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CROP Innovation & Business Meetup: Transforming metropolitan regions into B...

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Agro Business Park 90

6708 PW Wageningen


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Transforming metropolitan regions into Blue Zones: Plant secrets for Healthy Living

Blue Zones are regions of the world, generally in the countryside, where people are healthier and live much longer than average. These zones are spread around the world. It was discovered that the people inhabiting these zones share lifestyle characteristics that contribute to their longevity, one of them being a plant-based diet.

Caused by urbanization more than 60% of the world population will be living in metropolitan zones in 2030. Current Blue Zones can be typified as ‘non-urban’. What do we need to convert urban zones into Blue Zones? Will a shift to more plant consumption help? How will plant breeding companies worldwide support the transition to blue-zone metropolitan regions?

During the CROP Innovation & Business Meet-up on September 19th, views and insights will be shared about perspectives and hurdles in converting metropolitan regions into blue zones.

During the event you͛ are also invited to join a tour through KeyGene's CROP Innovation Center, to take part in a virtual crop science reality and to get up-to-speed with a masterclass 'Deep learning'.


13.00 hrs Registration

13.30 Official Opening by moderator Katja Berkhout

Welcome by Prof. dr. Arjen van Tunen, CEO KeyGene

Keynote presentations by amongst others:

  • Michel Poulain, Professor Emeritus & first to discover Blue Zones

  • Rob Hamer, Vice-President Discover Foods and R&D Director Unilever

  • John Apesos, CEO and Co-Founder GROWx

  • Fabian Schvartzman, Strategic Research & Development Lead AeroFarms

15.15 Networking


  • Breakour sessions - round 1

  • Masterclass Deep learning - the big leap for crop innovation

  • Tour behind the scenes at KeyGene, a.o virtual reality breeding

  • Networking


  • Breakout sessions - round 2

  • Masterclass Deep learning - the big leap for crop innovation

  • Tour behind the scenes at KeyGene, a.o virtual reality breeding

  • Networking

17:15 Final remarks

17:30 Drinks

Who's there
CEOs, CSOs, Business executives, heads of R&D/Biotech, legal firms, key scientists and investors from the international Agri-Food sector will be present.

When & Where
19 September 2018, 13.00-18.00 hrs
KeyGene, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Please note that number of participants is limited to 140, early registration is highly recommended. The meet-up on September 19th is the pre-event for next year͛s three-day CROP Innovation & Business event in Amsterdam. KeyGene is founder of the bi-annual Crop Innovation & Business Conference. The 9th edition will be held in Amsterdam, April 14-16, 2019.

Meet the people presenting their views on transforming metropolitan regions into Blue Zones

These are the people who will be given the floor during the CROP Innovation & Business Meet-up on Wednesday 19 September 2019 at KeyGene in Wageningen.

Michel Poulain, Professor Emeritus & first to discover Blue Zones

Michel Poulain was originally skilled in astrophysics at University of Liège (ULg) he received a PhD in demography at Université catholique de Louvain (UCL). As demographer, he is specialized in Longevity studies. Currently emeritus professor at UCL, he is also Senior Researcher at the Estonian Institute for Population Studies at Tallinn University (Estonia). He has been President of the Société Belge de Démographie (1984-1990) and later of the Association Internationale des Démographes de Langue Française (AIDELF) (1988-2000).

Involved in centenarian’s studies since 1992 he is active member of the International Database on Longevity (IDL) and the International Centenarian Consortium (ICC). He validated the age of numerous supercentenarians including Antonio Todde, Johan Riudavets and Emma Moreno, each of them holding the Guinness record of longevity. He also invalidated the age of numerous others including the famous supercentenarians of the Caucasus.

In 2000, he was involved in validation the age of the numerous centenarians in Sardinia in cooperation with Gianni Pes, a Sardinian Medical Doctor. In this framework, he introduced the concept of Blue Zone when identifying an exceptional longevity area in the mountainous part of Sardinia. The original term Blue Zone was related to the blue pen that he used to shape the longevity area on the map of Sardinia. In two Sardinian villages, Villagrande and Seulo, he demonstrated with colleagues an exceptional situation where men live as long as women do, a unique situation in our modern societie. Thereafter in cooperation with Dan Buettner, he identified other Blue Zones in Okinawa, the Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica) and Ikaria (Greece).

