By: Sharon Janmaat 04 Apr, 2019

How can we in the Netherlands stay at the cutting edge of the global food and flower industry? For this mission, the Rotterdam Food Cluster and HortiHeroes are coming together. They are both creating an ecosystem to speed up innovation, together with the business world, educational institutions and government, so that we can keep our place at the top of the global food industry. Desh Ramnath, founder of HortiHeroes, and Sharon Janmaat, project manager of the Rotterdam Food Cluster, both believe that a strong ecosystem will ensure economic growth in the food industry.

Working together on a healthier world and a strong Dutch economy

The agri-food sector is the largest employer in the Netherlands and ranks at the top worldwide. That means that this sector is an enormous economic resource for the Netherlands. ‘We have to work together for a beautiful and healthy world’, say both Ramnath and Janmaat. ‘We in the Netherlands have the knowledge, the network, the experience and the diversity to solve global problems. Consider things like reductions in logging, combatting water pollution and water waste, decreasing CO2 emissions, protecting endangered species, increasing the incomes of poor farmers and field workers, and making healthy food available for everyone. If we work together instead of competing with each other, we can make the world a more beautiful, healthier and better place. Not only that, we can also strengthen the Dutch economy at the same time, offering a secure livelihood to thousands of Dutch people’.

Where are the econometrists, marketers, programmers and robotics engineers?

In order to be prepared for worldwide change, such as digitalisation and robotics, it’s imperative that companies innovate, and attract the right kind of people to do so, according to Ramnath. ‘What the sector needs besides green thumbs are econometrists, marketers, programmers and robotics engineers. You can find some of these people in the Netherlands, but there’s a chronic shortage worldwide of programmers especially and this holds double for the Dutch Food & Flower Industry.’

If we’re not careful the Netherlands won’t be in the club anymore

Companies of the future understand how much impact the food industry has on the economy and put their energies into food. ‘If we’re not careful, countries like China and India will create a market that sidelines the Netherlands’, Ramnath warns. ‘These countries are far ahead of the Netherlands when it comes to IoT and ICT. What’s more, sun, labour and land are cheaper in these countries and the volumes are many times greater’. ‘And governance is simpler’, Janmaat adds. ‘In Europe, moreover, we are dependent on sourcing a significant portion of our products from Africa and South America. South America serves its own market more and more, and large parts of Africa are being bought up by countries like China.Asian governments are anticipating the demand for available land and human capital. This leaves little choice for the Netherlands’.

drone food innovation

Investing in knowledge economy and global food production

According to Ramnath, the impact of food production worldwide also offers opportunities. ‘In order to stay at the front of the line, companies have to invest in the knowledge economy and at the same time become shareholders in the worldwide production of food. On the one hand, businesses can get more inhouse technical know-how, for example, by bringing ICT and IoT specialists from India to the Netherlands. On the other hand, businesses can move production to countries where the land is cheaper and so become a shareholder in global production. That way, they can sell Dutch technology to countries where they have operations. This creates a sustainable and feasible model’, Ramnath says.

‘If we’re not careful, countries like China and India will create a market that sidelines the Netherlands.'

Desh Ramnath Founder HortiHeroes

HortiHeroes and the Rotterdam Food Cluster examine future business models

Janmaat: ‘The biggest USP of the Rotterdam region is our comprehensiveness, meaning the ecosystem of know-how, government, business world, young people and educational programmes’. By becoming the strategic partner of HortiHeroes, the Rotterdam Food Cluster’s network will become even bigger and both partners can reinforce each other. ‘We look at where we can help each other and share each other’s network. We’re examining future business models for the agri-food sector together with HortiHeroes and other parties’, Janmaat tells us.
According to Janmaat and Ramnath, a strong ecosystem ensures economic growth. ‘We want to work together with businesses who understand you can only flourish when the ecosystem functions properly. It’s also important that businesses want to invest in this. By doing so, they’re not only investing in the future of their own company, but also in the future of the Netherlands’, Ramnath says.

Read more about HortiHeroes

Younger employees work together on entrepreneurial themes

Fortunately, Janmaat and Ramnath see more and more collaborations between a diversity of groups and individuals. ‘We notice that companies are consciously occupied with change and this continuously leads to more issues from the business world’, Ramnath proudly says.
‘Thanks to initiatives like HortiHeroes, businesses come together at different levels’, Janmaat adds. ‘Not just CEOs, but especially younger employees work together on entrepreneurial themes’. This stimulates companies to share part of their knowledge with each other and so together achieve a greater total value’.

New innovations by cross-fertilisation at HeroFestival

During the HeroFestival on 11 April at the Schiecentrale in Rotterdam frontrunners, innovators, government, knowledge institutions, startups, intrapreneurs and investors came together to tackle global challenges in the Food & Flower industry. Together with their partners such as Rotterdam Food Cluster, HortiHeroes aims to make an impact on a global scale by attracting pioneers from inside and outside of the sector. ‘Cool innovations come about only when you bring together people with different backgrounds – young and old, from startups to visionaries’, according Ramnath.

Nieuwsbrief HeroFestival verslag

Entrepreneur in the food sector?

Rotterdam Food Cluster, partner of HortiHeroes, encourages and supports businesses in developing new future-oriented business models in the field of sustainability and circularity. Do you have an innovative idea? Would you like to share your vision on food? Or, are you looking for a party to collaborate with? We will gladly share your story on our platform and will help you on your way.

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