After a four-year absence, it is time for the 25th edition of the Witloofbiënnale (Chicory biennial) on October 7 and 8. The last event was held in the Netherlands (Etten-Leur); this year, it will travel to Kampenhout, Belgium. "More specifically, the De Krop Chicory Museum. This is a recently opened experience center, where everything revolves around chicory and more chicory," explains the VBT's Luc Vanoirbeek.
De Krop Chicory Museum's gallery
The state-of-the-art conference center will house everything you can think of, chicory-wise. "Such an event always has a twofold goal. Firstly, people can meet up and share experiences. Stakeholders come from all over Europe, and sometimes even further, to share a drink or two. The first of the two-day event will include several lectures about cultivation, acreages, prices, and import/export."
"We're working on making all these a reality. There are, of course, several political evolutions - like the Green Deal or the Farm-to-Fork strategy - that we'll address. Research in the sector is a crucial subject too. There's a lot of research being done in chicory cultivation, whether it's precision farming or robotization. That will be highlighted during the biennial," says Luc.
The BelOrta Greenhouse
The program's second day is of a slightly more practical nature. "We'll visit two companies before ending at the practical center in Herent. There will be several stands where suppliers can present innovations in the sector. Also, on both days, we'll have use of BelOrta's Greenhouse. This mobile greenhouse doubles up as a food truck. We'll use it to show visitors chicory's beauty, trendiness, and versatility."
De Krop chicory museum.
The product has been struggling in recent years, and its popularity has been in decline for some time. "It's a beautiful product with many uses. However, it takes considerable effort to introduce it to new generations. There are already several initiatives in this area throughout Europe," Luc continues.
"This event is obviously also keen to contribute. We want to bring young people into the world of chicory. Only six percent of European growers are younger than 35. That's far too few; the sector will have to do something about that and find ways to motivate young people."
Yet, the chicory biennial emphasizes the positive. "There's definitely no complaining. It's a time to consider the sector's opportunities, of which there are still far more than menaces. We shouldn't forget that goals like the Green Deal and Farm-to-Fork raise many questions. However, the drive for more plant-based food is central to these, and our sector already has a ready answer. So, it's wonderful to finally meet again and work towards a bright future," Luc concludes.
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