Why Agro, Food and Horticulture?

Importance of agricultural sector, horticulture and food industry

The Netherlands is a world leader in the field of innovative, sustainable and efficient food production. The agricultural sector, food industry and horticulture together make a contribution of ten per cent to the Dutch economy. Dutch exports of agricultural and food products are the second largest in the world. In the horticultural sector, food exports are the third largest. The Netherlands is the world’s biggest exporter of ornamentals, flower bulbs and glasshouse technology.


These sectors are facing the huge challenge of continuing to supply food, preferably as sustainably as possible, to a world with increasing numbers of people who are also consuming more per person. Production of food, ornamental crops and raw materials is placing increasing demands on available space, resources and the environment. And the importance of food for our health is attracting more and more attention.

Scientific research

Research in the scientific disciplines relevant to these sectors is undergoing an enormous expansion at present. Our understanding of complex biological systems is continually improving. New interdisciplinary research fields are emerging, in which researchers from the arts, social sciences and humanities and natural sciences are working together on questions from these sectors. The NWO theme Agro, Food & Horticulture focuses on three topics:

  • Sustainable production
    There is a growing demand for food and other biological products. This increasing demand also means a greater demand for scarce resources such as animal protein, water, energy and raw materials. Fundamental demand-driven research into growth and development, the functioning of ecosystems and the prevention of diseases generates knowledge that can be used to reduce these stresses, so that the whole world can be supplied with food without creating shortages or environmental problems.

  • Healthy food
    Food is inextricably bound up with health and disease. Research into the intake and processing of food in the body will increase our understanding of how food contributes to our health, growth and development. Preventing food-related diseases is another goal of research, as is encouraging consumers to choose healthy food.

  • Food security from a global perspective
    Food supply is a global problem. Extreme drought, floods, pests or diseases can cause harvests to fail. Poverty and conflict situations are the cause of entire population groups lacking access to good food. Food security is about access to food for the entire global population, and about the use of healthy and safe food that is valued by consumers. In developing countries, food security is a growing problem. As an exporting country and centre of expertise, the Netherlands can play an important role in developing structural and sustainable solutions geared to local circumstances.