Imagine thousands of acres of fruit orchards filled with trees equally shaped and orderly planted in rows to enable the business owner to grow and harvest large numbers of high-quality fruit in an efficient way all year round.

To realize this ambition, a collaboration is being set up between the Washington State Department of Agriculture, the Dutch government, several private parties and universities from both Washington State, California, and the Netherlands.

The parties announced this collaboration in a joint statement on February 3. As part of a larger AgFoodTech Collaboration between California, Washington State, and the Dutch, initiated by the governments on all sides, this collaboration is focusing on one of the five innovation themes identified in the agreement — fruit orchard automation and robotization.

“This is a good time to reinforce international cooperation and solidarity. To re-think our food systems. And to develop new infrastructures for sustainably produced healthy food,” said Dutch Ambassador André Haspels. “Together, we can build food systems that are smart, sustainable, and efficient.”

To keep pace with the higher demands regarding sustainability, environment and food safety in the fruit sector, combined with the declining availability of workforce, both regions have to speed up innovations to maintain and secure a sustainable future proof and resilient fruit food sector.

This automatization process makes fruit available year around for the majority of our increasing population.

This collaboration contributes to the acceleration of these processes to realize these shared goals by combining the excellent technology know how and specified sector knowledge available in both our ecosystems.

“Both Washington State and the Netherlands specialize in growing crops that require highly skilled and innovative technology solutions,” Ambassador Haspels said. “We both manage our crops with attention to the environment, healthy soils, climate change, reducing pesticides and water use, healthy and nutritious food, as well as food safety and quality.”

Making fruit cultivation more efficient, intelligent, sustainable, and future proof requires us to be able to monitor, manage, and make decisions at the level of individual trees. Smart technology will enable getting the most out of an orchard through the targeted, efficient use of crop protection agents, plant hormones and fertilizers, while saving on labour and minimizing food waste.

The scale and magnitude of this program makes it necessary to develop a shared vision, ambition & proposition and to build a scalable business case with both Dutch and US public and private partners.

It is this combination of opportunity and strong partnerships that encourages the parties to enter into this collaboration agreement, taking the first step in creating a multilateral agtech development model on fruit orchard innovations.