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Alaska and the Netherlands: building a new partnership
Fifty years later, Alaska and the Netherlands are building a new partnership. Gerbert Kunst, the Consul General of the Netherlands in San Francisco, spoke at the International Business Conference & Trade Show in Anchorage.
“Trade between Alaska and the Netherlands is limited,” said Consul General Kunst. “Alaska exports $130 million to the Netherlands, and 99 percent of that is seafood. Alaska also imports $5.5 million from the Netherlands, 95 percent of which is computers and other electrical equipment. I see major opportunities to do business together.”
Ben and Suus Vanderweele moved to Alaska because the Netherlands didn’t have enough land for new farmers, a problem that does not exist in Alaska. But farmers in Alaska face other challenges, such as the arctic climate and distance.
Alaska imports 95% of its store-bought food, and at tremendous cost. It takes more than a week for fresh produce to reach some outlying villages in Alaska. The state also has some of the highest rates of food insecurity in the nation.
The Netherlands is only twice the size of New Jersey, and fits 41 times in Alaska. At the same time, it is the second largest exporter of agricultural products, behind only the United States.
The Dutch have found innovative solutions to grow crops efficiently, as reported on in last month's National Geographic. They don’t need a lot of water, space, or even the sun. Dutch farmers are experts in sustainable food production by controlling the growing environment.
Take greenhouses as an example. In the Westland-area, more than 25 square miles is covered in high-tech greenhouses with innovative energy-efficient and adaptable systems that allow large-scale horticulture with less impact on the environment.
That’s high results with low impact. Another example is tomatoes. Worldwide, farmers need about 8 gallons of water to grow tomatoes. The Dutch found a way to do it with just 1 gallon. Some greenhouses even produce energy.
Source: Embassy of the Netherlands (Sietze Vermeulen)
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