Last week Business unit Director Monique van Wordragen was on a trade mission in Vancouver, Canada, with the President of the Executive Board of WUR, Sjoukje Heimovaara, program manager AgroFoodRobotics Erik Pekkeriet, and senior researcher Jim van Ruijven. The mission was led by Minister Schreinemacher of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation and revolved around the future of agricultural and horticultural technology (Agtech). Just like in the Netherlands, horticulture in British Columbia, Canada, faces challenges in the areas of labor, sustainability/circularity, food waste, quality, and earning capacity. Agtech can be part of the solution. That is why the focus of this mission was on automation, robotization, and the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in horticulture.
One of the events during the trade mission was the co-creation of an innovation agenda for horticulture by Dutch and Canadian companies and research institutes. This event was organized by the B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation (BCCAI). BCCAI was established in 2022 and connects small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the agritech sector with academic researchers, government, and industry partners to develop technology solutions that build resilient supply chains and generate global solutions for food security and climate change. The Centre is, therefor an excellent partner for the business unit Greenhouse Horticulture to establish a bilateral innovation program, to which companies can hook on.
One of the first BC companies that expressed interest in this collaboration program was Windset Farms. The company started as a small family enterprise and is now one of North America’s largest sustainable suppliers of naturally grown produce. Windset wants to be a leader in setting some of the highest standards with regard to sustainable growing methods, for which data-driven cultivation management and technology are a prerequisite. During the mission, a declaration of intent was announced between Windset, BCCAI, and WUR Business Unit Greenhouse Horticulture to develop a collaborative research project around these topics. In the presence of Minister Schreinemacher, this intention was confirmed with a handshake between BCCAI Scientific Director Woo Soo Kim, Windset CEO Steven Newell, and WUR Business Unit Director Monique van Wordragen.