Tipping points in the Dutch greenhouse industry: An Agent Based approach to explore the dynamics in the tomato-sector

The Dutch greenhouse industry is situated in the economic heart of the country and is an important driver for the Dutch export-economy. Due to a combination of land pressure (urbanization) and economic recession, the industry experiences more and more difficulties. Insufficient margins and increasing loan restrictions, limits its innovate character. Besides the Dutch sector is experiencing increasing competition from regions like Spain, Brazil and Morocco. This project is intrested in the robustness of the sector and too explore future developments.

Existing models, focusing on similar issues, are traditionally limited in their capabilities as they are not able to cope with so called tipping points. In general all tipping point are a result of a concurrence of circumstances, which cause a radical different development. Agent Based Modeling (ABM) is an alternative approach that can deal with tipping points. According to the ABM principle, separate entities are created behaving and interacting freely according individual resources and objectives. By means of interaction and its learning ability, entities adapt their strategies and actions.

This project aims to model both producing and consuming entities, to explore how supply and demand interact. But also how trends in globalization, up-scaling, local4local, slow food or out-of-home consumption interfere with the production chain. As a start we focus on the tomato industry, assuming that market formation in other cultivations or less intensive agricultural activities follow similar principles.

Wageningen UR has granted a 4-year program to stimulate the ABM application in practical research. Besides gaining experience, explore the dynamics in the sector in more detail, the main objective is facilitate the sector in their development.