About this theme

Within the NWO theme Agro, Food and Horticulture, scientists are seeking answers to questions in three areas:

Sustainable and safe production

Only by producing sustainably can we meet the growing demand for food and raw materials. To achieve this, we need information about the resilience of the production system, to avoid excessive drains on soil, water, energy and nutrients. Increasing the yield of existing crops will also contribute to food security for all, without this being at the expense of the environment.

Healthy food

Healthy food contains low levels of sugar, salt, saturated and trans fatty acids, and sufficient fibres. Not everything we like to eat meets those conditions. How do you produce food that is not only tasty but also healthy? Because the nutrients someone needs are not the same for everyone, and those needs change throughout a person’s life, research into personalised nutrition (food adjusted to personal requirements) is an important development in science. One example is bread using wheat replacements for people with a gluten allergy.

And if healthy alternatives are available, the consumer should actually want to eat them. How should you encourage consumers to eat healthily and how can producers contribute to a healthy lifestyle? These issues are also addressed as part of the theme Agro, Food and Horticulture.

Food security from a global perspective

If we are to eventually supply the whole world with good quality food, we need information about sustainable local food production with higher yields. But we also need research into access to food. How can consumers in developing countries obtain safe and good food, and how can producers and markets meet this need? And how can we reduce food wastage and improve the preservability of harvested products?

Top sectors Agri&Food and Horticulture and Propagation Materials

The Dutch cabinet has designated nine top sectors in which the Netherlands is a world leader and in which the government will make targeted investments  together with industry and researchers.

The three priority areas of the NWO theme Agro, Food and Horticulture overlap to a large extent with the three topics in the top sector Agrofood:

  • 'More with less' due to sustainable, innovative food systems
  • Higher added value due to an innovative focus on health, sustainability, taste and convenience
  • International leadership through the export of products and integrated system solutions

The top sector Horticulture and Propagation Materials is centred around four topics that largely concur with the priority areas of the NWO theme:

  • More with less
  • Food safety and security
  • Health and well-being
  • Collaborating value chain


Research within the NWO theme Agro, Food and Horticulture generates knowledge that can be used by industry. The theme encourages innovative research that provides a broad basis for strategic and application-oriented research. The theme promotes collaboration between science, industry, public authorities and social partners in joint research programmes.

The research programmes conducted by NWO in 2012 and 2013 are outlined in the NWO proposals for the top sectors Agri&Food and Horticulture and Propagation Materials.