In this interview we get insights regarding how to develop a global leading horticulture cluster from the perspective of a regional minister. Adri Bom-Lemstra, Regional Minister responsible for spatial Planning & Housing, economic development & innovation, and aviation and chair of the Greenport West-Holland, explains openly the pros and cons.

The ambition of this rather complex agenda is to maintain the leading position in the world
Triple Helix
The Dutch greenport is a relatively new concept based on triple helix cooperation to develop an innovative and sustainable regional horticulture cluster. Academically the cluster concept was explained in the 90s by Michael Porter. The agenda of the Greenport has an integrated set of topics related to the development of: infrastructure, business, human resources, and knowledge. The ambition of this rather complex agenda is to maintain the leading position in the world. Leading in terms of business, sustainability, and knowledge. As a regional minster Adri Bom-Lemstra balances between all the different interests of the stakeholders and between the long term and short term objectives of these stakeholders. So far she never had a conflict of interest.

The economic importance of the horticulture sector for the region is the reason for spending so much time and money. This sector generates direct and indirect employment and economic income via export. But this sector dates back to the end of the 19th century and needs to innovate constantly. New societal and technological challenges require new solutions. Examples of big complex issues are energy transition towards zero carbon emission, less water, and pesticide usage, and spatial challenges. For the development and implementation of new solutions leading to zero carbon emission we need to collaborate: business to business but also business to local and regional government, and collaboration with knowledge institutes.

Achieving the long term challenging objectives of the regional cluster cannot be reached by regulations only
Innovation is needed
It is essential to get access to the latest ideas for solutions and develop competent management. "As a province we support the development of infrastructure like roads, harbor facilities, airports but also the development of cooperation between all the required stakeholders at greenport level. We as a province and myself invest in the process to bring all the partners on the table to find solutions for the hard questions." Discuss about the ambition and goals. Identify roadmaps and start with the implementation. "As regional minster I was asked to support this process and take the lead as Chair of the Green board in the Greenport West-Holland. This Greenport organization is a kind of executive organization for the horticulture cluster." The board is a combination of executives from province, municipalities, business, and knowledge institutes (research and education). Success is based on the level of collaboration of the partners: private and public.

"Our motivation to invest in this type of triple helix cooperation is we believe in the long run we reach our public objectives quicker and cheaper due to the joined investments. Our society is complex. Achieving the long term challenging objectives of the regional cluster cannot be reached by regulations only." The Greenport structure makes it possible for the regional government and me as regional minister to invest effectively. As long as the partners share the same long term objective, it's politically acceptable to cooperate with the private sector. Checks and balances in all the operational processes are of course important.

The knowledge and solutions we have to produce high quality food & flowers can be shared globally
Feeding & Greening Mega-cities
Trust and a good understanding of each others position is crucial. This takes time. "Over the last five year I am involved, we learned step by step what is possible to place on the agenda and what not. So far the results are very positive. We make progress in solving the big societal issues. As a result of this success we also invest in sharing this triple helix cluster approach with other regions in the world. We, as Greenport West-Holland and province of South-Holland, believe we can contribute in other parts of the world to feed mega-cities. Large concentrations of consumers in need of nutritious, healthy and safe food. Every day again. Our strategy Feeding & Greening Mega-Cities consist of two major part. One: The producers and traders in the Netherlands focus on Europe with the products. Secondly: The knowledge and solutions we have to produce high quality food & flowers can be shared globally." This last part of the strategy is not only an idea, but also executed in several regions in the world. For example in China.

The province developed several MoU’s (Memorandum of Understanding) with the national and regional governments in China. Special trade missions are organized to 'sell' the cluster and triple helix, collaborative development model. Partners of the Greenport join the missions to show the commitment and tell the stories from different positions. The partners also are willing to invest in handing over the cluster approach to local partners. This way the province is a very strong stimulator and facilitator to transfer globally the collaborative cluster development concept. "The rationale is that we believe in international cooperation and to feed the world and support wealth creation and well-being in different regions in the world. Of course for the benefits of the local partner but also for the partners from the Netherlands and the Dutch regional horticulture cluster as a whole."

If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together
Collaborative Model
Nature and market circumstances differ in every part of the world. "Together with local partners from business, government, research, finance, and education we want to develop the best local solutions and be supportive during the implementation and startup phase." The province 'sells' the collaborative model: How to develop a high tech horticulture cluster to feed & green mega-cities. If relevant businesses can step in commercially, but the government acts pre-commercial, it’s up to the business partners to make deals for greenhouses and selling climate computers. This is not the task of the government.

Selling the concept globally drives innovation in the Netherlands. The local Dutch growers benefit of this international collaborative strategy. The ownership and shareholder value of the concept Feeding & Greening Mega-cities is still under debate. "The concept is still young and we need to explore the full impact potential for all stakeholders including the Dutch growers." Global selling components of greenhouses, seeds and individual services is going very well. But the global competition is also growing. "To keep ahead we believe the collaborative model with regions and mega-cities in the world is the next step of doing business." One of the payoffs of Adri Bom-Lemstra is based on an old African proverb: If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.

Adri Bom-Lemstra, who is she?
Adri Bom-Lemstra is the chair of Greenport West-Holland. “I understand the importance of national cooperation. By exchanging expertise and joining forces on themes that play a national role, we can make a difference. I am committed to making our innovative Dutch horticultural sector even stronger", she says.

Dutch horticulture is concentrated in the province of Zuid-Holland and in the Wieringermeer in the province of Noord-Holland. It exports over 90% of its produce, mainly tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and flowers and plants.

Regional Minister
As a regional minister, Adri Bom-Lemstra is responsible for economic development & innovation, horticulture and agriculture. She is committed to a healthy and safe province of South Holland. "By supervising rules on air quality, the environment and noise pollution. By thinking about how to prepare our towns and villages for extreme heat and rain. By ensuring that our farmers and horticulturists can produce enough healthy food. Innovation and cooperation are very important in this respect."

As a regional minister she serves the public interest, whereas the Greenport serves private interests. Curious to see how she combines these two roles? Watch the interview above.