via the amazing National Geographic

Small but determined and focused on efficiency

The tiny Netherlands has become an agricultural powerhouse—the second largest global exporter of food by dollar value after the U.S.—with only a fraction of the land available to other countries. How has it achieved this? By using the world’s most efficient agricultural technologies

Two different worlds in one person = invaluable

Ernst van den Ende, managing director of WUR’s Plant Sciences Group, embodies Food Valley’s blended approach. A renowned scholar with the casual manner of a barista at a hip café, van den Ende is a world authority on plant pathology. But, he says, “I’m not simply a college dean. Half of me runs Plant Sciences, but the other half oversees nine separate business units involved in commercial contract research.” Only that mix, “the science-driven in tandem with the market-driven,” he maintains, “can meet the challenge that lies ahead.”

Knowledge sharing

A few days before I visited the Duijvestijns’ operation, Ted had attended a meeting of farmers and researchers at Wageningen. “This is how we come up with innovative ways to move ahead, to keep improving,” he told me. “People from all over Holland get together to discuss different perspectives and common goals. No one knows all the answers on their own.”

Focus on helping others and making a good product instead of $$ and you will succeed[1]

The sales catalog of Rijk Zwaan, another Dutch breeder, offers high-yield seeds in more than 25 broad groups of vegetables, many that defend themselves naturally against major pests. Heleen Bos is responsible for the company’s organic accounts and international development projects. She might be expected to dwell on the fact that a single high-tech Rijk Zwaan greenhouse tomato seed, priced below $0.50, has been known to produce a mind-boggling 150 pounds of tomatoes. Instead she talks about the hundreds of millions of people, most of them women and children, who lack sufficient food.

For some Dutch researchers, concern for people threatened by hunger stems in part from a national trauma: The Netherlands was the last Western country to suffer a serious famine, when 10,000 to 20,000 people died in German-occupied lands during the final year of World War II. Decades later, WUR’s Rudy Rabbinge, professor emeritus of sustainable development and food security, took up the cause when he helped devise extensive changes in the faculty, student body, and curriculum that transformed the institution into what he calls “a university for the world, and not simply for the Dutch.” Today a hefty share of the academic and research activities at WUR are focused on problems facing poor nations.

This article is truly after my heart.

Efficient production.
Sustainable methods.
Helping the world.
Global cross-pollination of ideas.

Thank you Netherlands.


  1. Despite recognising this to be a sweeping statement, it has rang true often enough. ↩︎