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Netherlands, 2nd in the World in Exporting Food--And they go about it very differently than the US  RSS feed

 
pioneer
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Ran across this facinating article. It goes into great detail on how the Netherlands is the second highest exporter of food in the world, second only to the US (and the us has 270 times the landmass as the Netherlands). Greenhouses take up 36 square miles of land--bigger than all of Manhattan. Food is grown with less pesticides and water, and grown in closer proximity to the city. They use no GMOs. Aquaponics is also utilized.  http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/09/holland-agriculture-sustainable-farming/


"A farm atop a former factory in The Hague produces vegetables and fish in a self-sustaining loop: Fish waste fertilizes plants, which filter the water for the fish. Local restaurants proudly offer the veggies and “city swimmers.”"


"Weather is little worry for farmers in Westland, where 80 percent of cultivated land is under greenhouse glass. The region accounts for nearly half of the Netherlands’ horticultural production."

It's not exactly permaculture, but it is a whole lot better than the factory farming of the US!
 
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The link that you have doesn't go directly to the greenhouse article, it goes to a link to subscribe to National Geographic, but also links to this, which I assume is part of the article: 

In a potato field near the Netherlands’ border with Belgium, Dutch farmer Jacob van den Borne is seated in the cabin of an immense harvester before an instrument panel worthy of the starship Enterprise.

From his perch 10 feet above the ground, he’s monitoring two drones—a driverless tractor roaming the fields and a quadcopter in the air—that provide detailed readings on soil chemistry, water content, nutrients, and growth, measuring the progress of every plant down to the individual potato. Van den Borne’s production numbers testify to the power of this “precision farming,” as it’s known. The global average yield of potatoes per acre is about nine tons. Van den Borne’s fields reliably produce more than 20.

That copious output is made all the more remarkable by the other side of the balance sheet: inputs. Almost two decades ago, the Dutch made a national commitment to sustainable agriculture under the rallying cry  Since 2000, van den Borne and many of his fellow farmers have reduced dependence on water for key crops by as much as 90 percent. They’ve almost completely eliminated the use of chemical pesticides on plants in greenhouses, and since 2009 Dutch poultry and livestock producers have cut their use of antibiotics by as much as 60 percent.



“Twice as much food using half as many resources.”

  I had to underline this.  it's a noble goal.. but...

It would be interesting to see what sort of resources went into producing all those greenhouses and hydroponic and aquaponic systems, as well as what they are doing with all the water that is shed off all those roofs.  That one photo makes me think of a very urban situation with a high run-off of rainwater.  I could be mistaken; they might be making use of it.  You are right to say that it is not exactly permaculture, the care for the Earth ethic might be a bit out of whack, but it's not like I don't have a greenhouse [ ], but it is very innovative, and impressive that they are able to create such a volume of produce in such a small area, with a reduction in both chemicals and water while at the same time recycling nutrients. 
 
pollinator
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second highest exporter of food in the world, second only to the US



By value, or by bulk? If it is the second, that is extraordinary. If the first, it is more understandable; they probably export mostly vegetables, which have a much higher cost per pound then America's exports of staples.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Imagine if each of those greenhouse also had an outdoor aquatic system of equal size with carp, snails, freshwater clams, wild rice, and catttails which fed off the roof water.  The area might be twice the size it is now, but it would produce a lot more food, with almost no extra inputs.
 
pollinator
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:

second highest exporter of food in the world, second only to the US



By value, or by bulk? If it is the second, that is extraordinary. If the first, it is more understandable; they probably export mostly vegetables, which have a much higher cost per pound then America's exports of staples.



First thought that came to my mind aswell.

---

Aside from that, I have a few dutch friends, and yes, they seem to do things vastly different over there. Their education system is something to be admired or how they have so few prisoners that they turn Prisons into Hotels.

What I'm interested in after reading that article is all their super-produce they breed. Just after a quick search, it looks like they have a lot of subsidiaries in many countries.

