Commissioner Weathers: Netherlands Fact-Finding Trip

SC Ag Commissioner Hugh Weathers recently went on a trip to the Netherlands to see how the Netherlands is advancing in Controlled Environment Agriculture. He tells us what he learned and how it can impact agriculture in South Carolina.

  • Netherlands is the number two food exporter in the world, second only to the United States
  • Would you believe it if I told you that since 2000, farmers in the Netherlands have reduced the amount of water they use by 90%?
  • One more — that they’ve almost completely eliminated the use of pesticides on plants and reduced the use of antibiotics on livestock by 60%?
  • These facts can be contributed to Controlled Environment Agriculture, or as some call it, precision farming indoors.
  • Farmers in South Carolina are becoming accustomed to using precision farming methods, but not inside a 20 foot high greenhouse.
  • Growing produce in greenhouses with high-tech climate and light controls, farmers in the Netherlands create ideal conditions for tomatoes and other specialty crops.
  • The sites I visited had anywhere from 20 to 200 acres of controlled environment facilities.
  • The Dutch are no strangers to greenhouses. During World War II, they were starving and knew they had to figure out how to grow food differently.
  • The world’s population expected to grow to 10 billion by 2050, global food supply is something we have to think about now.
  • Does South Carolina have a role to play as the world’s population grows and faces a potential food shortage?
  • Will it be inside farming in greenhouses? My visit to the Netherlands was part of this exploration.
  • Honestly, I can’t say for sure, which is why the Department commissioned the Palmetto Agribusiness Council (PABC) to perform a study on controlled environment agriculture. The study began last fall, and we expect to learn the results later this month.
  • It’s exciting to think about where technological innovation can take us in agriculture, and many South Carolina farmers are already using methods that would have been unrecognizable a generation