Who is collaborating in the project?
16 universities (including UvA), 46 private partners, 11 public partners and 19 supporters unite in the consortium.
The research focuses on microbiomes: the collection of billions of bacteria, fungi and viruses that are all around us. Microorganisms in our intestines are the best known, but microbiomes are everywhere: on our skin, in the soil, in water, in plants and animals. Together, they form a microbiological jungle all around us: a holomicrobiome.
They have major effects on human, animal, plant and environmental health. Recently, new techniques have made it possible to measure, map, understand and predict the composition, function and effects of microbiomes. Consequently, research on microbiomes is exploding. Useful applications come within reach, everywhere in the food system: from healthier food to medical treatments, from sustainable and circular agriculture and animal husbandry to better soil and water quality and reduced greenhouse gas and nutrient emissions.
From chemical to natural agents
'We are using more and more frequent increasingly harsh chemicals to control our food flow,' says UvA professor and coordinator of the research project from the UvA Marten Smidt. 'Those chemicals seep into our food system or even end up directly on our plates. If we better understand how microbiomes work, we can move from a chemical to a natural approach in all sectors of our food chain.'
'We are now looking at the complete food system for the first time, across worlds that until now worked and were studied separately,' says Smidt. Major societal innovations for all parts of the food system should emerge from the research. 'Companies can innovate based on the research and also governments will be able to develop domain- and sector-crossing policies much better than currently, refine their regulations and enforce with diagnostics. That can only happen if we work together in a research collaboration like this.'
National Growth Fund
With the National Growth Fund, the cabinet is investing €20 billion between 2021 and 2025 in projects that will ensure economic growth.