Greenports Nederland, an umbrella network organization for horticulture in the Netherlands, is actively searching for more international cooperation to make horticulture worldwide more sustainable and to exchange even more knowledge. That’s what chairman Adri Bom-Lemstra says in an interview with GreenTech. She is also a representative of the province of South Holland, where most of the horticultural companies in the Netherlands are located.

We want to make more international connections

Author: Jacco Strating
Sunday, 21 February 2021

Greenports Nederland represents cooperation and wants to achieve breakthroughs and acceleration on themes such as climate-neutral horticulture, modernization of production and logistics, and healthy cultivation, consumption, and labour. GreenTech talked to chairman Bom-Lemstra and, among other things, asked her about the international ambitions of Greenports Nederland.

Why was Greenports Nederland founded?

“Jaap Bond, a representative from the province of North Holland and I already had regular consultations about the Greenports in our own region. A Greenport is a spatial economic cluster of national importance to which the entire agrifood chain contributes from seed to consumer. In a Greenport, we find growers, auctions, trading companies and horticultural suppliers together. Often there are also plant breeders and propagators seeds to be found. In both our regions we saw that the various Greenports could resolve many issues on a regional scale, but that there is also a large list of issues that require national cooperation. With the national government, but also with companies and research institutions. Jaap Bond and I strongly believe in this tripartite collaboration. It already happened, but it could be better. In the meantime, we had gathered a whole circle of people around us who recognized that. We also heard from various ministries that they did not know who to call if they wanted to reach horticulture. That is why we decided to set up a new structure, Greenports Nederland. While preserving the regions, but to shake things up where necessary and to be able to continue on those themes."

Who is involved and how is Greenports Nederland organized?

“We are actually trying to get all parties involved who have something to do with horticulture or who are important for strengthening horticulture. Like the business community, the branches, various knowledge institutions at different levels, the Top Sectors in Agri & Food, Logistics & Horticulture and Propagation Materials, the horticultural provinces of the Netherlands. We have formed tables around substantive themes. Think of the labour market, spatial planning, internationalization or energy. They are fuelled by one of the partners. Those tables did not start at zero, the regional structure already had a lot to hook up to, which we could strengthen through national cooperation. It is about getting the right players at the table, but also the right energy. By working together with people and parties who want to move forward, you create more mass, you can release more research funding and we can take up the joint lobby. And you can ultimately create acceleration on various themes."

What successes have been achieved so far?

“The Horticulture Agreement, which was signed on March 14, 2019, is the most tangible success. For me, the value of the Horticulture Agreement mainly lies in the fact that the commitment of the government is laid down in it. The central government may ask me about the progress of the themes that have been agreed and I will make it clear to them that they also provide their input where their responsibility is concerned. I am thinking of dossiers such as the ODE (Storage of Sustainable Energy), a tax in the Netherlands that has been introduced to stimulate investment in sustainable energy. But also the supply of CO2 and the heat legislation are important examples. These are all decisions that are prepared at the national level and that could have a negative effect on greenhouse horticulture and the sustainability of the sector. Another good example, unfortunately for a nasty reason, is the set-up of the crisis organization after the outbreak of Covid-19. Because the cooperation structure was already in place, we were able to act quickly when the horticulture sector was badly hit. We have arranged a support package and we still know where to find each other. Like when the exports to England came to a halt recently due to the British variant of the virus.”

How can the Greenports Nederland model be applied internationally?

“What we do here can be done anywhere. It's about believing in collaboration, involving the right parties and the right perspectives. If entrepreneurs, researchers and policymakers have a joint ambition to develop horticulture in a region, you have a basis for this model. Sometimes it also means that you have to take a step back, and put someone else in the foreground. You have to wait a while because not every party is ready. But in the end, it produces a much firmer and more durable result. So it's mainly about whether you want it. Then it is possible.”

What is the international focus of Greenports Nederland?

“One of the themes within Greenports Nederland is Internationalization, so one of the tables is organized for that. The Dutch horticultural sector has grown by focusing on exports. Not only the export of flowers, plants, vegetables and fruit, but also of seeds and bulbs, greenhouses, biological crop protection, advice and other horticultural related matters. And we focus more and more on the export of knowledge and innovation too. We are at the forefront of innovation in the Netherlands, which is in demand worldwide. It is crucial that the horticultural cluster emerges internationally as one sector, working together with the government. With a joint plan towards a number of interesting markets. A government can open different doors than an individual company. We look at cooperation towards great opportunities in China and Central America, but also at a smart use of the European potential. As there is within the development of Farm to Fork, a joined strategy for sustainable food, which is a key component of the European Green Deal.”

Are international collaborations possible?

“Absolutely! We want to map out the sustainability potential of greenhouse horticulture for the Green Deal. We will do this with other European horticultural regions. I would also like to see us make even more connections. Of course, a lot is already happening when it comes to knowledge development. For example, programs where we use drone techniques from Japan and make them more widely applicable in Dutch horticulture. It would be great if we can broaden those developments.”

Additional information

About the Top Sectors

The Netherlands is a global leader in trade and industry and wants to keep this leading position. At the same time, there is a strong focus on societal challenges such as an ageing population and climate change. These issues are at the very core of the Top Sector approach, where industry, science and government work together to tackle them. This unique form of collaboration is designed to promote innovation, to attract talent (human capital) and to ensure a solid position for the sectors in the international context.
More about the top sectors >>

About the European Green Deal

The European Green Deal is a plan by the European Union (EU) to make the EU's economy sustainable. This can be done by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities, and making the transition just and inclusive for all. Watch this video about the Green Deal >>

About Farm to Fork

The Farm to Fork strategy for Sustainable food is a key component of the European Green Deal. European food is famous for being safe, nutritious and of high quality. It should now also become the global standard for sustainability. More about Farm to Fork >>

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