The United States and the Netherlands are the world’s largest exporters of horticultural products. Despite the fact that large quantities of food are being grown, there are also challenges for the future. In order to continue to sustainably feed the world, the Netherlands plans to export solutions (seeds, knowledge and technology) in addition to fruits and vegetables. The Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting disruption to food supply chains have underlined the importance of local agriculture.
At the initiative of NL Works, the Kentucky government and US farmer AppHarvest, a public-private partnership was created in 2020, now called Let’s Grow Together. They want to develop Kentucky as the best player in the agricultural technology sector. The recent announcement of new partners and the June 2022 mission are important first steps toward achieving this goal, according to Agrobericht Buitenland.
From coal mines to vegetable farming
As Americans burn less coal, coal mining in Kentucky has nearly collapsed, leaving many miners out of work. The local tobacco sector has suffered the same fate and workers in this sector are also struggling. The US-Dutch partnership Let’s Grow Together aims to change this. Together, these partners aim to develop a sustainable food production system that will not only create jobs for the many unemployed people in Kentucky, but also provide millions of Americans with fresh, affordable food.
Kentucky has many strengths. This state is within a day’s drive of many major American cities, including New York, Chicago, and Washington, DC. Tomatoes picked in Kentucky in the morning are already on the shelves the next, ensuring a healthier, fresher and less food waste. While other states have had droughts recently, Kentucky has seen more rain than ever before. Add to that a favorable business climate and wealth of natural and economic energy sources and you’ll understand why AppHarvest and its US and Dutch partners believe Kentucky is the ideal location for a Greenhouse Development and AgTech Center.
Large greenhouse complex as an example
AgTech, or “agricultural technology”, according to the initiators, is a “highly innovative sector” aimed at transforming the agriculture and horticulture sector. AgTech solutions cover agriculture, water management, and high-tech greenhouses, among others. The cooperation between Kentucky and the Netherlands goes far beyond simply exchanging technological knowledge. The consortium plans to create a completely new ecosystem consisting of greenhouses, sustainable farming methods, processing facilities, training and knowledge centers. They have brought the Kentucky government, the Dutch government, private companies and the university on board to make this possible.
To start the project, AppHarvest has already built the first greenhouses and facilities out of probably many greenhouses. Morehead’s 24-hectare facility was built by Dutch greenhouse builder Dalsem, with mainly Dutch technology supplied by companies like Signify and Priva. Dalsem’s greenhouse is full of innovative technology of economical cultivation with high yield per square meter.
Three other facilities are currently under development. All these farming facilities are based on Dutch technology and knowledge and are part of the Appalachian Long Term Business Plan. Together, the consortium wants to create the necessary infrastructure for training and knowledge to develop a sustainable horticultural ecosystem, from raising capital to building greenhouses and developing logistics and retail solutions. By offering customized technology solutions to agriculture companies large and small, a wave is created that everyone can benefit from. The partnership covers all aspects of horticulture and also includes trade, knowledge exchange, education and cooperation between governments.
Let’s Grow Together plans to expand the partnership by attracting new local and Dutch partners. Recently, nine new members joined the consortium. One such vertical farm (32.4 acres) has announced that it will open a new business in Kentucky.
Educating a new generation of horticultural professionals
Soon there will be a meeting place for greenhouse and agricultural technology enthusiasts, as the Kentucky government plans to create a local Horti Center, inspired by the World Horti Center in the Netherlands. This idea is part of a grant application of 100 (€95), which would enable the development of the Dutch knowledge-based AgTech system. The proposal could count on the support of the Dutch government and be based on various Dutch studies. At the local Horti Center, farmers, students, governments and partners can share knowledge and experience and inspire a new generation of farmers. Here they can learn directly about technology, ask questions, get advice, and follow training courses.
To encourage young Kentucky residents to consider careers in gardening and adopt a healthy lifestyle, AppHarvest has developed a high school program that emphasizes the importance of healthy nutrition and the basics of growing vegetables. Universities are also investing in new agricultural technology courses, so that Kentucky will become a hub for a new generation of horticultural professionals who secure job opportunities.
Holland American Agricultural Cooperation
Kentucky’s joint development at the AgTech Center is one of the many collaborations between the United States and the Netherlands in the agricultural field. There has been a general increase in the demand for greenhouses and sustainable growth systems in the Midwest. Two major projects have also recently been launched in Ohio and Illinois, while concrete plans are being worked on for projects in Minnesota and Washington to accelerate the development and application of innovative food technology to reduce food waste, as well as digitization and precision gardening. Robots are possible.
for more information:
Netherlands Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality
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