Conference Co-Chair / Keynote Speaker
Martin van Ittersum, Wageningen University & Research, The Netherlands
Martin van Ittersum holds a PhD in Agricultural and Environmental Science from Wageningen University. He is a professor at the Plant Production Systems group of the same university. His research and teaching focus on research concepts and methods for the analysis, design and integrated assessment of agricultural systems from field to farm, regional and global level. He has led and is leading a large number of (inter)national projects dealing with global food availability, integrated assessment of agricultural systems, yield gap analysis, phosphorus scarcity and climate change. Martin is currently leading the Global Yield Gap Atlas project (www.yieldgap.org) to map the scope for increasing agricultural production on current agricultural land. In 2013 he was the co-chair of the 1st International Conference on Global Food Security and he is the co-chair of the 4th edition of this conference to be held in Montpellier in 2020. In 2015 and 2016 he was the interim chair of the Farming Systems Ecology group at Wageningen University. He has authored over 150 papers in international journals and supervised many MSc and PhD students from all continents. See: http://www.wageningenur.nl/en/Persons/prof.dr.ir.-MK-Martin-van-Ittersum.htm
Talk title: Circularity in food systems
Challenges and opportunities for the global food system are very divers. Due to strong population growth and dietary change, systems in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia will have to produce much more (in SSA ca. three times more in the year 2050 relative to 2015) while avoiding more crop area expansion. Other parts of the world, including north-west Europe, can and should take a leading role in developing environment-friendly and resource-use efficient food systems for their stagnating and ageing population. Developing circularity in food systems implies searching for a new balance between production and consumption. It encompasses practices and technology that minimize the input of finite resources (e.g. phosphate rock and land), encourages the use of regenerative ones (e.g. wind and solar energy), prevents waste and leakage of natural resources from the food system (e.g. nitrogen and phosphorus), and stimulates reuse/recycling of inevitable resource losses (e.g. human excreta) in a way that adds the highest value to the food system. Three principles can be used to develop circularity in food systems. First, plant biomass is the basis of the food system, and should be used primarily to produce human food. Waste and losses from production, processing and consumption of food must be prevented and if by-products are unavoidable these must be re-used or recycled into the food systems with a proper prioritisation. Finally, circularity implies that we make the most efficient use of animals by using them to unlock biomass inedible for humans into valuable food, manure and ecosystem services. The rationale of circularity in food systems will be introduced, and the three principles and the consequences for consumption of animal protein will be elaborated. Finally, the issue of scale will be addressed.
- de Boer, I.J.M. and van Ittersum, M.K., 2018. Circularity in agricultural production. Mansholt lecture, 19 September 2018, Brussels, Wageningen University & Research, 74 pp.
- Van Zanten, H.H.E., van Ittersum, M.K., de Boer, I.J.M., 2019. The role of farm animals in a circular food system. Global Food Security 21, 18-22.
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