," Patricia De Clercq, secretary-general of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, said.

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