Interview with Michaël Wilde from Bionext
Learn more about Bionext’s role in the organic food industry and discover why Michaël believes that soil is one of the most pressing challenges the agriculture industry currently faces.
Bionext is the Dutch branch organisation for the organic food and farming sector. The cooperative represents the interests of organic farmers, processors, traders, and specialised organic shops in the Netherlands. Bionext carries out a large number of projects to propel the organic movement forward and promote sustainable practices in the industry.
Michaël Wilde is deeply passionate about sustainable agriculture. He remains committed to safeguarding our food system for future generations and protecting our planet. Michaël kicked off his career in the food industry in 1997 as an Account Manager for Lithos Foods. Over the next decade, he dove deeper into the fields of marketing and sales, first as an Area Manager for SVZ (2001 - 2004), later as a Commercial Manager for Netra Agro BV (2004 - 2007). In 2007, Michaël joined Eosta B.V. as a Marketing Manager for Nature & More, and in 2010 he transferred within the company to a Sustainability and Communications Manager position. In 2019, Michaël Wilde was appointed Director of Bionext in the Netherlands.
Hello Michaël! Share some insights into how Bionext represents the interests of Dutch organic farmers, processors, traders, and specialised organic shops with us.
As a cooperative, we represent the interests of the Dutch organic farmers, processors, traders, and specialised organic shops. Our main aims are to increase the quality and sustainability of organic production as well as to increase the land area that is managed organically. We do this through advocacy, lobbying, research coordination, setting up networks to improve knowledge dissemination, stimulating consumer involvement, and capacity building. Some activities are for the benefit of the entire organic food and farming sector, while others are aimed at specific value chains or production sectors.
COVID-19 is impacting food supply chain across Europe. What insights can you share from food farmers, processors, and traders in your network?
COVID-19 is having a massive impact on the food supply chain, and the organic sector is no exception. On a positive note, being involved in food means that, as a sector, you are always going to be an essential part of the infrastructure—also in times of crisis such as these. At Bionext, we have set up a special crisis communication team where we are coordinating activities to support our organic members. First and foremost, we are collecting information, so we know what the major COVID-19 business-related issues are.
Describe Bionext's role and involvement with the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).
When it comes to organic legislation, everything happens in Brussels. It is therefore essential to have a close relationship with IFOAM EU. This way, we can not only play our part in ensuring that EU regulations are realistic for our members, but it also helps us to prepare farmers and businesses for developments that are taking place. We are very proud of the fact that a member of the Bionext team is IFOAM-EU's Vice President. One of IFOAM EU's many accomplishments includes the fact that the European Commission has decided that organic farming will play a key role in their Farm to Fork strategy. This part of the EU's new Green Deal which has the ambitious plan to make Europe the first carbon-neutral continent.
As an individual, you are deeply passionate about sustainable agriculture. It has also played a pivotal role in your career. What is it about this sector that you find so fascinating?
If I were only allowed to give a one-word-answer, it would be "impact". Sustainable agriculture and food systems have a massive impact on the future of our planet. When it comes to the tremendous challenges we are currently facing as humankind—climate change, biodiversity loss, soil degradation, health crisis, and water pollution—agriculture is either part of the problem or part of the solution. It is that simple. Time and time again, organic farming and other sustainable farming practices that work together with nature are proving that they are contributing to a cleaner, greener, and more social world.
On the other hand, large-scale chemical farming is very much part of the problem. I recently commissioned the University of Twente to research the link between organic farming and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the conclusion was crystal clear. Organic farming has a direct positive contribution to 7 of the 17 Goals.
What are the most pressing challenges that the agriculture industry must face if it hopes to become more sustainable?
There are many pressing issues concerning agriculture today, but I think the most important one is soil. When you realise that 95% of our food comes directly or indirectly from the soil, and we’re losing the equivalent of 11 football fields of fertile soil every minute, you recognise that the greatest challenge to save the fertility of our soil. The good news is that, when we focus on building soil, we increase the biodiversity on farms, we fight climate change, we save water, we grow healthier food, and we provide a safe place to work for farmworkers. It all comes together in the soil, and organic farmers are true soil heroes as they cannot rely on short-term chemical solutions, such as artificial fertilisers and pesticides.
At foodcircle, we believe that the future of food is 100% organic! What industry trends do you expect to see in the next five years?
It's great to hear that you believe the future of food is 100% organic—I couldn't agree more. Once we have put COVID-19 behind us, the most significant trends will be biodiversity and the climate. At Bionext, we plan to focus on these issues. We will demonstrate how organic farmers are sequestering carbon in soil and supporting life on and around their farms.
Visit bionext.nl for more information about the organisaton.
Connect with Michaël Wilde on LinkedIn
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