This month, Wilko Wisse started as Advisor for Glasshouse Horticulture with the Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland (RVO). In doing so, he is taking the step from (tomato) business to government.
At RVO they have noticed recently that there are more and more issues specifically centering around greenhouse horticulture. That is why they were looking for practical knowledge from someone who also has good communication skills. That person was found in Wilko.
Wilko's position at RVO is new. Among other things, he is going to contribute to (energy) data collection and subsidy applications, but apart from that, it is going to take some time, especially in the first few weeks, to see exactly where things are going, he says. "There is a lot going on at the moment in the energy transition, including nitrogen and CO2. Under pressure from society and politics, RVO is being given many new tasks, often specifically for greenhouse horticulture. In its own way, the sector has to deal with current developments in its efforts to achieve, subject to conditions, climate-neutral operations by 2040.
Cooperation in the interest of all
RVO already has a great deal of practical knowledge about agriculture, horticulture, and glasshouse horticulture specifically, but they were still looking for extra reinforcement 'from the field'. "In my role as advisor, I will be helping to implement very important programs. Both RVO, as the executor commissioned by the authorities, and the entrepreneurs must benefit from this.
At the moment there is still a common image of government and practice being on opposite sides of the fence. "Sometimes that is the case. Not all measures are immediately successful, which can lead to dissatisfaction. Yet it is also possible to work well together. And that is already happening. Look at a project like Rainlevelr, for example. In this project, the government and the business community in the Westland-Delfland region work together to keep their feet dry during heavy rainfall. It's an example of cooperation in everyone's interest, and there are many more possibilities."
After he announced his new position on LinkedIn, reactions came pouring in. When asked, Nico van Ruiten of Greenport West-Holland and Dennis Medema of Glastuinbouw Nederland briefly touched on the importance of 'building greenhouse horticultural expertise in government positions'. After all, greenhouse horticulture has its 'own unique dynamics'. Dennis: "That is why it remains important that regulations are well aligned with the practical needs of the sector. It certainly helps that Wilko knows what is going on in practice. And although RVO does not make policy, in his new role he may well be able to give advice.
Wilko indicates that he has already received many wishes for success. And invitations to come and have a cup of coffee. "I'm certainly going to do that. But I do have to put the brakes on a bit. Within RVO I am ultimately only a small cog in the wheel.
So there is nothing you can do about the Opslag Duurzame Energie (Sustainable Energy Storage), a measure 'from The Hague' which angers the glasshouse horticulture sector? "Haha, no, fortunately, everyone understands that. The RVO is 'only' an implementer and not a policymaker, although we can give advice.
The ODE is certainly an example of something that entrepreneurs are currently struggling with, but that can also be very small things. For example, questions about exporting to other countries. The RVO can help with that too, in a facilitating role or as an intermediary to bring people into contact. I certainly hope to do the latter for greenhouse horticulture entrepreneurs as well. After all, I already have a good network in the field and am therefore easily accessible.
However, consulting the RVO website first about regulations and other matters which RVO implements can also help. The relevant people with knowledge of the dossier can often be found there as well.
Wilko repeatedly emphasizes that RVO is more than 'just subsidies, subsidy schemes and the Combined Declaration'. "It is not called the Enterprise Agency for the Netherlands for nothing. I would therefore urge entrepreneurs in greenhouse horticulture to make use of us. There are so many people with so much knowledge working here that if I or my colleagues don't know something, there are always enough people to ask that question."
Wilko Wisse at the joining of Lugt Lisianthus as 25th Rainlevelr
Continuing to make progress
In the coming period, Wilko himself will study a number of dossiers, in addition to the necessary introductory talks. Energy is a common theme there. Wilko mentions the greenhouse as a source of energy, after the action and innovation program of the same name that is already underway. "Fortunately, I am already well acquainted with this because of my role as chairman of the entrepreneurs' group that advised on research within Kas als Energiebron (Greenhouse as a Source of Energy). Nevertheless, in all cases, it is good to keep looking at how we as the RVO can help. That can be done through subsidies, to take away the unprofitable toppling for innovative entrepreneurs with new techniques, but also in other ways.
For example, I think there is still a lot of profit to be made in the area of CO2. Growers need this, but the outside world is often not aware of it. Nowadays, people increasingly see CO2 as something dirty, something bad, while after capture in industry and cleaning, in liquid form, for example, it can greatly help growers to cultivate good, healthy flowers, plants, vegetables, and fruit. Good policy must help to guarantee this in the future too. And it is up to us to ensure that the regulations are in line with the practice of greenhouse horticulture.
There is often no shortage of techniques and the sector is an innovative one. At the same time, Wilko believes that there is still a lot of knowledge to be found outside the sector and in foreign countries which the greenhouse horticulture sector can put to good use. "In addition to facilitating and communicating, I would therefore also like to (continue to) make cross-pollinations in order to continue to make progress together."