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Research domain: Food, Environment & Sustainability

People across the world are facing the consequences of environmental degradation, biodiversity loss and scarcities in highly unequal and unjust ways. Together with a wide variety of stakeholders, we study societal dynamics and policy-making in the fields of food, environment, climate and more, in order to co-create more inclusive, sustainable futures and diverse transition pathways. Find our projects listed below, divided into subthemes.

Climate change

Humanity faces existential risks. Our carbon-intensive industries, agriculture and lifestyle are causing the climate to change, leading to collapsing ecosystems and mass extinction. This hits vulnerable communities the hardest, although they contributed least to these problems. Athena examines how we can collectively find a way out of the climate crisis, by guiding a fair sustainability transition that protects all life within planetary boundaries.

Climate Policy | Learning evaluation of Dutch climate policy (Dutch)

Climate Research in Dialogue | Develops a new, dialogical form of science communication related to the climate crisis, placing the lifeworld of citizens centre stage

Green Metrics | Analyses how 'green metrics' can become part of health technology assessment (finalised)


Mankind relies on its environment, consisting of air, water, land, and life. However, our actions, such as urbanisation and agriculture, strain the environment. Consequential burdens are inequitably distributed, leading to social injustices. Athena examines the interplay between environmental and social issues, and resulting complex challenges in areas like biodiversity, water, food and health.

VeenVitaal | Living Lab for multi-actor transition of the lowland peat meadow area around Amsterdam to restore biodiversity and the ecosystem

Natuurpact | Learning evaluation of Dutch nature policy (Dutch, finalised)

Vibrant Rural Areas (Vitaal Platteland) | Reflexive evaluation of intergovernmental programme on environment (Dutch, finalised)

Alternatives 2 Extractivism | Examines ways of knowing, being and doing in relation to the (sub)surface in Mozambique and beyond

From Sea to Street | Investigating the effect of marine murals on people's emotions 

FRAME | Co-creating research agendas to guide Sustainable Development in Sub-Saharan Africa

GROW | Recruits PhD students for solution-oriented research for and with the African continent

Shared Multimodal Mobility for All (SMALL) | Co-creates shared mobility innovations for people with reduced mobility in the European North Sea region

Food systems

Food systems encompass the production, processing, distribution, and consumption of food. This means that supermarkets, farmers, policy makers and consumers play crucial roles. The unsustainability of our current food systems cannot be denied, as demonstrated by ecological and health issues. However, the complex nature of these problems make it very difficult to find solutions that benefit everyone. To tackle this, Athena takes a systems approach, involving all relevant actors to jointly achieve sustainable food system transformation.

FoodCLIC | Makes urban food systems more inclusive and resilient, and empowers citizens to access healthier, sustainable foods

FUSILLI | Supports cities to develop and implement systemic food policies that support food system transformations

FoSSNet  | Establishes an inclusive pan-European network for food system science and research

FIT4FOOD2030 | Mobilising stakeholders to accelerate food system transformation (finalised)

CLEVERFOOD  | Develops a multi-actor and public engagement mechanism that connects and supports projects and networks that are working on European food system transformation

FOSTER  | Builds the foundation for a new Knowledge and Innovation System for an inclusive and well-governed European food system

TRUSTyFOOD | Opportunities for blockchain technology in the the food supply chain

Supreme Nudge | Effects of healthy 'nudges' in supermarkets on the of dietary choices of customers (Dutch, finalised)


Agriculture is the active management of ecosystems to produce food, feed, or building materials. It is a practice with a long history, and high cultural value all over the world. However, as farming becomes more efficient, it also becomes more uniform, leading to less diversity in crops and practices. Moreover, modern agriculture is contributing to issues like climate change, water scarcity, biodiversity loss and soil degradation. Athena addresses these problems by understanding history, involving stakeholders and co-creating sustainable policies.

CropMix | Investigates optimal combination of crop cultivation to support the transition to sustainable agriculture 

SOY STORIES | Investigates the histories of soy cultivation and intensive animal farming for an inclusive, sustainable future

Duinboeren | Learning from a local farmers association preserving both the environment and the farmer's revenue model (Dutch, finalised)

Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture | Scaling-up nutrition-sensitive agricultural initiatives in South-East Asia (finalised)

Allotment Gardens in Benin | Develops an allocation tool for local production of fruit and vegetables in Benin (finalised)

Dutch Agricultural History | Studies the post-war industrialisation of Dutch agriculture in relation to environmental issues

DOMINO | Drives the creation of plant-based fermented foods in Europe

Watch the Transformation Journey

Also take a look at the other research domains