Norbert van der Straaten is one of the founders of Holland Greentech – an agricultural service provider in East Africa. Holland Greentech provides East-African farmers with a complete package of services ranging from soil analysis and fertilisation advice to seeds, nutrient management, irrigation solutions, and pest management solutions. Holland Greentech is one of SoilCares (now part of AgroCares) partners offering soil testing services with the Scanner in Rwanda and since February 2018 in Uganda and Zambia. In the short term Holland Greentech will also provide the services in Kenya.
Feeding the growing population of East Africa
The population of East Africa is growing fast and this leads to a rapidly increasing demand for food. As a result, local farmers are under pressure to produce more food from their land. The challenge of feeding the increasing population motivated Holland Greentech to search for reliable solutions that can help farmers improve and increase their yields. Holland Greentech believes that innovative technology for agriculture can solve this problem.
Norbert van der Straaten, one of the founders of Holland Green Tech: “Supplying African cities with safe and tasty vegetables is a challenge. We want to help farmers cope with this challenge by offering a portfolio of the best products and services that use the Dutch knowledge, skills and technology. We are partnering with 7 Dutch companies. For every service of our portfolio, we have a different Dutch supplier of the technology.”
Soil: the starting point of agriculture
Holland Greentech realizes that soil quality is a crucial element in crop production. Norbert van der Straaten: “We believe that to help farmers, we should provide a full package of services. Only one element would make a small difference but the combination of the different services we offer can greatly improve farmers’ yield. Soil and water are starting points of agriculture so gathering data on available water, weather and soil is an important part of our services.”
Holland Greentech was looking for opportunities to expand their portfolio with soil testing services and decided to partner with SoilCares. Norbert van der Straaten: “We believe that SoilCares is the perfect partner for us when it comes to soil testing because the Scanner provides fast and reliable soil analysis. The soil reports are ready within 10 minutes and this is a great advantage for us. It means that our advisors can go to the farmer and discuss the results with them on the spot. This saves time and money not having to visit twice.”
How does it work?
An advisor from Holland Greentech actually goes to farmers and provides them not only with the tools but also with the knowledge required to successfully manage a farm. Norbert van der Straaten: “We visit farmers every Friday. Our advisors take the SoilCares Scanner to the field and perform on-the-spot soil analysis. It is important for us to have instant test results that we can explain to farmers immediately. That is why we cooperate with SoilCares – no need to wait for 3 weeks for the results as with traditional soil testing methods!” Holland Greentech supports farmers in every aspect – not only explaining the results and fertiliser recommendations, but also linking the farmers to companies that are able to supply the recommended fertilisation.
Stimulating entrepreneurship by training young experts
Holland Greentech plans to train a network of young experts that will support farmers and also promote soil testing. Norbert van der Straaten: “During the next 1.5 year we are going to develop our own distribution network of young experts in agriculture. We expect to hire 60 young people, of which 8 will focus on soil management, and teach them how to be entrepreneurial. They will work directly with farmers and sell our services.”
Outlook for the future
Holland Greentech plans to continue providing soil testing services and focus during the coming years on sharing knowledge with farmers and providing them with training. Norbert van der Straaten: “The technology is only useful if we manage to get the farmers to implement our advice and improve their yield. This happens with training and capacity building.”
Holland Greentech expects its regional offices to be self-supporting in 3 years. They plan to reach in 3 years’ time for example in Rwanda over 8,000 farmers (110 ha), by developing 40 demo plots in 8 regions. These demo plots will serve as regional sales and training locations.
Knowledge sharing between SoilCares and Holland Greentech is also on the agenda. Norbert van der Straaten: “It is important for us to share our experiences with working with farmers and learn from each other. I foresee that in the future we will further strengthen the cooperation with SoilCares. When we work closely together and share experiences, we understand and serve our clients better. The stronger our cooperation is, the more farmers we can reach.”
For more information about Holland Greentech, please check their website.