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REGIONS EUROPE


Pooling resources: Dutch firm The Kingfish Company farms Dutch Yellowtail using a recirculating aquaculture system


history as a trading nation, through which it gathered the best of technology from around the world, made it open to new ideas and fos- tered an entrepreneurial mindset,” Mr Anders adds. “That has translated into developing a nimble and tech-first food system.” While the Dutch are nurturing these


advancements, the instigators oftencome from further afield. “Everyone is looking to the Netherlands to come up with new food produc- tion systems. But that doesn’t mean everything is being done by the Dutch,” says Maarten Schans, Invest in Holland’s agrifood specialist. Indeed, much is happening through interna- tional consortia. “If you want to be a part of that, it makes sense to have a presence here, to be connected to the right people and opportu- nities,” he adds. The region surrounding Wageningen


University has been a magnet for international food companies and research centres, earning it thename ‘Food Valley’ andmaking it a hive of collaborative activity. It is alsohometo Startlife, an accelerator whichconnects local and foreign entrepreneurs withfunders.“We nowhave over 350 start-ups, and investments and newplayers are coming from all over the world, including Silicon Valley,” says Mr van den Ende, who chairs Startlife. In 2020, the UK-based Cibus Fund invested


in two Dutch agritech firms: Connecterra, a start-up using AI to improve productivity and sustainability in dairy farming, and The Kingfish Company which farms Dutch


February/March 2021 www.fDiIntelligence.com


Yellowtail using recirculating aquaculture sys- tem (RAS). “We’ve probably looked at 25 RAS opportunities in the past two or three years, but Kingfish … is the highest-quality opportunity that we’ve seen,” says Mr Cooper.


The secret sauce The Netherlands offers lessons for governments wanting to improve food security, particularly after Covid-19 revealed the fragility of global supply chains. It is difficult to replicate its farm- ing heritage and being home to Rabobank, the world’s biggest agriculture lender, but other targets aremore achievable. Horticulture and agrifood are among the


government’s nine so-called ‘top sectors’, in which it encourages innovation via public–pri- vate partnerships and bringing together aca- demia and business. While Wageningen University is world-renowned, the sector’s suc- cess is supported by a broader knowledge clus- ter that includes strong ICT, life-science and robotics capabilities. “The challenges being addressed by agritech can only be solved using multiple technologies and a multidisciplinary approach,” says Mr Schans. “That is something we in the Netherlands can handle very well becausewehave expertise in all these fields and a collaborative mindset.” For governments and investors alike, now


is the time to get on board. “The industry is at the start of a period of enormous disruption,” says Mr Cooper. “This is just the first rung of the ladder.”■


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