Ruud Huirne has been appointed new core lecturer for the Global Food Economy module, part of the Modular MBA in Food & Innovation. Program director Henk Kievit is pleased about the appointment: “We are proud that Ruud Huirne is core lecturer for this module. With his broad background, experience and vision, he brings a great deal that participants can learn from.” Huirne is director Food & Agri at Rabobank and is convinced that the Netherlands can play an important role in the global food economy.

“The global food economy is a socially relevant and extremely interesting topic, from an economic perspective,” says Ruud Huirne. “The world’s population is growing, as is prosperity, but pressure on the environment is increasing, too. All of this presents enticing prospects for the food sector.”

We are facing an enormous challenge over the next twenty years. In order to feed the rapidly growing world population, more food will have to be produced. The call for sustainability in food production is growing louder, too. Huirne: “A wonderful challenge which the Netherlands in particular is suited to take on, with good entrepreneurship. But we do have to jump at the opportunity, because otherwise it will pass us by. I am therefore pleased that the MBA in Food & Innovation is now available, and that I can provide the Global Food Economy module as part of that.” 

Important role for the Netherlands
Huirne is convinced that the Netherlands can play an important role in the global food economy. “By that, I don’t mean that we will be able to feed the world from the Netherlands, but that we will be doing what we are good at, specifically putting our stamp on the whole future food production chain with innovative ideas. We can do this by developing systems for more efficient food production, for instance, or by using big data to guarantee quality and see problems before they happen, to make a real difference in other words.”

Cash in on opportunities
Huirne says there are four directions in which we can cash in on the opportunities: “Firstly, we will have to produce more food with fewer raw materials in the future. This poses opportunities for innovations like precision agriculture and genetic improvement. I call the latter ‘from soil to mouth.’ The places where you can still step up food production, like Latin America, Central Europe and parts of Africa, are not necessarily the places where the extra food is needed. So you have to set up a chain in which the food is processed logistically and ends up at the right places. The third direction in which the Dutch sector could distinguish itself in the global food sector is healthy nutrition. There is a great deal of momentum gathering in this; healthy food for children, nutrition and sports, but also healthy food for recovery after illness. And the last direction is to contribute to stability in the places where the food is produced. Banks can anticipate this by giving local parties longer-term securities in the form of loans with longer terms. This is important because food production simply thrives better in a stable environment.”

World food supply interesting for a broad target group
Huirne’s classes focus on acquiring knowledge, but certainly also on learning from and inspiring each other. “My goal is for participants who follow this module to become full-fledged conversation partners in the area of the global food economy and able to suggest solutions on some points. It is a relatively generic module that is interesting for a broad target group. So not just people from the agri-food sector, but also people from healthcare, the energy sector, the financial world and ICT. I am convinced that a topic like the global food supply will appeal to a lot of people.”