---

Since relocating and restructuring their 70-year-old farm in 2004, the Duijvestijns have declared resource independence on every front. The farm produces almost all of its own energy and fertilizer and even some of the packaging materials necessary for the crop’s distribution and sale



Hopefully traditional North American farmers will say the same thing sooner than later.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:The link that you have doesn't go directly to the greenhouse article, it goes to a link to subscribe to National Geographic, but also links to this, which I assume is part of the article: 

In a potato field near the Netherlands’ border with Belgium, Dutch farmer Jacob van den Borne is seated in the cabin of an immense harvester before an instrument panel worthy of the starship Enterprise....



Yeah, that was the article I was linking to...I just didn't quite know what forum it best fit in, so I posted it in a bunch of different ones (small farm, large farm, organic and Europe), but with greenhouses as its "primary" forum, mostly because there was so much about greenhouses in the article. But, I'm still not quite sure if that forum was the best fit I'll happily switch it to a different forum if you think it fits better!
 
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Thing about agriculture in the Netherlands (as well as Belgium) is that it's very  oriented towards dairy on the one hand and vegetables/fruit/flowers on the other. Not so much bulk carbohydrates (not since the sixteenth century or so). It's a type of agriculture that goes well with the property structure (many smallish holdings and part-time farmers, fair amount of family farms), but it's the result more of different response to market pressures than a real alternative to American-style megafarms.
 
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:

second highest exporter of food in the world, second only to the US



By value, or by bulk? If it is the second, that is extraordinary. If the first, it is more understandable; they probably export mostly vegetables, which have a much higher cost per pound then America's exports of staples.



It is by value.  Lots of high value products exported including veggies. 
 
F Van Roosbroeck
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I wonder if re-exports have been included in that figure. Rotterdam is one of the largest ports in Europe, and global supply chains being what they are, there's bound to be a large amount of fruit and vegetables arriving and then being further distributed. Nearby Antwerp, for instance, is the world largest port for both coffee and bananas, even though Belgium is not exactly known for its tropical plantations.
 
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I've been thinking a lot about the recent article in the National Geographic and feel it's just more of the same human assault on nature. No trees no ecosystem, just a giant food factory. True a small greenhouse on a small farm or connected to a holistic house could be considered permaculture.  
 
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I seem to remember one of the goals of permaculture is to be super productive
so that humans will use less space to feed ourselves and leave more land to the other creatures
building productive growing spaces on top of already human usage is stacking functions and very permaculture
the obsession with avoiding plastics and the grid is also an obsession with avoiding reality



http://www.greenmatters.com/news/2017/09/14/1VjrDI/egypt-sk-city

Egypt's New Farm City Will House 50,000 Smart Greenhouses

Egypt and South Korea are teaming up to build a large agricultural complex that’s full of renewable energy and smart greenhouses. The new city will be located in Egypt near the Mediterranean shore. With the massive growth of middle-class consumers coming into the country over the next decade, this new area will provide a wealth of sustainability.




The Egyptian Government has created Vision 2030, which features developmental plans that are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals among the United Nations. These SDGs involve numerous issues that are hoping to be fixed by 2030, such as increasing clean energy and water, lowering carbon emissions, and much more.

Egypt is dealing with many issues, such as high birth rate, limited water, discrimination, and migration that stand in the way of achieving their sustainable goals. They will have one of the fastest growing middle-class markets according to Ogilvy, and this new city would provide a sustainable solution for the boost.


 
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The Netherlands also exports a lot of vegetable seeds which command a premium.
 
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The real value of what the Dutch are doing is the land substitution that is occurring going to CEU ag. If the potato farmer can yield 5x as much product that is 4 units of land that could be utilized as permaculture or parks or nature preserves.

Industrial ag does not get my attention only because it eventually has to flat line and fail. The use of GMOs concern me most from a legal perspective. The pesticide use due to its long persistence is also a problem (glyophosphates like Grazon). Super weeds are already cropping up resistant to some of the weed suppressants. The continual ratchet affect of the need for more and more inputs ($$$$$) will force many megafarms to look for other solutions. 
 