Rob Hamer, Vice-President Agri-Foods External Affairs, Unilever Nederland

Rob Hamer graduated in (bio-)chemistry from the State University of Utrecht in 1981, and obtained a PhD degree in medicine (1986) from the same university. He started his career as a food chemist at the TNO Cereals, Flour and Bread Institute. In 1997 he was appointed as Director at the newly founded Technological Top Institute called Top Institute Food & Nutrition. In addition, Rob was appointed in 1999 part-time Professor in Technology of Cereal Proteins at the Food Chemistry group of Wageningen University. Rob has published over 160 articles in international journals (H-index 33), is the author and editor of several books, and received various prizes for his achievements in cereal science.

As of December 2009, Rob was appointed Vice President Discover, Unilever R&D, Vlaardingen. From 2011-2018 he was appointed head of laboratory and Vice President R&D Foods. Rob is VP Agri & Food External Affairs Unilever NL as of 1st July 2018.

Rob serves on the boards of a number of organizations including ILSI Europe, TKI Agri&Food and Food Valley.

From April 2014 Rob is chair of the Commission Technology and Innovation VNO-NCW.

As of 2015 Rob is a member of the Nationale Wetenschapsagenda and as of June 2015 Rob is President of FoodNexus.

John Apesos, CEO and Co-Founder of GROWx

John Apesos won the TEDx Amsterdam “Ideas Worth Doing Award” in 2011 and built collaborations with greenhouse-engineering firms, universities and Amsterdam’s innovation community to bring his vision to reality. He then initiated his vertical farm development company in 2012. In 2016, he founded GrowX by raising 1.85 million in seed capital & project finance. John prior to GrowX, John worked in venture capital backed start-ups in many areas: media, couture fashion, LED lighting and creative leadership in business development and marketing. In his 20´s John lived in 6 countries, traveled to over 25 and taught environmental education and leadership as an Outward Bound instructor leading teams on wilderness, urban and team building expeditions. John has since given talks at various TEDx events, Big Improvement Day, University of Amsterdam, Erasmus University, Pakhuis De Zwijger, and TU Delft. John has a MBA from Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University, BA in History from Boston University & is trained in wilderness rescue by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).

Fabian Schvartzman, Strategic Research & Development Lead AeroFarms

Fabian Schvartzman is Strategic Research and Technology Development Lead at AeroFarms, a clean-technology company that builds and operates responsible, state-of-the art indoor vertical farms in urban environments around the world, helping transform agriculture. A Certified B Corporation, AeroFarms has been recognized by Fast Company as one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies in Food and by Inc. as one of the Top 25 Disruptive Companies.

In his current work, Fabian oversees all AeroFarms R&D projects and manages the relationships with potential R&D strategic partners.

Fabian joined AeroFarms after graduating from Stanford Graduate School of Business. Beforehand, Fabian worked at Intel as a Process Engineer and a Group Leader.

Fabian also holds a MSc in chemistry from the Weizmann Institute of Science where he investigated potential Alzheimer Disease inhibitors.

Arjen van Tunen, CEO KeyGene

Arjen van Tunen has been CEO of KeyGene since 2004. Under his leadership, KeyGene has developed into a leading internationally operating ag-bio company that supplies knowledge and research to breeding companies all over the world. KeyGene is currently one of the largest Agro Biotech companies in the world, with around 150 employees in Wageningen, the Netherlands and around 15 employees at subsidiaries in the US and India.

Arjen van Tunen previously worked as a director at the Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences, part of the University of Amsterdam. He also worked as R & D director of Plant Research International at Wageningen University & Research. Van Tunen is a board member at FoodValley, HollandBio, VNO-NCW and EuropaBio.

Our chair of the day: Katja Berghout

Katja Berkhout is International Director at StartupDelta. She is an allround executive with over 14 years of experience in international business advisory and economic development in Northern America and Europe.

During 4 years in Boston, one of the worlds leading innovation ecosystems, Katja Berghout worked with hundreds of corporates and scale ups. She advised C-level leadership at these companies on EU growth strategy and setting up operational activities in the Netherlands. Back in the Netherlands she joined StartupDelta, in support of special envoy Neelie Kroes. As part of a small team and extensive partnernetwork she successfully helped position the Netherlands as Europe’s West Coast for startups, investors and corporates in Silicon Valley, New York, Boston and other global innovation hubs.

Most recently Katja has built a team, program and community at the largest weekly innovation gathering in Rotterdam (and probably the Netherlands), Venture Café Rotterdam. Every Thursday 300+ startups, corporates, business angels, VC’s, academia and other innovators gather at Venture Café in the Cambridge Innovation Center for access to new deals, inspiration and serendipitous connections in a high energy networking environment.

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Agro Business Park 90

6708 PW Wageningen


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