MOROCCO – Morocco and Netherlands have strengthened their partnership in agriculture with a new horticultural “center of excellence” constructed in Agadir, which will focus on knowledge exchange to promote the “sustainable and integrated development of the horticultural sector in Morocco.”

The center consists of several-sized greenhouses that, together, cover nearly one hectare (ha) and will be located amidst the 20,000 ha of covered cultivation.

The new center of excellence brings together the Dutch embassy and the Moroccan ministry of agriculture, as well as actors from the private sector and Dutch research institutions.

According to officials of the countries, they are set to work closely with the Moroccan ministry of agriculture, the Hassan II Agronomic and Veterinary Institute in Rabat, and the Agadir Horticultural Complex.

The Dutch embassy emphasized that the new center and its projects “offer great opportunities to exchange the experiences of the two countries and to strengthen the synergies and complementarities between the production sectors in Morocco and the Netherlands.”

Pim van Adrichem of HortiTech, one of the Dutch horticultural parties involved in the project, said the center will be institutional. The center will conduct demonstrations in the greenhouse, teaching, and research will also be undertaken to raise growers’ current level and ensure future growers are properly trained.

One of the first tests in the demonstration greenhouse, where farmers the differences between current local cultivation techniques and the effects of innovations and technologies that will increase production and sustainability, will be the measuring of water and nutrient use in open-and-closed irrigation systems

Project Manager Sebastiaan Hijstek noted that the greenhouse is equipped with ‘standard’ Dutch technology: cultivation gutters to recycle the water and climate computers to properly manage the watering and climate.

Horticulture, the science of plant cultivation, is at an advanced stage in the Netherlands. Despite its small size (41,543 km²) relative to Morocco (710,850 km²), the north-western European country is the world’s second-largest agricultural exporter, driven by innovation and high-tech agriculture.

In this year’s final quarter, if all goes to plan, Pim said, the focus will initially lie on crops that use quite a lot of water, and tomatoes will lead the way.

He further hinted that most of the research will focus on more efficient water usage through water-saving techniques and the same cultivation strategies the Netherlands uses.

Stanghellini, who is an expert on greenhouse technology and energy and water use reduction, commented that the productivity in Agadir can easily be doubled from 15 to 20 kilos of tomatoes to 40 kilos per square meter.

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