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Living in the Netherlands I can tell you this article is probably a big promotion campaign for Dutch (industrial) agriculture products. The 'city of glass' in the Westland has nothing to do with permaculture. Yes, they produce lots of tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables ... but at what cost (for energy: lights and heat on all the time; for covering all land with greenhouses)?

Using less pesticides than before is not the same as organic. In my opinion this only means they used much too large quantities of chemicals in the past.

The photo shows a greenhouse on top of a building in The Hague. But this is only one example, a rare one. Most greenhouses are on the ground in a region between the cities (Rotterdam, The Hague, Amsterdam) and the North Sea coast.

The Dutch gouvernment and the EU subsidise this industrial agriculture. I don't understand why, if it brings in such an amount of money ...

Probably they also counted the income from exporting imported (tropical) products through the harbour of Rotterdam. And don't forget the flowers (called 'agricultural products' too, aren't they?)
 
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2nd highest exporter in TONNAGE
 
gardener
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Dutch Flowers are transported all over the world, as are their high-value specialty cheeses. These are some of the commodities that drive up the dollar value. But, it appears that there are also plenty of  regular vegetables  produced , which are shipped  around Europe primarily . The US exports, wheat and corn and other bulky, low value stuff.

The article paints Dutch production in a favorable light. The transport of all this production, throughout the world, including air shipment of flowers, makes it some of the most unsustainable agriculture imaginable. Shipment of the vegetable crops is much more sustainable.

They are highly vulnerable to foreign markets and to other foreign intervention. If Russia were to tighten the supply of natural gas, to heat those greenhouses, it would have a devastating effect on the economics of that business.

I think there is much to be learned from the Dutch model, and there are things that could be improved upon. Most importantly, these technologies are completely transportable, so it makes sense for others in far-flung parts of the globe, to produce their own, and not become customers.

They have specialized in plant and animal breeding for a long time. The vast majority of dairy cattle here in Canada, are Holstein or some mixture of Holstein and Guernsey.
 
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I believe Inge is right. It is also about the sheer amount of plastic and other material used. On the top of that they own huge swaths of coast areas in Spain to produce vegetables and fruit.
 
pollinator
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Don't think the greenhouse aggriculture is not a form of industrial aggriculture. It is energy intensive and only viable because it just concentrates on high value crops. In many cases the plant roots never see soil. That said it is indeed a way to produce more locally with less input. Landuse/crop value is quite high. Robots are in use as well.


The greenhouses are not the endpoint for that tech.
What do you think of this Flemish and Dutch text only but you might grasp what it is about.

http://www.gmbelgocatering.be/nl/urban-crops
https://urbancropsolutions.com/wp-content/uploads/20160807_Botten-uit-computer-aan_-hier-kweekt-men-sla-in-een-container_Het-Nieuwsblad.pdf
https://urbancropsolutions.com/

In time just buy a permies container to grow your own food in the city ........
 
pollinator
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Inge, it is good to hear from someone actually there. Thanks for commenting! Niet zo veel Nederlandse mensen hier.

I moved to the US from the Netherlands in 2001, but I doubt it has changed totally in that time.

First, I agree that the educational system is dramatically different than the US or UK. The years of "high school" are either spent in vocational training, management training or professional preparation. It is rigorous no matter the course (of course there are lazy people in any situation). There is a very low tolerance for extended adolescence, or at least was true when I was there. There is a very strong emphasis on difficult studies. It was changing but there was an expectation that if you made it to university you would spend a great deal of effort to complete your studies. The big difference was not the finished product, it was the fact that you expected to be "done" at 22, not after a graduate degree, and you had to bust your backside to get there. Very few fluff degree programs. The downside is a lot of people "grow up" late, lots of people who feel they missed their calling because they were stratified at 12 into a track of studies, plenty of midlife crises. But wayyyyy cheaper, no expectation that college is rational for 50% of the populace.

