HELICON and AERES start unique collaboration and launch:

Fruit education is due for renewal. That is the conclusion of the exploration into the future of fruit education in Geldermalsen, the Netherlands. To achieve this, Helicon Opleidingen & Aeres, in conjunction with local businesses, have decided to set up the Fruit Tech Campus, where education related to cultivation, technology and data within the fruit sector are united.

Cultivation and Tech

To attract students to the cultivation training programme, the curriculum must be renewed, both in terms of form and content: from being cultivation-oriented to a broader training programme underpinned by a technical and technological base. This renewal is also necessary for university of applied sciences degree programmes and business training programmes and as such, one of the main aims within this collaboration. A strong interaction between business and education is crucial here, with businesses too teaching in class as it were.

Titia Bredée (chair of the Executive Board of Helicon Opleidingen): “We see that the market demands a connection between cultivation and technology. That’s why, together with Aeres, we will be creating the cultivation tech training programme for future employees, with knowledge of cultivation, storage, sorting and packaging”.

In the Fruit Tech Campus, Helicon MBO Geldermalsen, with its cultivation training programme, and Aeres MBO/HBO, with its agricultural technology profile, will jointly take up the challenge of shaping education for tomorrow’s fruit sector. Step one is to implement this in the renewed cultivation training programme at secondary vocational education level (MBO) in the short term. In a format that appears to be more in line with the market, in which block or day release students go to school for a week and then work at the internship company for 4 consecutive weeks. This division between work and learning improves the learning performance in the week that the students are at school and is at the same time more efficient in terms of travel time for students living further away. Completely new training programmes are developed and started as well, focusing on sorting and packaging, among other things. Commitment from and knowledge of businesses, as is already the case in many other agricultural sectors, is crucial in this educational innovation initiative.

Bastiaan Pellikaan (chair of the Executive Board of Aeres): “We’ll now also use our experiences with practical education and research from VMBO to HBO in agriculture & food, in fruit as well. Lecturers, practitioners and hybrid teachers working for or in businesses will play a crucial role in completing education”.

Businesses are joining forces

In this renewal of fruit education, businesses too play their part. A collective of companies makes innovation feasible and successful.

Kees de Kat (CEO of Royal FruitMasters): “Innovation in education and businesses should go hand in hand. We’re therefore proud of the launch of the Fruit Tech Campus in Geldermalsen as the centre of fruit cultivation in the Netherlands. It’s vital for our growers throughout the Netherlands and FruitMasters as part of this region to ensure that we have sufficient numbers of well-trained and motivated personnel with knowledge of cultivation, technology, big data and robotisation”.

The following companies have joined forces with education for the next step in the development of the Fruit Tech Campus:
• Royal FruitMasters: cooperative of 350 Dutch fruit growers with a strong representation in Geldermalsen;
• Greefa: developer of sorting and packaging technology;
• Van Kempen Koudetechniek: development and construction of storage cells;
• Abemec: supplier of tractors and equipment in cultivation;
• Van Doorn Uitzendbureau: employment agency in cultivation & packing station;
• Rabobank: banker of the Food & Agriculture sector.
Having these partners at the start of this development has made it possible to create a chain-wide public-private partnership.

Mireille Gijsberts (programme manager at Fruit Tech Campus): “With a fruit company at home, I can empathise with the challenge of finding sufficient and professional staff. Working with these partners from the business community, education and government, ‘the golden triangle’, to realise the Fruit Tech Campus is a fantastic challenge. It offers huge perspective for the sector and the region”.

Accelerate innovation into education

An important step in the innovation of education is the accelerated incorporation of new knowledge and possibilities into the curriculum. This knowledge is made available through collaboration with Proeftuin Randwijk, a knowledge centre for independent and practice-oriented innovation and knowledge development for Dutch fruit cultivation.
In addition, Proeftuin Randwijk will be used for research by students, as will be the locations of the partners. In the short term, the partners will make their facilities such as demo centres, testing grounds, etc. accessible for practical learning and research within the education sector.

No result without ambition

In various conversations with the Municipality of West Betuwe (to which Geldermalsen belongs), the Provincial authorities of Gelderland and other regional stakeholders, the ambition was expressed to realise a Fruit Tech Campus providing not only “visibility” for potential students, but one that fulfils a core function in the development of the fruit sector in its national and international position.

Servaas Stoop (Mayor of West Betuwe): “We too, as the Municipality of West Betuwe, like to take up the challenge and make a joint start in developing an area vision, in which the development of the Fruit Tech Campus forms an excellent departure point for the further development of the area, enabling us to show our potential as the largest fruit municipality of the Netherlands”.

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