A place where 'bubbly brains' come together - World Horti Center

'Bubbly brains' come together

In World Horti Center people run into each other all the time. That induces discussion, inspiration and thus dynamism. And these are important ingredients for accelerated innovation.

The total World Horti Center is approximately 20,000m2. The new location of Demokwekerij Westland, with its 40 research departments, occupies about 6,500m2. The central building is 9,000m2 and here is the joint entrance for all parties. A spacious staircase leads to the first floor. In addition to the central building, the premises and facilities of MBO Westland, a total of 4,000 m2, consist of 40 classrooms. The 1,200 to 1,300 students of MBO Westland (Lentiz, Albeda and Mondriaan) can choose from 22 different courses in retail, business, trade and logistics, engineering, green, care and food. MBO education is provided at all levels. The knowledge and innovation center creates a unique collaboration and knowledge development between students, suppliers, growers, researchers and visitors. In many areas, this is because of the physical gathering, this will get more frequent, stronger and closer. The 'bubbly brains' in the building form the breeding ground of the international greenhouse horticulture sector. Major social issues are being pursued, such as water, food supply, food safety, well-being and sustainability. And all that on three levels; research, education and exhibition. These levels also overlap in the many facilities and spaces that the center offers. According to Peet van Adrichem, Managing Director of Demokwekerij Westland, the complex will play a major role in the translation of what greenhouse companies and suppliers are concerned with and what students should know and be able to do about it. The "nursery room" of greenhouse horticulture must be perfect in practice. "In addition, students can help greenhouse horticulture in a variety of ways with its global issues. The knife cuts on two sides. Business is being helped and students have interesting assignments. "The director believes that the MBO students, but also collaborations with, among others, the Hague University and InHolland students within the knowledge and innovation center, are the key to accelerated innovation in greenhouse horticulture.

Companies are involved in developing courses
Bert de Jong, director of MBO Westland, also sees many advantages to be "as close to the fire" as a trainer. It gives an acceleration to improving our education. For example, MBO Westland works together with business in developing two new courses ('Masters of Food' and 'Green Mechatronics') and two existing courses ('Trade and Logistics' and 'Cultivation Training'). About 75 companies - of which most active in the horticulture sector - contribute significantly to the continued renewal of the content, but also to the implementation of these studies. These companies often host and participate in World Horti Center. For example, Koppert Cress, Metazet, Dutch Flower Group, Priva, SPX Nature's Pride, as well as Hofland van Geest Sportbegeleiding will participate in the development of new study material in the next four years, and will assist in the implementation of practical assignments. They each invest 100 to 160 hours in this development. The new courses 'Masters of Food' and 'Mechatronics' will start in World Horti Center for the first time in September 2017. The MBO director notes that entrepreneurs realize that it is becoming a problem to get qualified employees. Therefore, they are looking forward to active connection and commitment to education. In turn, De Jong also sees business interfering in the form and content of education. "This is how it is increasingly felt like an education of itself. This gives us the assurance that we are training people who are needed by companies and institutions in the future. "Demokwekerij Westland is often involved in the content of education. De Jong: "Demokwekerij Westland is the most important conversation partner, for example, when it comes to innovative techniques and cultivation processes and how to handle them manageably in a particular educational form."

Discussion and dynamics
It is expected that the building attracts approximately 25,000 trade visitors annually. This target group varies from national and international growers, investors, suppliers to a wide range of customers, such as retailers. The strength of the project is that these people meet each other in the many features that the building knows. Van Adrichem: "The main advantage of the center is that all information about the latest innovations and developments in greenhouse horticulture can be found here. See it as the furniture boulevard for international greenhouse horticulture. "But what can a visitor expect exactly? On the ground floor there is a spacious entrance hall with an exhibition space of about 2,000 m2. There are about 65 participants of Demokwerij Westland. They present themselves on the exhibition floor by theme; greenhouse structures, crop systems & logistics, energy & climate, cultivation equipment and services & consultancy. There is also an office garden with approximately 25 workplaces, about 12 participants renting a workplace and there is a small office. But the intention is not that people lock themselves up in their own offices, says Van Adrichem. "If different parties working who specialize in different disciplines work together in one office garden, that creates the right discussion and dynamics. This can result in synergy and accelerate ideas and innovations. "Additionally, people working in a office garden are easily approachable to the center's visitors".

A large 'mechanization square' is also planned on the ground floor. Among other things, the Technique Development Desk (former IDC Robotica) and the new Fieldlab Freshteq have a place there. In Fieldlab, suppliers work together on international issues far beyond supplying a greenhouse or crop system. Things that each company can not handle individually due to its complexity. Companies in this square jointly work on technological developments and system innovations needed to meet complex international assignments. These include large-scale agro parks and issues in the area of ​​local and sustainable food provision for urban areas in the world. The partners in this Fieldlab are the Demokwekerij Westland, TU Delft, WUR, TNO, Greenport Horti Campus and InnovationQuarter. The new all-climate greenhouse is also part of Fieldlab and will also be used for the Breeding Training of MBO Westland. In this greenhouse (350 m2), with two sections of each 100 m2, different climates from anywhere in the world can be imitated. By testing here, growers or investors from abroad feel good about how they can grow with Dutch technology or a simplification of it. Van Adrichem: "For the market position of Dutch suppliers who are active abroad, this is very important." The so-called "Expo Square", which is also on the ground floor, is an area of ​​approximately 300 m2 which is flexible to fill in. These include temporary fairs, theme days or tastings.

Visitors who go up one floor will be on a second exhibition floor. Here, production and trading companies in the flower and food sector present their company, products and product concepts. Mark Zwinkels, Director of Food & Flowers, indicates that there are now 20 participating companies, but he expects it to grow to 30 companies. "Here they can show and explain to their retailers, but also to international growers with their investors in product concepts, new ideas and the challenges they face." The companies in the categories of flowers, food and breeding are tonext to each other. "That way we make it easier for, for example, category managers of retailers." According to Zwinkels, the combination of technology, supply companies and manufacturing and trading companies within the building makes the picture striking. "We are increasingly working towards the consortium idea. When a foreign investor puts want to invest his money in a greenhouse horticulture project, we have to offer a total package. We prefer to sell not only a greenhouse with accessories. We also want Dutch growers and consultants to ensure that the project is profitable for the investor. "Zwinkels indicates that many companies benefit from a place in the knowledge and innovation center. "The fact that they meet and interact with students is very interesting to both. This is a major reason for many. "Bordering the exhibition floor on the first floor, there is also an auditorium, with a capacity of 280 peolple. This is to become the clubhouse of the greenhouse horticulture sector. "In addition to providing education, it can be used for congresses, members meetings, and so on. It should give guests the feeling that if something is organized in the greenhouse horticulture, this is a logical place. It's got to feel like a party in your own backyard."

Published in KAS Magazine on 11 May 2017

Text: Ellis Langen

Imagery: Tuinbouw Communicatie