SFU partners with Dutch agritech powerhouse Wageningen University & Research to spur innovation

April 19, 2023
Netherlands Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Liesje Schreinemacher, WUR President Dr. Sjoukje Heimovaara, SFU President Joy Johnson and Netherland Consul General in Vancouver Sebastiaan Messerschmidt attend the signing of the LOI between the two universities on April 19, 2023.

Food security and sustaining agriculture in the face of climate change are global challenges that require global solutions, which is why Simon Fraser University is partnering with the world’s top agritech university.

During an Innovation Day event hosted by the B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation (BCCAI) in Surrey today, Simon Fraser University and Wageningen University & Research signed a Letter of Intent to collaborate on future research programs, share knowledge and spark innovation in the agritech field.

“I am excited about this partnership because SFU and Wageningen University & Research have a shared commitment to advancing knowledge and solutions to global challenges,” says SFU President Joy Johnson. “Together, we will tackle critical topics such as food production and climate change, and I look forward to seeing the results of our joint efforts in the years ahead.”

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) is a public university in Wageningen, Netherlands, specializing in life sciences with a focus on agriculture, technical and engineering subjects. It is a globally important center for life sciences and agricultural research. It is located in a region of the Netherlands known as the Food Valley.

WUR is consistently ranked No. 1 in the world in agriculture & forestry, as an agricultural university and in agricultural sciences, along with other plaudits for its commitment to environment, ecology and sustainability.

“We highly value this new partnership with Simon Fraser University as they are just as ambitious as our university to tackle global challenges in securing a sustainable future,” says WUR President Dr. Sjoukje Heimovaara. “No single government or scientific entity can do this alone. We need these kinds of partnerships to work on humanity’s greatest challenge: to make sure life on earth stays within the planetary boundaries.”

The synergies between SFU and WUR extend beyond the university level.

Recognizing the ever-evolving changes to regional and global food systems, the Province of B.C. and the Netherlands signed a two-year action plan in May 2022 to explore collaborative opportunities in agricultural technology.

“Encouraging collaboration in agriculture and agritech is crucial to improving food security in B.C. and around the world, while also creating hundreds of well-paying jobs,” says B.C. Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation Brenda Bailey. “The partnership between SFU and Wageningen University & Research to advance research and development collaborations and student exchanges demonstrates great progress and is a direct result of B.C.’s trade mission to Europe last year.”

Today’s agreement and Innovation Day event advances the scientific collaboration component of the action plan.

"Given today's global challenges such as climate change and labour shortage, it is important for the Dutch and B.C. agricultural sectors to come together to innovate and create solutions,” says Netherlands Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Liesje Schreinemacher. “The cooperation between SFU and Wageningen University will be essential in this cooperation, also driven by the private sector."

Under the terms of the Letter of Intent, the two universities will work together to set up a collaborative innovation ecosystem through BCCAI, along with exploring a range of academic and research activities, such as joint research, student exchanges, and collaborations between the two institutions to address food security.

“In partnership with WUR and SFU, BCCAI is committed to making the future a little brighter for everyone,” says BCCAI scientific director Woo Soo Kim, “both in Canada and the Netherlands, as well as all those who will benefit from the incredible developments, discoveries, and agritech leaders that will emerge from this collaboration.”

BCCAI, which opened September 2022 at SFU’s Surrey campus, is generously supported with $10M through Pacific Economic Development Canada (PacifiCan) and $6.5M through the Province of British Columbia to position B.C. as a world leader in agriculture technology (agritech).

It brings together industry partners, academic researchers, government and agri-producers to create more productive, diverse and resilient food supply chains, and is focused on developing, testing and piloting solutions in simulated and real-world environments to be farm-ready for commercialization.

The centre is expected to create over 200 jobs and help train more than 700 workers, while adding 30 new agritech projects throughout the province by 2025.