The Triple Helix in Agriculture

What comes to mind first when considering triangles? Trigonometry? Triangular buildings? The Dutch delta region? Most likely, the Dutch way of working is not the first that comes to mind. However, the ‘Triple Helix’ model of the Dutch government is the key to innovation and business opportunities in many sectors. It’s based on the concept that cooperation between the government, businesses and knowledge institutes is of the essence. One such sector is the agricultural sector. The Netherlands aims to be a circular economy by 2050, and as one of the largest agricultural exports worldwide this sectors lays a claim on this ambition. So how does the triple helix concept work in agriculture from a government perspective?

Shaped by society

It’s a firm belief of the Netherlands that, to secure food security towards the future, circular agriculture is the way forward. To this end, the Dutch government launched its vision towards the future in September 2018, themed ‘valuable and connected’. Through a series of measures, such as amending regulations or legislation, the government aims to further stimulate circular initiatives and support entrepreneurs who are innovating.

Based on the triple helix approach, the government is not the only factor determining the outcome. The key to success lies in combining expertise and building links with all parties involved and listening to the ideas of those involved. Together with farmers, growers and fishermen, with companies active in the market and with students, lecturers and researchers. This way, the future can be shaped and supported by the entire society. As Carola Schouten, the Dutch Minister for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, mentioned before: "I am convinced that we can work towards circular agriculture, and we can set our course with farmers, growers and fishermen, other entrepreneurs and civil society organisations."

Farming the Future

Earlier this year, during the Beijing Horti Expo, the SG of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality Jan-Kees de Goet introduced a new campaign called ‘Farming the Future’. “It entails that we aim to make the sector more sustainable and connected. In other words: to make the sector future proof. The old model where countries aim to produce the maximum amount of crops for as little money as possible is not sustainable towards the future. That is not just ideology, but also basic necessity to protect our earth and biodiversity. In the Netherlands, we strive to realize a fully circular agricultural chain by 2030. We’re talking about all steps from farm to table.” 

Making such a change towards more sustainability is not something one farmer or even one country can achieve on its own. International cooperation is essential, explains Mr. Goet. “Cooperation is a crucial ingredient to make the sector futureproof. It’s great to have initiatives such as this International Horticultural Expo or it’s Dutch alternative the Floriade. And let us not forget, it’s not just about governments. Cooperation with universities and between businesses is key to move forward. It’s important that it’s not just about the Netherlands ‘bringing’ knowledge and showcasing what we can do. But by truly connecting we can add value and also further expand our own knowledge.”

Holland Pavillions and PIB’s

In addition, the Dutch government also supports companies interested in furthering their international ambitions. An example of this are PIB (Partners for International Business) programs. Clusters of companies covering a whole chain in a specific sector develop, together with knowledge institutes and the government, an action plan to position themselves abroad. Such PIB programs are already active in China, for instance in the field of Bakery products.

Another interesting opportunity for Dutch businesses is to participate in business delegations or Holland Pavillions organized by the Dutch government. For example, in April last year, Dutch Prime Minister Rutte visited China. The Agricultural Counsellors of the Dutch network in China also attended the HortiChina in Qingdao this month and support Dutch businesses in the horticultural and husbandry sector. The companies attending introduced their products & services during a special seminar themed ‘From Fork to Table’.

Interested in learning more about how the Dutch economic network helps Dutch entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector open doors? Don’t hesitate to contact us.