By: Sharon Janmaat 17 Jul, 2018

At the end of June, seven young heroes from the HortiHeroes Academy travelled with Rotterdam Food Cluster to the IFAMA conference (International Food and Agribusiness Management Association) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. There, the top talents from the food & flower industry told the story of their company and our sector and took part in the Young Professional Case Competition.

HortiHeroes win prestigious prize

The Young Professional Case Competition is a competition in which entrants from all over the world compete in teams to solve a practical case. This year, the teams were asked to think about the successful realisation of projects for small-scale farms in developing countries. HortiHeroes Steven Timmers (RedStar) and Philip van Zanten (Beekenkamp Plants) were members of the winning team and took the prestigious prize home with them.

From left to right: Dr Melissa van der Merwe (University of Pretoria), Hein Gerwel (University of Stellenbosch), Philip van Zanten (Beekenkamp Plants) and Steven Timmers (RedStar). Source: University of Pretoria

Challenges for the future

During the conference, Rotterdam Food Cluster hosted a forum discussion on innovation in clusters. Woody Maijers, lecturer in Integral Food and Production Chains at Inholland Delft,stressed the need for public-private cooperation for innovation and transition. Sharon Janmaat, project manager Rotterdam Food Cluster, applied this information to the Rotterdam region. The young professionals engaged the room with a pitch on their company and their challenge for the future. Based on stimulating propositions, they entered into a dialogue on the future of the food sector with the listeners. The following questions were raised: Can we solve the global food problem by 2023? Is vertical farming the alternative to the current cultivation techniques? Is it possible to grow organically without chemical crop protection products? Will all plastic packagings be abolished by 2030? And to top it all: Is the Dutch horticultural sector still ranked number 1 internationally? Of course, the young professionals answered with a resounding “YES!”

IFAMA presentatie

Unforgettable experience for young professionals

During the IFAMA conference, the talents were able to network with scientists, research institutes, professors, students and companies from the food sector from all over the world on behalf of their own employers. This was a great opportunity to share knowledge, expand the network and raise the profile of the Dutch horticultural sector, HortiHeroes and the employers on a global knowledge and innovation platform for the food industry in Argentina. In short, an unforgettable experience’ says project manager Sharon Janmaat.

‘The presentations and the discussions were met by a great deal of admiration and compliments from those present. Our young heroes have showcased our region extremely well,’ says Nick van den Berg, Rotterdam Food Custer Development Manager.

IFAMA 2020 in Rotterdam?

The Rotterdam Food Cluster aspires to bring the IFAMA conference to Rotterdam and the region by 2020. This is an international scientific conference focusing on transition and innovation in the global food sector. Since the Rotterdam region is the world’s most dominant and effective food cluster (8,000 food-related companies, 27 billion turnover and 44,000 jobs), we would like to accommodate this 5-day conference in our region. We plan to introduce the international food sector to the companies within our food cluster by linking various locations in the region to themes with an international impact. Negotiations on this are in full swing.

We would like to thank Westland Marketing and HortiHeroes for organising this trip, and Valstar, KUBO, BDO, Rabobank, Beekenkamp Plants, RedStar, and Royal Brinkman for giving their employees the opportunity to experience this unforgettable adventure. And of course the HortiHeroes themselves for their participation: Philip van Zanten (Beekenkamp Plants), Quint van Veen (Rabobank), Kees van der Arend (Royal Brinkman), Tim Zwinkels (BDO), Arti Dewnarain (KUBO), Steven Timmers (RedStar) and Nakita Bottrell (Valstar)’, says Sharon Janmaat.