During the closing symposium of the Southeast Netherlands Food Forests project, Daan Groot, in his role as a professor in Innovative Entrepreneurship in Rural Areas at HAS University of Applied Sciences, gave a workshop in which the results of three years of research into food forests in the Dutch context were summarized.

The most important results can be summarized as follows:

  • After 20 years, food forests yield higher profitability than other forms of agriculture.
  • However, the start-up period is a major obstacle: break-even can take up to 20 years. This is due to the investment costs and because many crops produce little or no volume in the first few years.
  • The most important parameter that can bring forward the break-even point is the price-points that are realized. At a farm-gate price level equaling wholesale prices, the payback period is 20 years. When a food forest farmer realizes farm-gate prices similar to regular crop agriculture, profitability is still positive, but the start-up costs are earned back later (up to 40 years). When realizing farm-gate prices similar to supermarket prices, the payback time is only 7 years. A different structuring of the value chain can play an important role in realizing higher price-points.
  • Developing new concepts with a higher added value can also contribute to the realized price-points, for example through vertical integration or by establishing brand value.
  • Food forests seem eminently suitable for achieving higher prices. More insight into price elasticity with a sharp rise in supply, and with it scalability, requires further investigation.
  • Making combinations with additional business models (such as housing) can greatly improve the business case and bring the payback time forward. If other societal benefits or ecosystem services (such as health, CO2 storage or climate adaptation) will also be paid for in the future, this will also have a positive effect on the business case and payback period.

In addition, we peaked into the future of our research. In the coming six months, the research will focus on the synthesis and refinement of the results so far. In addition, two new research directions are being investigated:

  • Types of financing: in which way can smart financing constructions contribute to get through the fall of the first years.
  •  Concept development: what concepts can be developed so that food forests can achieve a high price over a large volume.

Interested in learning more about these results and what it means within your company, municipality or province? Then contact Daan Groot (06 3824 8897).