The United States is the number one exporter of food, measured by value. It was a shock to learn the number two exporter is a tiny European country that has 270 times less landmass . . . the Netherlands. In the agricultural sphere known as “Precision Farming”, Dutch farmers have reduced dependence on water by up to 90%, cut antibiotics usage up to 60% and almost eliminated pesticide use in greenhouses.
Precision farming relies on detailed readings on soil chemistry, water content, nutrients and growth to measure the growth of every single plant. It’s a use of fields and greenhouses that uses information technology (IT) to ensure the crops and soil receive exactly what they need for optimum health and productivity.
The outputs are close to being unbelievable with one potato farm producing an average yield of 20 tons per acre compared to the world’s average yield of nine tons! A single greenhouse yields as much lettuce as 10 outdoor acres and cuts the need for chemicals by 97 per cent.
It’s a mixture of academia and entrepreneurship similar to that of “Silicon Valley” that has created a disciplined approach to Netherland’s farming success called “Farm Valley”. The brain trust is centralized at Wageningen University and Research (WUR) located near Amsterdam. Ernst van den Ende, a managing director of WUR’s Plant Sciences Group, is a driving scientific force that has created a huge cluster of agricultural start-ups and experimental farms. He says that only the mix of “the science-driven in tandem with the market-driven can meet the challenge that lies ahead”.
He’s right. The challenge is huge for a hungry planet that will grow in size to 10 billion in 2050 from 7.5 billion today. The good news, one of the world’s smallest and densely populated countries that is void of most resources needed to create large-scale agriculture is over the top successful. Imagine the food production levels for large land-mass countries like Africa, Russia and the United States.
Climate controlled farms will feed billions of people for generations to come.