Second, the agricultural system is compressed like no other country. Almost every acre is used. There is a system of small polders (not sure what the best translation is- reclaimed land?) of fields with water on all sides, which moderates temperature and moisture, allowing almost all-year growth like the potato fields in Bolivia. Crops are grown until the soil is depleted then sheep or cows are grazed. Then eventually the crops can return. This is the traditional ag dating back hundreds of years. Recently the greenhouses are the money crops. This is all done with natural gas and manufactured panels. I will say even though I am not enthused with the unnatural aspect, it is impressive how much is grown. It is a testament to the education as in the first point. This is a country with basically zero natural resources.

I do NOT see this as a template- how to grow in other places. What I do see is that this is a way of generally living as well as possible in that particular place. It drove me insane that there were no natural places (why I couldn't stay there) but it is much closer to a sustainable future than most places. I guess my issue is that it is a very Bright Green country and I am more a dark green I guess.



 
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Polder is the right word. The whole system of more industrial scale food production is a direct result of the war and the famine that happened at the end. In the years after the war more or less half the system had to be rebuild, and the specially appointed Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing, and Food Supply had a clear goal, no more hunger, never again. The minister at the time, Sicco Mansholt, became to be one of the founding fathers of the EU and the Common Agricultural Policy. A few years later he saw that although the food production skyrocketed the environmental and social costs were high, too high. He later saw the mistakes he made and it haunted him for the rest of his life...
Here is an interesting article about him(in Dutch), and over here is the google translate version of it, which is still pretty readable.
 
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I agree with about all of what has been said in this topic, but the aspect of trade that some people already hinted at can be further exemplified, and then the picture of The Netherlands might change somewhat.

The Netherlands exports a lot of agricultural produce, but imports a lot as well.
2016 export: € 85 billion, import: € 57 billion. Source: https://www.cbs.nl/en-gb/news/2017/03/agricultural-exports-up-by-over-4-percent.

Largest slice of Dutch agricultural export is 'potatoes, veg and fruit'. The biggest imported section is also 'potatoes, veg and fruit'.
Second largest slice of exports is 'processed food'. Second largest slice of imports is also 'processed food'.
Third largest section of exports: 'livestock and meat'. Third largest section of imports: 'livestock and meat'.
Source: http://www.dutchagrofood.com/english/dutch-agro-food/facts-and-figures/.
The fourth largest section is 'floriculture', that's not a big section of imports, but apart from those flowerbulbs there still is a trend that shows that the exports and imports represent largely the same things. The Dutch have a reputation for being traders, right?

Not only that, The Netherlands is also a known corporate tax haven, with a government that consistently tries to obstruct international efforts to tackle tax avoidance. To quote an Oxfam report: "As a European commission study shows, the Netherlands is the undisputed European champion in facilitating corporate tax avoidance. Of all European countries, the Netherlands offers international companies the greatest variety of options to avoid tax. Only Belgium and Cyprus come close to matching this dubious position." Source: https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/netherlands-taxhaven.pdf.

I don't want to take anything away from the Dutch reputation as horticulturalists and producers of food, the Dutch have been pushing the envelope for sure, but I question what's behind those remarkable export figures.

Looking at daily life in The Netherlands, also here farmers and growers have found it harder over time to make a living, not many people are employed in agriculture, the production is very specialised, the pressure on volumes is incomparable with what it was only couple of generations ago. While if you look in a Dutch supermarket you will find lots of cheaper produced veg from all over the world, with only heavier produce - more expensive to transport - mostly being local.

The Netherlands would still be a good country to visit and learn about food and food production, but the system isn't great for farmers, neither their costumers, as there's too much of an industry built around these core groups - a facilitary industry supplying farmers, meddling government officials, commerce... Way too many efforts are being spent which don't go towards that piece of food where it should be about.

 
 

    

 
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