Theme Profitable and resilient food systems

ILVO develops tools and pathways to guide farmers, fishermen, and food companies towards better business models. This can be about broadening, deepening, product innovation, specialization, or changes to the organizational form of the production system.

Round cheeses on shelving

Supply chains in transition

Despite the excellent quality of their products, farmers do not always get enough money for them. Many factors such as scale, labor costs, logistics, and more all determine the pricing. The price of agricultural products fluctuates because our farmers are producing for a global market. Action labs, participative research, learning research networks, agricultural economic business analysis, and more: ILVO develops methods and trajectories that guide agriculture, fisheries and food businesses onto other tracks. These can lead to broadening, deepening, product innovation or specialization, or to changed organizational forms of the production system.

Niche markets

The profitability of the production systems is under pressure, partly due to globalization and international trade agreements. Cost-efficiency becomes ever more important for mass production. At the same time, there is space at the local level for less intensive niche production systems with a shorter link to the consumer. These systems are also helping to improve the image of the sector.

ILVO certainly sees a future for specific products developed for smaller markets with better margins. This larger margin can be the result of better characterization at nutritional level, the presence of bioactive components, an innovative way of processing or the specific local character of a product.

Short supply chains, CSA, bio, urban and conventional agriculture

The cattle farmers who chose for an alternative approach by setting up a niche production system are responding to the demands of society, such as short supply chains, access to pasture, free-range chickens, non-castration of male piglets, or organic cattle farming.

Organic cattle farming and plant production form a separate niche with specific questions. At the same time, these new subsectors deliver knowledge that helps the conventional sector to become more sustainable. An exchange of knowledge and expertise between the conventional and organic sector can help to establish a more sustainable and acceptable cattle system through collaborative research. Knowledge development and expert support are indispensable here because such changes can obviously have a big impact on farm operations. By developing a systems vision of niche production systems, we help the sector to focus more on niches that guarantee sufficient market demand and profitability. Scientific research and technical knowledge can help to make these niches successful.

In addition, it is equally important that we continue to offer support in further optimizing the primary production for our own food processing industry. ILVO will continue to be a valuable technological partner for all these players.

Creation of value via plant breeding

The extensive expertise in plant breeding built by ILVO over several decennia offers a whole range of possibilities for creation of added value in different sectors. ILVO advocates for new, marketable cultivars of agricultural and horticultural crops (green manures, industrial crops, feed, food and ornamental crops) with a clear added value: higher yield, better quality (nutritional and feeding value, visual-aesthetic value), increased tolerance to biotic and abiotic stress factors, more efficient use of water and nutrients, or a modified composition of compounds. We work on participative development of new breeds, which can be applied either on a large scale or in niche markets.

Higher profitability in the food industry

In the sectors that process primary products, important steps can also be taken towards more profitable systems or products with added value. Examples include milder processing technologies, monitoring of the impact of processing on food quality, and taste testing. ILVO strives continuously to capture the needs of both primary producers and the processing industry in Flanders, and to underpin them with scientific expertise in order to increase the economical added value of both sectors.

We provide specific recommendations to innovative companies that want to specialize in the short supply chain as well as advise larger food companies. Together with them we design new food products and processes and help them to commercialize innovations under construction in these sectors with well-grounded scientific support.

Contact an expert

Photo of Fleur Marchand

Fleur Marchand

Scientific director of Social Sciences department


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