1. The sustainability challenge and ambition, problem statement, and research question with regard to Agriculture

‘Food and More’ is the sub system that is researched in this chapter. Food is a very wide domain of research in which two main divisions can be made. The first division is the production side. We will investigate what role food production plays in the socio-technical system of Texel. The other side is consumption. The people on the island need to feed themselves and we are investigating what effect this has on the island.

We try to find key problems in the socio technical system of the island. We will formulate a future perspective as a possible solution to solve these problems.

Texel is an island close to the northwest side of the mainland of the Netherlands. It is bordering the North Sea on the west side and the Wadden sea on the east side. It is the largest island of the Netherlands and it has about 13600 inhabitants. The island is largely dependent on tourism. The average tourist ‘population’ throughout the year is about as big as the permanent population itself. The inhabitant-tourist population is thus 50:50. [1]

1.1  The scale and focus of the unsustainabilities of the research

1.1.1 Scale

The food we consume nowadays comes from all over the world. For this research it is impossible to focus on the entire worldwide food chain. It is rather necessary in this research to investigate on the scale of the island and the connection to the mainland.

The food system is an important branch on the island. It creates a lot of jobs on both the production and the consumption side. Agriculture and fishing account for 10,4% of the jobs on the island. The hotel, restaurant and café branch accounts for another 20,3%. The hotels are not as closely related to food as the restaurants and cafés. Therefore the real percentage of jobs related to food in this category should be a bit less. However, together with agriculture, it is still one of the biggest branches.

The food system is also important for the landscape of Texel. About 65% of the area of the island is used for agricultural purposes. Farmers have therefore a big influence on the appearance of the landscape, but also on the ecology of the island. Both aspects are important attractors for tourists and thus very valuable for the island. [2]


1.1.2 Focus

On the production side of the system, we focus on the effects of agriculture on the landscape. What is the relation of the farmer with the landscape? How do they keep it attractive for tourists? And how do they cope with regulations to preserve the ecosystem? For example, farmers are not allowed to irrigate their land. But how do you keep sufficient yields despite that? 

A collective of farmers on Texel that calls itself “The Waddengroep” made a shortlist of common problems. The problems are not only affecting the agricultural sector, but it has also influence on other parts of the Texel’ society and ecosystem. 

1: A sharp reduction in the number of farms and farm employment in the area.

2: Declining incomes and outward migration.

3: Significant environmental losses (especially of an uncharacteristic Dutch landscape of leafy hedgerows) due to scale-enlargement farming; hence, loss of spatial diversity and places of specific natural beauty as well as the loss of traditional breeds and architecture.

4: Standardisation of products for world markets, and ever-declining prices were leading to the loss of traditional ways of producing, processing and consuming within the Wadden Islands. [3]

We also focus on the connection to the mainland. A lot of food has to come from the mainland. It is a bit more expensive and unsustainable due to the extra transport. It is also impeding financial security for farmers, because the extra transport costs make it harder to compete with farmers on the mainland. How can the position of the farmer be strengthened and how can the food chain of Texel be made more sustainable? Less dependence on the mainland could be a solution for this. 

We also focus on the main consumers of the island. How can the consumption habits of both tourists and locals be made more sustainable? A lot of food has to come from the mainland and accounts therefore for a larger eco-footprint. Can increased locality be an answer to this?

1.2 The societal needs that the sub-system has to fulfill 

Tourism is the main business on the island. It keeps the economy running. So one of the first societal needs is a viable touristic sector. The food system should contribute to this so that it can also exploit it.

The waddengroup has come up with a few cornerstones that should help solving the problems stated in the previous paragraph.

The cornerstones of the Waddengroup initiative were:

1: Combining local experiences and effort to build up a collective capacity in producing primary products (Texel sheep and a variety of cheeses, for instance), in processing, distributing and sales.

2: Using collective knowledge to support new members and others engaged in related businesses within the Wadden, area.

3: Implement, by means of a registered trademark and a common logo, a collective presentation for a wide assortment of products from the area on the basis of high quality and place of origin. (To qualify, processed products had to be at least 51% locally sourced.) [4]

These cornerstones are concrete proposals to fulfill more abstract societal needs.

Creating better job perspective is one of them. The agricultural sector is not really profitable. Farmers can’t any longer live solely from agricultural practice and therefore have to find other part-time jobs. They are mostly producing staple crops and cannot compete with the mainland because of the higher transport costs. Agriculture thus has to be made more profitable.

Another societal need is the prevention of migration. Many young adults migrate from the island, because they can find better jobs on the mainland. There is thus a need for more attractive well-paid jobs on the island to attract the youth.

Another societal need is the preservation of the landscape. Texel has a special character that is attractive for both locals and tourists. Preserving the landscape contributes to the identity of the island and brings economical resources. A direct resource is the agricultural yield. Indirect benefits come from tourists that are attracted by the landscape. Preservation of the ecosystem is thus important as a societal need. Protection of biodiversity can also be seen as an important basic need for mankind worldwide.[3]

1.3 The sustainability criteria that the future sub-system should meet

The future food production system should contribute effectively to preservation and improvement of the ecosystem. Farmers should focus at crops that are more suitable to grow on the island. These crops should be more profitable than stable crops that are also grown on the mainland. The food production should be an effective symbiosis with the environment. The soil is a bit saline and is therefore suitable for growing halophytes. Research has to be done to figure out which halophyte crops are suitable and profitable. The crops can be used as delicacies contributing to the food-identity of Texel. The gained expertise in farming on saline soil can also be exploited in other parts of the world.  

The system should focus on local production and consumption. Food kilometres can be reduced in this manner and in this way it is easier to close the food cycle. The island becomes more independent and lowers its environmental impact. It is impossible to close the food cycle entirely, but we can at least try to close it as much as possible.

The food industry should contribute to tourism to make it more profitable. Tourism can help marketing the local products, which can also be exported to the mainland. Selling the products on the mainland is counter-effective for closing cycles, but it is helpful for economical reasons. Export to the mainland is a necessary for a healthy financial future, but it has to be more sustainable. There has to be looked for a more efficient import and export system.


1.4 Sketch of the future socio-technical sub-system    

Farmers should be provided with information about nature preservation and suitable crops to contribute to the environment. These crops should be more profitable than the ones they grow now.

The agricultural sector should rather focus on local delicacies and innovative crops or cultivation techniques. It should focus more on knowledge that can be exported than bulk production. The “Zilt Proefbedrijf” is a good example of an innovative way of agriculture.

Tourism is used to market the local products. Local food becomes an integral part of the restaurant branch. The marketing of local delicacies will contribute to eco-awareness and nature preservation and more export to the mainland.

The municipality is stimulating use of local products by restaurants and inhabitants with regulation. A special tax on imported foods can be an exemplary measure. Closing cycles is impossible, but the municipality should pursue it. Centralized import and export can contribute to more efficient transport and consequently smaller eco footprint.



[1] VVV Texel, (2014). Factsheet Toerisme op Texel 2014. https://www.texel.net/getfile;1043 

[2] Texel in Figures

[3] Marsden, T., Smith,E., (2005). Ecological entrepreneurship: sustainable development in local communities through quality food production and local branding. Geoforum, 36(4)

[4] Texel cooking and real Texel products



Iris , Syed Aaquib Hazari , Borris

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