Roeland Meek

Roeland Meek

Landscape Architecture


Land Cultivation

Implementing a food- and agricultural transition

A good average is more than boosted harvest’

Justus von Liebig, 1861, inventor of fertiliser

Although you wouldn’t notice it from the supermarket shelves, we are facing an agricultural crisis in the Netherlands. In the past century, industrialisation and increased scale have taken place in the agricultural sector. Due to the rising value of the agricultural land, production is constantly being ramped up there. The consequences are visible: monocultures are leading to the fragmentation of natural areas, there is a decline in soil quality due to the use of herbicides and overfertilisation, and the CO2 emissions and greenhouse gases are leading to health and environmental problems. Moreover, the high rents for plots perpetuate the pursuit of short-term gains. In short: current business operations are disastrous in the long term for the agricultural sector and for nature.

In order to meet these challenges, the Dutch Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, Carola Schouten, has opted for the transition to circular agriculture by 2030. That means that the animal feed and other food sources will be kept at the farm or obtained from the immediate surroundings and that the food production will be for local use to a much greater extent. However, this requires a mental shift among the farmers who are often able to import cheap animal feed and nutrients at present.

In this graduation plan, the possibilities of circular agriculture as an alternative development for the planned urban expansion in Polder Rijnenburg are examined. The result is a spatial transformation of an empty polder into an attractive production landscape, based on the soil and water regime of the polder. It will thus become a place where agriculture, ecology, recreation and urbanism come together in a logical way. This plan assumes that people will switch to the ‘EAT-Lancet diet’ – more vegetables and less meat – as a result of which there will still be enough food for a global population of 10 billion people in 2050. The plan offers an alternative perspective on the relationship between city and countryside. Local food production is the keyword in that regard.

The elaboration of the subarea Groot Polder Rijnenburg is a spatial translation of the transformation of the conventional agriculture into nature-inclusive agriculture. An eight-metre long scale model, in which the business operations of three farms are linked to each other in a circular cooperative, is the result hereof. The envisaged transformation will possibly be the most far-reaching spatial intervention in the Dutch landscape since the land consolidation schemes. In spite of the topical nature of the assignment and the possible impact, there is still little consideration for this development in the field, even though it is high time a start was made on this.

Graduation committee: Roel van Gerwen (mentor), Noël van Dooren (mentor 2017-2018), Marieke Timmermans and Bruno Vermeersch. Additional members for the exam: Lodewijk van Nieuwenhuize and Yttje Feddes.

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