As the global population continues to grow and climate change threatens food security, it has become increasingly important to foster international partnerships to address these pressing challenges. In that context, last month, the VINE joined CDFA, Western Growers, UC Davis, and other industry and academic leaders, on the Climate Smart Agricultural Policy Mission to Denmark and The Netherlands. The purpose of the trip was to gain insights into Denmark and the Netherlands’ agricultural innovation and sustainability practices, foster collaboration and partnerships, and identify opportunities for shared research and development.
A Decade of Progress and Partnership
This climate-smart agriculture mission comes in the wake of an MOU between California and the Netherlands that was signed in 2015 and renewed in 2021. The aim of the MOU was to promote the exchange of knowledge and expertise in the areas of agriculture technology, innovation, and sustainability. The two parties agreed to work together to identify and develop new opportunities for collaboration, including joint research projects and trade missions. The MOU was seen as an essential step towards fostering greater international cooperation in the field of smart agriculture, which is increasingly seen as critical to meet the growing global demand for food while minimizing the environmental impact of agriculture. This trip not only celebrated the strides made since then but also served as a platform for discovering new avenues of cooperation and innovation.
Denmark: Pioneering Agricultural Innovation
The Denmark program began at the University of Copenhagen’s Taastrup Campus, a hub for extensive research and education in the field of agriculture. We then visited Food Nation, the Danish Ministry for Food and Agriculture, and Danish Agriculture and Food Council, which provided us with a comprehensive understanding of how Danish farmers and industry are organized towards innovative and climate-friendly agricultural production. These meetings underscored the cooperative approach to sustainable farming practices and food production in Denmark.
Our exploration of the Bio Innovation Institute Foundation and Crop Innovation Denmark offered us a first-hand look at the first-class Danish support of innovative startups and partnerships. At the Kalundborg Symbioses, the world’s leading industrial symbiosis, we learned about a practical integrated approach to industrial circularity. We then observed modern plant farming practices at Danish Agro at Lyngbygaard. On our final day, we ventured into the Agro Food Park and Arla Innovation, both hubs of innovation and entrepreneurship in food technology. We also visited a dairy farm and saw in action the progressive programs in place to encourage environmental stewardship and best practices on dairies. The ambitious climate goals of the Danish government are being implemented with the support of the Danish population in an impressively collaborative way.
Netherlands: Expanding on Solid Foundations
In the Netherlands, our delegation attended plenary briefings led by USDA, covering the Dutch and Nordic markets, emerging market opportunities, challenges, and doing business in the Netherlands. We visited Growy Amsterdam, a vertical farming facility employing advanced automation and acting as a strategic supply chain hub. We also visited Royal Steensma, Startlife Wageningen, Koppert BV, Straver, Pixelfarming, Lely, Rijk Zwaan de Lier, Tomato World, Frans Rijk Ottolanderlaan Orchard, and the Farm of the Future, all of which showcased innovative sustainable agriculture solutions.
The trip culminated in a roundtable discussion in The Hague, where participants shared insights and experiences from their respective countries. This exchange of ideas and knowledge deepened our understanding of the importance of global partnerships in addressing agricultural challenges, particularly in the context of climate change. The discussion also emphasized the significance of the MOU between California and the Netherlands, which strengthens the existing partnership and highlights key areas of cooperation, including climate-smart agriculture, water management, and engagement with other parties to achieve shared goals.
Reflections from Key Participants
The trip proved to be an enlightening and educational experience for all involved:
- Karen Ross, California Secretary of Agriculture, said, “Almost ten years ago, we set out on our very first climate-smart agriculture mission to the Netherlands, which led to the formation of our initial MOU in collaborations. It was gratifying to witness first-hand the remarkable progress in ag-tech deployment and the burgeoning collaboration within this sector since then. Denmark has also demonstrated its impressive capacity for innovation, and we are excited to nurture ongoing collaboration and exchange between Denmark and California”
- Helene Dillard, Dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis, said, “Our visit to Denmark and Netherlands has been an insightful experience, filled with cutting-edge agricultural practices and potential partnerships. By working together across borders and disciplines, we can devise comprehensive solutions to agriculture’s pressing concerns. I’m looking forward to seeing the transformative impact of the collaborations and innovations inspired by this trip.”
- Dave Puglia, President and CEO of the Western Growers Association, also highlighted the importance of collaboration, stating: “Fresh produce growers and processors in the Western U.S. face increasingly ominous challenges as marketplace dynamics and unsound regulatory policies combine to threaten their long-term economic viability. Many of those same pressures are impacting our agricultural colleagues in Denmark and the Netherlands, which is why collaboration and knowledge sharing with these international partners is so essential. Like our own growers, farmers in Denmark and the Netherlands are at the forefront of agricultural innovation, and learning about their adaptation to climate and policy challenges was inspiring. I am excited about the many opportunities to further our engagement.”
- Gabe Youtsey, Chief Innovation Officer at UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and founder of the VINE, added: “The VINE is thrilled to be part of this delegation exploring potential collaborations between California, Denmark and the Netherlands. It’s vital that we work together to address global challenges in agriculture and share best practices and innovative solutions. Through partnerships like these, we can work towards a more sustainable and equitable future for agriculture.”
Thank You To All Who Made Our Mission a Success
We extend our sincerest thanks to all participants in this Climate Smart Agriculture Policy Mission. On the Californian side, we express our gratitude to Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross, President and CEO of Western Growers Association Dave Puglia, Chief Scientific Officer of California Almond Board Josette Lewis, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis Helene Dillard, Program Specialist of the California Air Resources Board Michelle Buffington, Co-Founder of Opengate Partners Mareese Keane, Mark Mason of Huntington Farms, and Josh Eddy of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
On the Danish side, we thank Anna de Klaumann and Sonja Canger of the Danish Agricultural Agency, Troels Vensild and Morten Carlmann Andersen of the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, Søren Søndergaard, Chairman of the Danish Agriculture & Food Council, Merete Juul, Jens Munk Ebbensen, Kenneth Lindhardt Madsen, and Morten Bøje Hvid of the Danish Agriculture & Food Council, and Anna Sørensen Trillinggaard of the Danish Trade Counsel in Washington.
Finally, we extend our gratitude to Ton van Arnhem, Agricultural Advisor at the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington D.C., Maureen de Haan of FME, Joke Vroegop of NL Works, Sarah Visser of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Fishery, and Maurits van Dijk of Partners for International Business for joining us from the Dutch side.
The Climate Smart Agricultural Policy Mission served as a reminder of the power of collaboration in the pursuit of sustainable agriculture. As we move forward, it’s crucial that we continue to strengthen our global partnerships and work together to address the challenges faced by the agriculture industry.
At The VINE, we remain committed to driving innovation and sustainability in agriculture through collaboration and the pursuit of cutting-edge solutions that benefit the environment, the economy, and society as a whole. We believe that by working together, we can tackle the most pressing issues facing the industry, including food security, climate change, and environmental sustainability.
We encourage everyone to support collaborative initiatives and foster a spirit of innovation, as these are the keys to developing comprehensive solutions that benefit growers, consumers, and the environment. Together, we can create a more sustainable and prosperous future for the agriculture industry and for the planet as a whole.