Meet Rob Baan: “The Willy Wonka of Edible Plants”

Meet Rob Baan: “The Willy Wonka of Edible Plants”
Meet Rob Baan: “The Willy Wonka of Edible Plants”

How much does the Netherlands-based Koppert Cress company’s CEO Rob Baan believe in the importance of eating fruits and vegetables?

Enough that he violated the law by posting research supporting broccoli’s cancer-fighting properties on the company website – and was fined 700 Euros for promoting a cancer cure!

Despite this minor setback, this article from The Independent reports that Rob keeps “… grabbing every opportunity to evangelize the nutritional benefits of cresses and their potential role in modern healthcare.”

The article’s author Tom Moggach even dubbed him the “Willy Wonka of edible plants” for the more than 50 ultra-nutritious plant foods his company grows.

Over the past two days, I’ve posted on the tremendous strides the Netherlands has made in sustainable agricultural innovation. In this 2012 TEDx talk before a Binnenhof, NL audience, Rob acknowledged that effort: “We have a great agriculture university.”

He continued, however, “The thing is, we [are] not eating enough plants.” In their own best interests, he insists his fellow citizens, “… must change their diets.”

That said, he promotes a plant-based diet for more than its health benefits. He’s extremely aware of the environmental implications that would come with his nation making such a change!

According to Rob’s calculations, feeding Rotterdam’s 1 million residents their traditional diet (including plant- and animal-based foods) requires 70,000 hectares (172,973 acres).

But what if they all adopted a primarily plant-based diet, with at least 20% of the plants grown in greenhouses? The land usage would drop to just 2,000 hectares (4,942 acres). That’s a 97-percent reduction!

To the meat-industry’s argument that the additional land would just be sitting empty, Rob responds:

“No, no, it could have also been Nature. It could be a normal pasture. It could have been a forest. And we decide to chop it down to put cattle [on the cleared land]. And then you overheat the planet.”

His vision reaches beyond the Netherlands to encompass the entire world. If everyone moved to eating 80 percent plants and 20 percent animal products, he says, we could “feed forty billion people.” 

Clearly, Rob would love his country to keep setting the pace in global agricultural innovation – and start setting the example in global plant-based eating. And he’s doing more than his part to lead the way!

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