• Digital
  • Nature

Kick-starting the Dutch national agrifood innovation ecosystem

Clients: Wageningen University & Research, Brainport Development Eindhoven, Innovation Quarter, FME – Powered by Dutch Technology

Date: May – October 2023

Location: The Netherlands

The European agrifood sector needs to transition to sustainable, circular, and emission-free production, processing and packaging. To remain globally competitive, further automation, robotising and digitalisation is essential. Key enabling technologies such as artificial intelligence, sensors, and robotics, play an important role in this transition. How can we develop, apply and scale these technologies while addressing societal challenges and farmer needs?

Bax supported the Dutch national innovation program NXTGEN Handsfree Agrifood (200 million+ euro budget) detailing the work programme, securing funding and kick-starting the work, laying the foundation for a thriving innovation ecosystem.


The Dutch agrifood sector is facing growing labour shortages, while the demand for safe and healthy food is growing. At the same time, the agrifood sector has to deal with challenges around soil health, resource use, energy, climate change, increasing quality & safety criteria and diverse customer needs. A national R&D and innovation programme has to address these challenges and create business opportunities for tech suppliers, farmers, food processors and retail.


Bax supported the NXTGEN Handsfree Agrifood consortium in aligning the expectations and contributions of the multi-stakeholder consortium in the start-up phase. We conducted over 30 interviews to identify common themes, bottlenecks, needs and wishes for the working programme, fostering challenge-driven innovation instead of tech push. A decision-making framework was developed to prioritise the research, development and innovation activities and investment choices. Building bridges, trust and common ground for a collaborative work environment. 


Bax supported laying a strong foundation for the innovation ecosystem to thrive, steering investment choices to secure the 27 million euro funding for ecosystem activities. Together, the 60+ organisations will continue advancing their innovative solutions to transition to a ‘handsfree’ agrifood sector, while contributing to sustainability and food security.

budget for ecosystem activities
0 M
organisations connected to develop, test and demonstrate sector-wide innovations
0 +
innovative use case projects to share knowledge and accelerate innovation

The key challenge for the agrifood sector is to transition to sustainable and nature-inclusive food production while remaining competitive. The NXTGEN Handsfree Agrifood programme will represent a significant step towards achieving this future vision by utilising the latest technological developments to help business owners become more sustainable. This can only be achieved by fostering an innovation ecosystem with a collaborative and mission-driven spirit, and it has been a great pleasure to support laying the foundation for that.

– Gerard Don, Innovation Consultant

Project team

Gerard Don
Innovation Consultant
Kees Joosten
Director, Utrecht Office
Max Meijer
Innovation Consultant

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