Dutch Agricultural Innovation : Secrets Are For Sharing

Dutch Agricultural Innovation : Secrets Are For Sharing

Even before I reached my teens, I began helping my Grandpa with various tasks at his small fertilizer application business. I’d heard family stories of his skill at inventing things, but I’ll never forget the day I paused from cleaning his office to read the plaque on the wall.

It wasn’t a degree, because he’d been so busy working on his father’s farm that he never finished high school. It was an official-looking letter from the United States Patent Office – and it mentioned an invention.

I asked about it during our lunch break. He responded that he’d developed an automated hay baler and that it hadn’t made him much money. From the way he spoke, however, I got the sense that he hadn’t done it for the money.

He’d done it for the love of figuring out how things work and then trying to make them work better! And Grandpa wasn’t the only Dutchman blessed with this mindset.

Today, I began watching the National Geographic video Vegetable Production in the Netherlands . It features a 2019 interview with Dutch agricultural researcher Eric Poote who fully appreciates Grandpa’s passion for invention:

“It is in the roots, in the body of the people from Holland. They like to be innovative. It never stops; they go farther and farther. Every week or every month is a new idea. Can we not do it like this? Or can we not do that?”

The beauty of their attitude, however, is its understanding that the secret to continued innovation is that secrets are meant to be shared!

Dutch innovators continually bounce ideas off each other. One farmer tells the interviewer, “All neighbors talk to each other about innovation and just make it better and better and better. There are not really secrets here.”

But their willingness to share in this attitude of sharing cutting-edge knowledge extends far beyond their neighbors. As the National Geographic article I referred to yesterday observed, Poote’s Wageningen University & Research (WUR) is “…widely regarded as the world’s top agricultural research institution.”

And they’ve opened their doors equally wide. One professor describes WUR as “… a university for the world,” with an emphasis on feeding the poorest nations.

The article continues, WUR alumni are found in the highest echelons of agricultural ministries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.”And they’re not simply teaching. By collaborating with farmers in Kenya, Guatemala, Peru and other places, they’re learning.

Arjen van Tunen of Dutch seed developer KeyGene explains,“We have constant, tremendously important conversations with the small growers themselves – on their needs, on the weather and soil conditions they face, on costs.”

In other words, the Netherlands’ agricultural experts recognize the folly of the top-down approach that’s ruined so many foreign-aid projects. And true to form, they’ve invented a better one!

I devote much of this blog to the world’s current food-supply shortcomings. But the Dutch commitment to innovating food-production methods and sharing their discoveries with one and all?

It’s one of my greatest hopes for our shared future!

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