New educational program: Food, Life & Innovation

by: Stein van Berkel, Terra (VET)

Update March 2020:
Last time we informed you that the centre of expertise Terra is developing a new course in the “world” of Food. Now we can proudly announce that Terra started the course at Groningen. 25 students follow the program and a several companies are actively involved. Next schoolyear the second group of students will start.

Why develop a new course? New challenges, new knowledge, new education
The world of food is in huge movement. Consumers want to know where their food comes from and what exactly is in it. The influence of food on health and well-being is getting more and more attention. And due to developments, such as CO2 reduction and takeovers of supermarkets, the current food chain is under pressure. The centre of expertise Terra also finds that these issues are mentioned increasingly in all kinds of collaborations.
Terra means "green" education: it offers courses in the primary agricultural sector, such as livestock farming and arable farming. There is no training yet which gives attention to the role of nutrition in relation to social issues such as health, food chains and origin of food. Food is green and therefore suitable for Terra's education. The new course enriches the educational offer of Terra and the region.

A program developed with the business community
From here Terra has started to develop the training. The aim is to provide the student with a broad knowledge of the world of nutrition and the developments in it so that he/she can provide information and advice about this. To achieve that, Terra has close cooperation with companies and the regional challenges within the program. 

In order for this to be actually implemented in the Food, Life & Innovation program, the program add the knowledge on the basis of cases obtained from the business community. In this way, the student is always dealing with issues that actually play in practice. This is motivating for the student and teacher. The business community has a real influence on what they consider important to be addressed in the training. With that, they are more inclined to use their self more actively. Companies have been approached within the entire chain, such as fresh meal makers, logistics companies, health care institutions, producers and supermarkets. From all these sectors it emerged that there is an issue in the above areas, that new jobs arise, but that the knowledge is still lacking.

Ultimately, the student is familiar with the broad world of nutrition and the role of food on the social themes. The program is a level 4 program and offers good transfer possibilities, for example in higher professional education, such as the Nutrition & Dietetics and Nutrition & Design program.

The mandatory courses such as Mathematics, English and Dutch are offered in full on the basis of the case. The school remains responsible for education. The case will therefore be translated into the right level and content in consultation with the business community.
Terra has set up a Sector Advisory Board of companies from the entire chain that carry and propagate the training. In practice this means, among other things, that companies can provide guest lecturers, company visits can be organized, internships can be made available and cases can be delivered. In addition to the SAR, there are many other large and small companies that are involved in the development and implementation of the training.
In the training, much attention is paid to personal development, entrepreneurship and development power so that the student has tools to be able to participate in the ever-changing world.

Of course, Terra is still developing the course. New student will start next schoolyear and the second and third year will be further developed. Other courses that Terra provides learn from the new education concept and see how this can be made applicable in their course.

Lessons learned
Although it is a success, we also learned some lessons:

  • The new way of education demands something from the internal organization. For example, a different role is requested from the teacher. The teacher becomes a coach and a networker. Not every Terra teacher possesses these skills.
  • Terra will have to make an effort to offer the teachers training for this.
  • Another important point for properly shaping this method of education is that education must be organized more flexibly. Within education, the timetable has so far often been leading.
  • When implementing the Food, Life & Innovation training course, this was one of the obstacles that proved difficult to tackle.
  • It has been solved by giving the Food, Life & Innovation program a project status for the next three years. Terra provides experimentation space. What has been learned serves as a guideline for gradually changing Terra's other courses to this concept.


  • The students are really satisfied. They are concerned with issues that business is also concerned with. This provides motivation for the student, teacher and business.
  • Terra and the partners are also very proud of the fact that the students of Food, Life & Innovation participated in a challenge against food waste. The students have won this national challenge.

Contact information

Please contact:
Stein van Berkel