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The fourth FoodFeature takes us to a different part of the food cycle and explores the possibilities of introducing design to agriculture. For this, we invited Anne Reijnders from the Dutch platform Agri Meets Design.


Agri meets Design, is a platform that brings together farmers and designers, and seeks to create breakthroughs within the food system. “The power of design resides in being able to address small and big challenges and it's important for non-food designers to know they also have a part to play,” says Anne Reijnders, current program coordinator of Agri meets Design. Two primary actions are performed by the platform, finding the right connection and mediating a long-term collaboration, between farmer and designer. Through this collaboration new insights and breakthroughs are possible in the agricultural sector. In 2012, at Dutch Design Week, various food professionals met and decided to launch the platform, envisioning that it would be able to offer a sustainable alternative to the current food system.

Reijnders pushes us to think of “farmers [as] nature’s managers.” She considers what this would mean for how we think of responsibility when it comes to agriculture or nature overall. Is it possible then, for other actors to become important stakeholders in the agricultural sector? The platform was developed and remains in partnership with two governmental entities. Each project taken on, aims to impact the three important stakeholders in partnership with designers. The first stakeholders are citizens, who are impacted by food paradigms that are more sustainable on a sectoral level. The second group of stakeholders are governmental entities that now are able to gain insights on how and when to fund innovative and risky agricultural projects. Finally, farmers as stakeholders are impacted by the possibility of collaboration with a wide community, and exposure to different business models.

In 2013, the platform organized Farmhack, a gathering of technical experts, farmers and designers around agricultural challenges. The goal was to showcase how people with different backgrounds and perspectives could be introduced to the agriculture sector and produce possible solutions to the challenges. Food Lab was launched to create organic matchmaking opportunities, in a certain region or around a topic, between farmers and designers. The longtime collaborations would allow designers to dive deeper into a topic or challenge farmers were facing.

An impactful collaboration that came out of Food Lab was a project that addressed the lack of demand on pulses in the Netherlands. Their solution was to create a national recipe for bread that incorporated pulses. The project safeguarded biodiversity, decreased food miles and provided a tasty alternative to consume pulses. Melksalon (Milk Shop) is an important example of a successful project where Agri meets Design was just a consultant. The project was spearheaded by designer Sietske Klooster who became a facilitator between dairy farmers and buyers by offering, reinventing techniques for tasting milk.

“Farmers and designers are both prone to solving problems through real life experiences” Reijnders explains. Designers are trained to find “questions behind the questions” and create opportunities, while farmers are pragmatic and will only get behind a concept if it really works for them. Farmers face the constraint of time, which often makes them risk averse to spending time on something that might not work for them. In order to build trust, it was important for the platform to work with progressive farmers willing to take a risk, to partner with a farmers association, and to ensure the location of the meeting between farmers and designers suited the farmers.

At the product level, designers are able to create an impact in the food system. A vegan sausage made out of the stems of mushrooms was able to address the challenges of a mushroom farmer that had a problem with stems of a mushroom going to waste. On a sectoral level, designers and farmers collaborate to provide families with the tools to raise and then slaughter the very same chickens. The project addressed the question of what it means to eat meat, and our relationship to meat. At a paradigm level, which is much more abstract, a designer created a book of future recipes for lab grown meat, questioning what the food landscape would look like as a result. Reijnders stresses the importance of questions and challenges coming from the farmers themselves.

Looking ahead, she predicts that future challenges of the agricultural sectors will be food miles, the personification of diets within a singular home, the aging of farmers, and finally, the difficulty of entering farming as a sector. Agri meets Design does the important work of facilitating multidisciplinary relationships, because they are what will lead to radical changes in the sector. “There will always be challenges, especially ones that are time bound” Reijnders says, designers in collaboration with farmers have an important role to play in creating impactful solutions to the agricultural sector.


About the speaker

Anne Reijnders

With a background in behavioral change, Anne Reijnders takes on every new job and event as an adventure. An adventure to create a guiding experience for her clients. Getting people curious and enthusiastic about new ideas and stories is always her mission. As a freelancer she creates events and programmes that revolve around food and behavior. Since 2020, she has been the program coordinator of Agri Meets Design.