Netherlands Agriculture Technology
After emigrating from the Netherlands to the United States, my Dad’s paternal grandfather settled on a farm in western Iowa. I remember my Grandpa sharing how hard it was growing up on that farm.
So hard that he fled it as a teenager and moved to West Michigan where he had a nearby relative. Eventually, my Dad was born in Zeeland, Michigan – and so was I.
Although Grandpa never owned a farm, he worked in agriculture throughout my life. As a child, I recall him visiting relatives in the Netherlands to learn more about certain fertilizer application methods.
I’ve also visited the Netherlands occasionally and am fascinated with Dutch advances in agriculture and renewable energy. Until this week, however, I had no idea just how much they’re leading the world in sustainable production methods.
In his documentary David Attenborough highlighted the Netherlands with a surprising description: “The Netherlands is now the world’s second-largest exporter of food [by value].”
How could this be? With only about 1/16 the land of Texas and as one of the world’s most densely populated countries, how does the Netherlands grow and export so much food?
When National Geographic looked into this exact question, they found that taking advantage of greenhouses and hydroponic growing methods has let the Dutch make incredible leaps in farming technology.
They’ve figured out how to use Nature to their advantage – instead of altering Nature with GMOs and heavy pesticides. They also produce more than one-third of the world’s vegetable seeds:
“Dutch firms are among the world leaders in the seed business, with close to $1.7 billion worth of exports in 2016. Yet they market no GMO products.”
Tomatoes grown from Dutch greenhouse plants turn out incredible amounts. in fact, a single seed has “… been known to produce a mind-boggling 150 pounds of tomatoes.”
Many Dutch farmers have also cut their water usage up to 90 percent. Some now raise their crops strictly with rainwater!
Consider that globally, it takes an average of 25.6 gallons of water to raise 1 pound of tomatoes. Yet the average for water Dutch farmers is only 1.1 gallons of water per pound. Using less than 5 percent of the water, they’re growing the same amount of produce.
One Dutch grower, National Geographic says, gets “… almost all of its own energy and fertilizer and even some of the packaging materials necessary for the crop’s distribution and sale.” This grower actually processes old tomato vines into packing crates!
Or, as Pope Frances would put it, they’ve mastered “non-destructive farming” methods. I know one thing for sure: If my Grandpa were alive today, he would be SO proud of their continued agricultural ingenuity!