International delegations find their way to World Horti Center - World Horti Center

International delegations find their way to World Horti Center

Since opening in March 2018, the World Horti Center has welcomed visitors from all over the world. “From Albania to Australia, from Belgium to Bangladesh. In absolute numbers of visits, China and South Korea are currently in the lead,” says Erwin Cardol. 

World Horti Center, which was opened on 7 March 2018 by Her Majesty Queen Máxima, is the knowledge and innovation centre for the greenhouse horticulture sector and a platform where entrepreneurs, educational establishments, research institutes and government come together.

Erwin Cardol is director of Demo Nursery Westland, one of the centre’s four cooperating parties. He explains why all those visitors travel to Naaldwijk: “Our country is a frontrunner in international horticulture. The World Horti Center showcases the entire sector and therefore attracts a lot of interest from a wide range of stakeholders. It’s – for now – the only place in the world where government, business, research and education come together.”  With ‘for now’, Cardol refers to the huge interest from abroad in building similar horticultural centres.

The World Horti Center includes research greenhouses, two storeys dedicated to year-round trade exhibitions for the entire horticulture sector and numerous facilities for conferences and events. It also houses the MBO Westland institute of secondary vocational education with 1,300 students. “Many international visitors come to the centre when on a multi-day visit to the Netherlands, during which they explore the various aspects of our agri-food sector.  Groups from Asia often include representatives of government and education, whereas visitors from western countries are usually business delegations,” says Cardol.

His favourite groups are those with a strategic mission, “Like the delegation from Uzbekistan last summer,” he says. “First, we received a small group, led by the Uzbek Minister of Foreign Trade. Two months later, the minister returned with a large delegation. It was a more extensive visit this time, aimed at forging tangible connections with companies and organisations that could help his country in its path towards the modernisation and expansion of food production.”

Uzbekistan has earmarked a budget of a billion dollars to reform agriculture and horticulture. These funds have come from the Uzbek government, the European Union and the World Bank. Cardol continues, “Our participants – companies that take part in World Horti Center through the year-round trade exhibition – are keen to liaise with delegations from Central Asian ‘stan’ countries. It’s an opportunity for them to gain access to relevant contacts and to secure appropriate leads.”

The 40,000-plus visitors to World Horti Center this year will be especially surprised by the level of cooperation between all parties in the building. “For us, this has become almost self-evident, but visitors find this type of cooperation in the chain truly special,” says Cardol. “They draw a lot of inspiration from it and come away with many valuable contacts, often even a letter of intent. And they take photos, lots of photos,” he laughs.

Cardol and his team are still hoping for a visit from China’s President Xi Jinping: “He can be considered a reformer within his country. China is developing rapidly, and Dutch agriculture and horticulture technology could be invaluable for feeding hundreds of millions of Chinese. The Chinese government is always a stakeholder in any deal, so a visit by President Xi Jinping to World Horti Center could have a huge impact on trade with China.”

Publisched in Green Business, Stichting Westland Marketing

Text: Sanne Bakker

Photos: Rolf van Koppen