Organic Agriculture (MOA) / MSc

Profile

The global Organic Agriculture sector is based on environmental concern and consumer interest, and encompasses producers, farming and food systems, consumers, certifying bodies, processing industry, trade and retail, service providers, various interest groups and many other players. In addition, agriculture remains a major user of space, is central to social cohesion in many rural areas around the world, and not only provides food but also contributes to the health and well-being of people and ecosystems. This multifunctionality provides an important perspective for agriculture in general, and for organic agriculture in particular. In order to meet the challenge of producing healthy, socially responsible and ecologically sound food, the Master Organic Agriculture explores food production, food consumption and multi-functional land use from a multidisciplinary viewpoint (plant, soil, animal, social and environmental sciences), multiple perspectives (sustainability, health and ethics) and different geographical scales (local, regional and global). The global Organic Agriculture sector is based on environmental concern and consumer interest, and encompasses producers, farming and food systems, consumers, certifying bodies, processing industry, trade and retail, service providers, various interest groups and many other players. In addition, agriculture remains a major user of space, is central to social cohesion in many rural areas around the world, and not only provides food but also contributes to the health and well-being of people and ecosystems. This multi-functionality provides an important perspective for agriculture in general, and for organic agriculture in particular. A systems approach therefore characterizes both the research and education domains in organic agriculture. Our programme highly values the integration of theory and practice by focusing on action learning and action research related to agroecology and sustainable food systems. The programme prepares students for a wide range of positions related to multiple land use, organic agriculture and food networks.

Learning Outcomes

After successful completion of this MSc programme graduates are expected to be able to:
- integrate knowledge of value chains, legislation and certification, marketing, societal context, education, plant and animal production, environmental sciences and social sciences to analyse the main components of complex farming systems and to explore the principles of food production, consumption, natural resource management, multi-functional land use and the social environment;
- describe the available research orientations, from empirical analytical (quantitative) to interpretative (qualitative) to participatory research, and explain the merits of each orientation depending on the purpose pursued and the research question at stake;
- integrate and apply the knowledge of plant and animal production and soil and environmental science in the context of organic agriculture (Specialization A - Agroecology);
- explain the key differences between organic and conventional agricultural systems, as well as between other emerging agricultural systems (low input, sustainable agriculture), and analyse agro-ecological processes and management systems (Specialization A - Agroecology);
- explain the involvement of diverse stakeholders in food systems and the multidisciplinarity of sustainable production chains and value chains, and explain the trade-offs between these diverse stakeholders and chain actors (Specialization B - Sustainable Food Systems);
- integrate various aspects of farming and food systems and their societal and ecological embedding: sociological and intercultural aspects, valorisation and markets, business models and knowledge and innovation (Specialization B - Sustainable Food Systems);
- understand the structure and function of complex agroecosystems (Specialization C - Double Degree Agroecology);
- apply systems approaches in studying, designing and evaluating agricultural systems and food production chains, and to develop creative solutions for sustainable farming, landscape management and marketing of organic products (Specialization C - Double Degree Agroecology);
- select relevant scientific literature to critically analyse current concepts, theories, techniques and debates as a basis for defining research questions and testing hypotheses in order to draw conclusions and develop recommendations;
- apply a systems approach in analysing, evaluating and designing complex agricultural systems and (food) production chains by using suitable analytical measurements, surveys and mathematical end statistical methods;
- independently design a research proposal in which problem definition, research orientation and details of corresponding methodology or experimental set up, research design and data analysis are described in relation to relevant literature;
- independently perform a research project and analyse and interpret experimental data, in order to develop or design a novel solution, system, model or product;
- translate (action) research data and scientific knowledge in organic agriculture into relevant solutions to complex problems;
- contribute scientific knowledge and understanding in interactive multi-stakeholder change processes (e.g. action research) aimed at innovating and improving the organic sector, both strategically and practically; Shift between different perspectives in time (past, present & future), space (local, regional & global), culture and discipline;
- analyse and evaluate the ethical, environmental, and socio-economic consequences of research and reflect on the different roles of the scientist in agricultural transition processes;
- co-operate in a multi-disciplinary intercultural team in different team roles, including the role of team leader, to plan, perform and manage project-based work;
- communicate effectively in English with specialists and non-specialists about alternatives in organic agriculture, both verbally (in presentations and debates) and in writing;
- reflect on personal knowledge, skills, attitudes and performance, both individually and by giving and receiving feedback, and design and plan a personal learning path.

Specializations

- Agroecology;
- Sustainable Food Systems;
- Double Degree Agroecology

Programme Director

Dr G.J. Kuipers
Phone: 0317-(4)84767/ 82839
Email: anja.kuipers@wur.nl

Study Adviser(s)

Drs C.A. Langeveld
Phone: 0317-(4)83571
Email: cor.langeveld@wur.nl

Programme Committee

Chair: Prof.dr.ir. J.S.C. Wiskerke
Secretary: Dr. G.J. Kuipers

Internet

www.wur.eu/moa

Study Association

Semper Florens
Email: semper.florens@wur.nl
Internet: www.semper-florens.nl