The hi-tech future of farming in the Netherlands

Dutch farms also lead in seed production – seeds accounted for $1.7 billion worth of exports in 2016.

For example, Rijk Zwaan, a Dutch seed breeder, sells high-yield seed varieties in more than 25 groups of vegetables, many of which can defend themselves naturally against pests. Heleen Bos, who runs the company’s organic accounts and international development projects, has worked in some of the world’s poorest countries including Mozambique, Nicaragua and Bangladesh, and has become aware of the threat of famine.

She admits that while they cannot immediately implement the same level of high-tech agriculture seen in the Netherlands, medium-tech solutions such as plastic greenhouses, which have tripled some crop yields compared to crops in open fields, which are more susceptible to pests and drought.

While the Netherlands faces its own famine and the end of World War II, WUR’s Rudy Rabbinge, professor emeritus of sustainable development and food security, helped devise extensive changes to transform the Dutch research institution into what he calls ‘a university for the world, and not simply for the Dutch.’This is reflected in the institution’s student body – 45 per cent of its graduate students are recruited abroad, and WUR alumni work in agricultural ministries across Africa, Latin American and Asia.


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