Food is one of the important pillars at Rabobank and Rabobank even profiles itself internationally as the ultimate Food & Agri bank. No wonder that Rabobank is the main sponsor of the Market Match initiative. During this two-day event organised on 4 and 5 October, 200 students will devise innovative solutions to food-related issues such as food waste, a vegetable-based diet and attracting (young) talent. Cindy van Rijswick, Senior Analyst, RaboResearch Food & Agribusiness, and Coen Struijs, Account Manager Large Businesses Rabobank Ridderkerk Midden-IJsselmonde, explain about Rabobank’s involvement in the food sector.
Market Match is totally consistent with the Banking for Food vision
“Rabobank originally started out financing farmers and is therefore firmly rooted in food and agri. In line with Rabobank’s international strategy ‘Growing a better world together’ our local banks launched the ‘Banking for food’ community. At the local level we aim to help this community by putting forward Rabobank’s vision regarding food security and the role of the bank in this matter. In the region we are working locally on the theme ‘A healthy diet for a vital region’. We connect local businesses, municipalities, authorities and other parties around themes such as food waste, sustainable raw material consumption, vitality and a healthy diet. To achieve this we organise meetings and support events. We share a lot of common ground with the themes involved in Market Match, which means this initiative fits perfectly into our vision”, says Struijs.
Van Rijswick anticipates that young people could add a lot of value. “Market Match enables students to look around and experience what this sector is like and the participating businesses can learn from the fresh views of the young people. The food sector is characterised by an ageing population, a large share of the employees are aged 45 plus. I believe young people could make a major contribution to companies in the food sector”, claims van Rijswick. Struijs also has high expectations for Market Match: “I am convinced that young people can genuinely add value, because they view food issues from a different perspective than, for example, a 45-year-old with a different education and background. Bringing the two parties together allows us to place healthy and sustainable food on the map more effectively and achieve a very good match. We also want to create awareness among young people about healthy food, about where and how it grows. So they learn more about the food in the supermarket.”
Food companies could profile themselves better
It’s not only the collaboration between companies and students that is important. Struijs is of the opinion that all parties concerned should have as much contact as possible. “I think there are still lots of themes we could jointly work on.” Van Rijswick advises food companies to primarily communicate positive messages to the outside world. Companies in the food sector have a great story to tell, but do not often stop to think about it. Large companies are well-known, but there are also a lot of interesting SMEs. They could learn from each other in this regard.” Struijs adds: “companies could profile themselves more via digital media, by using students and young people that grew up with all kinds of social media.”
Growing vegetables in primary school
Rabobank supports multiple initiatives to increase students’ enthusiasm about the food sector. “Recently we were involved in a student challenge at Wageningen University & Research: ‘Design the ultimate urban greenhouse’. Students were assigned the task of transforming the Bijlmerbajes in Amsterdam into a new urban farm. We also finance many companies involved in all kinds of new innovation. I personally enjoy giving guest lectures at schools”, reveals van Rijswick. Struijs continues: “As part of our local ‘Banking for Food’ community we supplied cheques to primary schools in Ridderkerk and Barendrecht. These schools are launching an educational project in which the children are offered a teaching method about an indoor growing system. The problem is that primary schools have a fixed lesson plan, so this is something schools must genuinely want to adopt. In collaboration with the party behind the ‘GrowWizzKid’ concept we encouraged primary schools to include the concept in their curriculum. Diverse primary schools in Ridderkerk and Barendrecht have adopted it with success.”
Programmes for food start-ups
Rabobank offers various programmes for food start-ups. Van Rijswick talks about the possibilities: “If start-ups really have a good idea, there are even investment funds, such as the Rabo F&A Innovation Fund and Anterra Capital. We have also set up platforms such as FoodBytes! in London and F&A Next in Wageningen, where start-ups can pitch their idea. We do not only take care of the funding, but we also take care of the network and knowledge. We connect start-ups with large companies where, for example, they can test their product. We try and offer solutions for each phase of a company”. “Rabobank is involved in all phases and in the entire chain, from field to fork”, Struijs summarises.
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