Tulips, cheese and even windmills - icons of the Netherlands that exist because of farmers. I have the honour to be chairman of the Dutch Association for Agriculture and Horticulture (LTO Nederland). We represent Dutch farmers towards national and European policy makers and broader society. We have about 35.000 members, who are responsible for almost two-thirds of the Dutch agricultural production. I am an arable farmer myself - I mainly grow wheats, winter wheats, and sugar beets in the northern Netherlands.

The Netherlands is the 2nd exporter of agrifood products in the world, and we're proud to have the best agricultural and horticultural university in the world: Wageningen University and Research. But it's not all sunshine and rainbows. We have had a pretty tumultuous year, culminating in massive demonstrations last autumn.

I look forward to learn about your ideas on how we are going to feed 10 billion people in 2050 whilst protecting our environment and safeguarding the liveability of the countryside and livelihood of one of the oldest professions in the world, farmers.

I'll be answering questions starting 1 PM EST, which is 7 PM here in the Netherlands. Ask me anything!

Proof: https://twitter.com/LTONederland/status/1219674104346923009?s=20

Edit: thank you all for your questions! It's been two hours, I need to check out for now. I'll do my best to review open questions later this week.

Edit 2: Hi everyone – I've answered some questions which were not yet voted to the top yesterday. This was an interesting experience - whatever your point of view, it is important to keep the dialogue on the future of food and food production going! All the best, Marc Calon.

Comments: 835 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

pierke238 karma

We pride ourselves in being the second largest exporting country in agricultural goods, but do you think it's sustainable for such a small country to produce with such intensity?

Wouldn't it be better is food wasn't transported around the globe from the Netherlands, but instead produced locally, in countries that are most likely more spacious?

CalonLTO114 karma

Valid question!

First of all – we live in a fertile delta where we are good at producing certain things thanks to natural and societal circumstances. Good also means: with a very low environmental impact per kilogramme of product (the lowest in the world, I believe).

About 80% of our export is within the European Union, especially Germany. If you drive the same distance from my home as in a large state in the US I will cross 2 or 3 national borders. So ‘local’ or ‘all over the world’ is relative to your perspective.

But, more importantly: you need to take into account that export is measured in value. A kilogramme of tomato seed made in the Netherlands is worth more than a kilogramme of gold. So being the 2nd exporter in the world is not about volume, it is about creating value.

fred_lincoln27 karma

Has there been any noticeable differences to Dutch farmers from Trump's tariffs?

CalonLTO34 karma

Because we are a trading nation, we benefit from stable and open trade. We have not seen a significant impact from the recent trade war between the US and China. Brexit is worrying though – the UK is our third trading partner.

coryrenton22 karma

What is the strangest produce you suspect may become viable in your area based on climate change projections, future technology, changing markets, etc...?

CalonLTO21 karma

Different example than you may expect: green walls with plants to regulate indoor climate and temperature in buildings.

vdgupta1416 karma

Hey! Im an agriculture science publisher from India, and scientists, including Prof. MS Swaminathan, over here absolute revere the Wageningen Uni.

My question is: we keep hearing the next big war is going to be a 'water war', and since agriculture is the primary user of water, where do you see this problem going politically and socially? And also, what do you have to say about indoor/vertical farms and if good policies can bring them into mainstream? Since they claim to use only a percent of water traditional farming uses, seems like an expensive but worthwhile solution.

Thanks

CalonLTO7 karma

Loss of fertile soil and not enough availability of water of sufficient quality is the most important limiting factor for agricultural production in the future.

So we need to be efficient with water. For example - a Dutch tomato requires only a fraction of the amount of water a Spanish tomato or a Mexican tomato needs to grow. Note that we have a bit more rain here in the Netherlands…

Striped-fish15 karma

Question: I am specialized in fishkeeping and also have an agricultural background:

Most problems with nitrogen and others are depending on eachother. Why handle Nitrogen/Carbon and phosfate on its own?

For example in Coral aquariums they add Wodka as a carbon source it lowers the nitrogen and phosfates (it is called the Wodka methode) http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2008-08/nftt/ https://www.aquainfo.nl/mineralisatie/ https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redfield_ratio

The use of patato skinins and pasta to fermantatie to alcohol or other sugars as a carbon source.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anammox Because those bacteria are like the methane ones anaerobic. And put nh4 directly to n2 with the help of no2.

It should be possible to make a methane anammox reactor. It seems so: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960852408009206

Why not build them with to large stables to produce green energy? If this works:

https://www.tno.nl/en/about-tno/news/2019/4/sunlight-used-to-convert-co2-to-methane-extremely-efficiently/

It is possible to make a methane anammox reactor and the CO2 emmision from it can be used for higher efficiency. It is greener and more environmentally friendly than electronic power.

Else it should be possible to put egg shells in water (for example at a mayonaise factory) and put CO2 through the water. The CO2 has a low pH and will dissolve the calcium. The calcium can be mixtured with old manure. If it is mixed and plants are furtiled at the roots with nitrates. The plants will get more nitrogen from the air. Is this workable for farmers?

And there are big milk cooperation in the Netherlands and we can trust them. Why not make butchers cooperations?

Most profit in a supermarket in NL are on Milk products and meat. We have the Welkoop (so there is experience with distribution) Why not make an own supermarketchain with only Dutch products? To get more profit for the farmers.

CalonLTO11 karma

Many interesting ideas which deserve attention from our scientific community. That’s the first step to creating solutions that can be applied by farmers.

I'm not sure if we should have a supermarket with only Dutch products – Dutch people also enjoy food from abroad (banana’s!).

badplayer42011 karma

what is your favorite ride in the Efteling?

CalonLTO23 karma

Oh man – this is a long time ago. It’s Droomvlucht!

For our non-Dutch redditors: https://www.efteling.com/en/park/attractions/droomvlucht

joestaff8 karma

What's your favorite kind of sandwich?

CalonLTO27 karma

Wholegrain panini with tuna salad!

yddam276 karma

does that university offer classes to americans? i’m studying horticulture now and am interested in global outcomes

CalonLTO10 karma

The university teaches in English and there are a lot of foreign students, I think at least a quarter. Tuition for non-EU citizens is higher though - I would recommend to check out their website for details!

Imortimus2 karma

Chocoladevlokken or hagelslag?

CalonLTO6 karma

Hagelslag!

FirstFarmOnTheLeft2 karma

Do you ever hire Americans or do you have plenty of qualified professionals in the Netherlands/EU? I work in the dairy industry in the Midwest U.S., but looking to Europe for our longer-term plans. We've hired people from abroad (and sponsored visas, etc.) but not sure if that's uncommon in the Netherlands - the dairy/ag industry specifically?

CalonLTO13 karma

To be honest – I don’t believe Americans are often hired here in the Dutch dairy industry. There is always demand for qualified people, but with freedom of movement and work in the European Union those people are usually found within the EU. When you’re not an EU citizen you need a working visa, which are dependent on the type of job and country of destination. For e.g. scientific jobs it’s usually not a problem, but for ‘normal’ jobs it can be difficult. I do know of many Dutch farmers who move to the US or Canada.

CommenterCommenting21 karma

Alles lekker?

CalonLTO2 karma

Ja, voldoende!

treestubs1 karma

Does your association have an internship program for economics students?

CalonLTO1 karma

Send us your cv via the LTO website and we're happy to see if there are opportunities available, assuming you are allowed to work in the Netherlands!