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Living Lab Vrouwe Vennepolder

The 'living lab' Vrouwe Vennepolder is situated just north of Leiden, The Netherlands, and aims to find ways to improve the agriculture of the future.

The Netherlands is situated in a fertile river delta with varying landscapes and ecosystems. Peat covers about one third of the land. Agriculture - especially dairy farming - has flourished through the creation of ditches and gradually lowering the groundwater.

However, the downside of this is the increased CO2 losses, biodiversity decline and increasing costs for farmers. In order to change this situation and create perspective for farmers, food production and a rich attractive biodiverse landscape, we run an ambitious 10-year experiment in the Vrouwe Vennepolder. This piece of land was recently acquired by the quickly expanding cooperation ‘Land van Ons’. In this polder, we try to realise the agriculture of the future.

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Restoring biodiversity while maintaining food production

In this living lab experiment, we want to restore the biodiversity of the agricultural peat-meadow areas in the Netherlands while maintaining food production, by putting nature-inclusive circular agriculture into practice. The goals of this living lab are threefold: First, we investigate whether the proposed agricultural methods lead to the desired result in terms of biodiversity, environmental quality and socio-economic goals. Second, we monitor the change in biodiversity recovery and make subsequent recommendations on how to scale up. Finally, we strengthen the knowledge and education surrounding this living lab by involving citizens, students and knowledge institutions at different levels to create a stronger bridge between the city and the country side.

Collaboration with the local community

In the Vrouwe Vennepolder we unite with famers to search for an alternative to the conventional dairy farming that is common in this type of peat meadow areas. We experiment with five types of agriculture: extensive herbaceous grazing land, moist flowery meadowland, raised peat moss farming, perennial farming with fish farming on peat, and community supported agriculture (CSA).

Figure: This figure shows the potential layout of the 5 agricultural methods that are studied in the Vrouwe Vennepolder.
Figure: This figure shows the potential layout of the 5 agricultural methods that are studied in the Vrouwe Vennepolder.

Translate outcomes to other parts of Europe

During the 10-year study, we expect results regarding the improvement of the biodiversity and landscape quality of the Vrouwe Vennepolder, sustainable alternatives for current agricultural activities accompanied by a transferable revenue model, and a strengthening of the urban-rural relationship. The successes of this project will be translatable to the entire Holland-Rijnland region and the low peat areas of the Groene Hart. In addition, the insights can also be widely applied in peat meadow areas in the rest of the Netherlands, thereby making an integral contribution to a sustainable future. Finally, our ambition is to make the results of this project translatable and internationally inspiring for all peat meadow areas from Zeeland (Netherlands) to Lithuania.

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