Partners of the Dutch regional partnership are: municipality of Groningen and Regional Cooperative of Westerkwartier (hereafter RC). The RC was founded in December of 2013. Its members are about 450 rural entrepreneurs, organised in diverse regional rural entrepreneurs’ associations, regional schools and universities of applied sciences, the cooperative (H)Eerlijk Groningen, an association for urban food processors and consumers and HANNN, the Healthy Ageing Network North NL, amongst other subjects dealing with healthy food & nutrition.
A special feature in the Dutch pilot is the cooperation between two regions: the North of the Netherlands (N-NL) and the Rotterdam Metropolitan Area (RMA). The reason for these parallel processes is validation and transfer of best practice approaches. Due to its central position in the region, Groningen provides a clear basis to develop new chain concepts. By transferring and applying them to be used in RMA, we can draw conclusions about the concept to function in a complex metropolitan region. In addition, Rotterdam can offer a cluster approach to be tested and validated. Horticulture entrepreneurs in the RMA have established the Greenport cluster. Unless their main focus on large scale distributions and international markets, the short chain approach is evidentially gaining here market. First practical research shows opportunities for growers to connect with large scale consumers in the health sector. Such cluster approach makes a positive contribution to regional performance and delivers input to smart specialisation strategies, as already in 2008 advocated by the EU Committee of the Regions (Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on ‘Clusters and cluster policy’; 2008/C 257/12).
Step 1: Mapping
In a recent survey, students of Terra Agricultural Vocational Education Centre collected information on companies in the Westerkwartier region involved in producing/processing/ providing food products and supplies. This process is mirrored by the students of Wellant College in the metropolitan area of Rotterdam. At both locations, they were guided by pioneer students of Hanze U.a.S. in Groningen, who organised themselves in a start-up. In this context, the city of Rotterdam has compiled the relevant regional food information on http://www.cityforliving.org/nl/homepage to provide initial input for the REFRAME project. In close cooperation with the Partners from Flanders, the information will be further collected in a database so as to aggregate the data and produce food chain options.
Students will collect similar information on food demand of public and corporate organisations. This information will also be put in the Dutch pilot database to produce aggregated data and to identify matches and mismatches with supplier’s information. NL-pilot experts from the REFRAME partner network will produce the Regional Food-Map of Groningen in terms of products, volumes, prices ranges and delivery conditions. It is important to note that this probably will affect only part of the overall urban food demand (i.e. dairy, meat, vegetables, fruit).
This register of organisations will be the basis to address and mobilise participants in creating the Regional Food Frame (RFF). NL will share their outputs and tools with the other pilots.
Step 2: Smart specialisation strategies
Supported with materials produced in WP 2 (Communication), the RC will invite the regional SMEs for a kick off session to learn from the Regional Food Map. It will show matches and mismatches and identify business opportunities. We expect to address more than 100 SMEs on this occasion. They will be invited to explore the business opportunities in more detail. Experts from WP 4 (learning lab) will arrange for a series of 2 masterclasses where the SMEs are supported to identify and develop their smart specialisation strategies (SSSs). Teachers and students from the participating vocational schools and U.A.Ss will together form a support team. Alongside these workshops, experts from WP 4 will provide a training program for the SMEs to acquire skills relevant to their SSSs and the –requirements for regional cooperation. Every participant will get access to the REFRAME knowledge base which will be under permanent construction.
In addition, entrepreneurs and experts will elaborate on what specialisations and volumes are required on the road towards a Regional Supply Proposition. Current food supply facilities in combination with the SSSs developed and the required skills now provide the building blocks for a feasible Regional Supply Proposition in the NL-pilot. This proposition is specific on products, volumes, quality criteria, prices and delivery conditions. Parallel to this process, an urban food demonstration and expo centre will be established and furnished to host workshops and masterclasses. For that purpose, the municipality of Groningen will make available space at a former sugar factory near to the city centre. The NL-pilot partners will develop a detailed strategy to produce information and presentation material to be presented at the expo centre, assisted by WP 2 and the transnational expert team.
Step 3 Urban Intentions
Municipality of Groningen already has adopted a food policy in favour for healthy regional food. With the Regional Food Map and the Regional Supply Proposition, we have a strong case to persuade urban policy makers in the corporate and public sector in Groningen to define their food strategies and be prepared to develop, detail and declare their urban market intent for regional food supplies. They will only refer to products of regional origin and by consequence, cover only a part of the total food consumption by the corporate and public institutional consumers.
Step 4: Cooperation and market structure
The RC itself is a fine example of a regional multi stakeholder cooperative (MSC). They are cooperating on the basis of a shared agenda towards regional economic vitality. The topic of food adds focus to the agenda and forges common interests of both consumers and suppliers in a regional cooperative framework. The Dutch example of the regional MSC will serve as inspiration for the other partner pilots. Consumers and suppliers will develop and sign their 1st Regional Food Contract (RFC). They also will agree on a commonly owned Regional Food Agency (RFA) as the responsible body for the proper delivery of the contract.
Step 5: Try out contract delivery
The last stage is to deliver of the 1st try-out of the RFC. The RFA is in charge and takes care of proper chain management, delivery survey, procedures and administration, invoicing and reporting to the RFF-partners. Also in this stage bottlenecks will be identified and repaired. The pilot will finish with agreements on follow ups and the delivery of theresource reference centre with concepts, insight, tools, information and examples to support people and organisations to set up and maintain their RFFs. The Dutch partnership will have its pilot monitored on how the RFF will operate and deliver.