The Netherlands is a small, densely populated country. It has few resources necessary for large-scale agriculture, yet it’s the world’s number two exporter of food as measured by value, second only to the United States, which has 270 times its landmass. How have the Dutch done it?
To start with more than half the nation’s land area is used for agriculture and horticulture. This came about because, about two decades ago the Dutch made a national commitment to sustainable farming. Their goal was two-fold; to grow twice as much food using half as many resources.
And it’s been a success. Since then, farmers have reduced dependence on water for key crops by up to 90%. They’ve almost completely eliminated the use of pesticides in their greenhouses. And that’s quite a feat because some of their greenhouse complexes cover 175 acres.
These climate-controlled facilities allow the country, which is located fairly close to the Arctic Circle, to be a global leader in exports of a fair-weather fruit: the tomato. The Dutch are also the world’s top exporter of potatoes and onions and the second largest exporter of vegetables overall in terms of value.
As well, more than a third of all global trade in vegetable seeds originates in the Netherlands.
Farmers haven’t worked alone to achieve these accomplishments. They’ve received support from Wageningen University, located 80 kilometres southeast of Amsterdam. Widely regarded as the world’s top agricultural research institution, it’s home to a vast collection of agricultural technology start-ups and experimental farms.
Ernst van den Ende, managing director of the university’s Plant Sciences Group, embodies the Netherlands approach to sustainable farming. He says that it’s the combination of sound science with market demands that has guided the country’s agricultural renaissance.
The Netherlands has become an agricultural giant by showing what the future of farming could look like.
Adapted from this article.