If there is one thing most exporters of fresh produce hate, it’s the massive amount of high-tech, new gadgets, regulations and additional training that engulfs the average grower annually. People in the industry are almost required to be scientists themselves. Most growers claim that they have been doing their job most of their lives and don’t need to be told what to do. “Do you teach a monkey how to climb?” one of them asks.
Yet, it is hard to stop the onslaught of new technology and knowledge. Holland in particular has built a reputation for itself as a knowledge economy. Peter Klapwijk, a former grower himself, is now director of development & strategy at GreenQ, an organisation supporting the agricultural sector with knowledge, know-how and structural development. GreenQ operates worldwide.
When asked if it makes sense to teach a monkey how to climb, he says: “The demand for knowledge from abroad, and the resulting export of information is something you can’t stop. And why would you want to? Knowledge, especially industry knowledge like this, is one of our major export products. It is a valuable commodity, that makes our services desired all over the globe. If anything, I think we have a marketing problem. We have the gold, but we sell it as scrap.”
But is it wise to hand out our knowhow to the competition? Klapwijk stresses the importance of maintaining the position of ‘knowledge supplier’. “We should be aware of the privilege,”he says. “We should feel threatened sometimes, it’s healthy. Keep in mind that it is this knowledge and technical prowess that keeps us ahead of the curve. Not just in exporting information, but in applying it ourselves. It opens doors in foreign places, creates opportunities for our growers.”
Klapwijk believes what we need most is global cooperation. “This exchange of information will ultimately serve everybody involved. So yes, we do need to teach monkeys how to climb.”