Pandemic creates opportunities for horticulture sectors
While the news is dominated by negative stories about the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, it's important to remember that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Here are five signs of hope to show that even during an unprecedented global pandemic, positive things are happening too.
1. The need for healthy food has never been more evident
By now, we're hearing more and more opinions of experts in the medical field that claim that a person's health, is in their gut. If you eat healthily, your immune system will be in better shape. While it's not the first time we've all heard this, this will be the first time in recent history that so many people will take immediate action to eat healthier food.
2. Countries will be looking to produce more food locally
"Now more than ever, countries will realise how much they depend on the import of food," said Annie van de Riet (AVAG) recently, when talking to GreenTech's Mariska Dreschler. She expects that many nations will start investing in horticulture, creating valuable opportunities in the horticulture sectors. While this is a positive thing, we are left to wonder what effect this will have on our imports and exports.
3. Automation in greenhouses will be sped up
As many companies and their employees are unable to travel, the number of virtual greenhouse visits and other online meetings have grown immensely. As we have so few other options at the moment, improvements in the techniques we use are made on the daily. By the time it's safe to visit our clients and work from the office again, we'll most likely keep up the virtual meetings to save time, money, and energy. Several big players have been speeding up research and tests with robotics in greenhouses for some time now. This will help avoid future issues when there's a sudden lack of human labour during crises.
4. The experts were right all along, and everyone knows it
Okay, this is a strange one. But hear us out. Scientists have been warning the world leaders for decades that a pandemic would eventually take place. While that doesn't help us much right now, the outcome may very well be that experts will now finally be heard, and their advice will be implemented accordingly. The good thing is: you are that expert.
5. Vegetables and fruits are sexy (again)
Labour issues have been a longstanding challenge in many horticulture industries. While urban farming is becoming cooler these days, having a job in veggies was perhaps not looked at as sexy. The number of young professionals wanting to work in the horticulture industries declines year after year.
But what did people buy more of than usual when the pandemic hit country after country? Forget about the toilet paper, one of the first things people worried about when they went into lockdown...was food. Will there be enough of it to feed my family? How much of it will remain available if these lockdowns take longer than expected? This issue was magnified when news outlets reported that many greenhouses were unable to get their international seasonal workers, to travel - risking fresh produce to wither away, when demand was up. The chart below shows a 600% growth in sales of fresh fruits and vegetables in the US, in the first weeks of lockdown.
During a trip to my supermarket during the first week of lockdown, I was confronted with this sight in the vegetable and fruit aisle. This 'in your face reminder' that food is a necessity, acts as a "wanted ad" that is visible worldwide. this will hopefully attract a new influx of (young) professionals that are willing and excited to invest their future in feeding the world.