Economic mission: Future-proof agri- and horticulture

LAN Pretoria had the opportunity to host 23 Dutch companies in South Africa alongside the state visit of their Majesties King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima, from the 16th to 20th of October. This economic mission gave companies an opportunity to explore cooperation, learn from South African organisations and discover new opportunities in future-proof agri- and horticulture. The 31 participants had a jam-packed and extensive week-long programme that took them across the country from Tzaneen to Cape Town.

A group of people pose for a photo standing in front of a tomato orchard with a mountain in the background and overcast weather
Beeld: ©Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in South Africa / William Bowden
ZZ2 presented their Natuurboerdery philosophy to the participants of the 2023 economic mission to South Africa. This outlook adopts a more sustainable, and nature-inclusive approach to farming. Here participants learnt about tomato production on the farm.


When preparing this mission and determining what would be most interesting and relevant to companies, LAN Pretoria defined several goals. These include:

  • Sharing knowledge, ideas and solutions between South African and Dutch companies and organisations.
  • Identifying areas for partnerships and market opportunities.
  • Providing a realistic understanding of South Africa’s business, socio-economic and political environments, including challenges and opportunities.
  • Learning more about nature-inclusive agriculture innovations, techniques and policy context.


The busy programme included field visits, workshops, an Innovation Village and Royal events. Kicking off with field visits in Tzaneen, companies had an opportunity to learn about innovations and approaches to nature-inclusive farming at two of the largest commercial farmers in South Africa. Touring the facilities, avocado and tomato orchards, ZZ2 presented their Natuurboerdery philosophy to the companies. This is a unique nature-based approach to farming that they have practiced for more than 20 years after realising their conventional farming practices were unsustainable. On the visit to Westfalia, one of the world’s largest producers of avocadoes, a discussion of the Orchard of the Future, a real-life laboratory for testing more sustainable ways of farming in a variety of areas (including water and pest management) provided insights into ideas around making the highly lucrative crop more sustainable. On the other end of the spectrum, companies visited a cooperative of emerging citrus farmers, Mariveni Farmers, who were able to present a different set of challenges compared to commercial farmers. This is a defining feature of South Africa’s agriculture sector, a developed and wealthy commercial side and a contrasting poorer side of emerging farmers.

Man makes a presentation while holding the branch of an avocado tree in a bus
Beeld: ©Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Due to adverse weather conditions, participants were unable to enter the Orchard of the Future at Westfalia. Instead, a presentation was given inside the bus with an avocado branch as an important prop.

In Gauteng, an early start led participants to the Johannesburg Fresh Market where they witnessed first-hand the dynamism, hustle and bustle of the early morning trading. This gave participants a better understanding of how these types of markets play a key role for growers and distributers in the city, and the logistics involved for getting food to the table for many. After the market, companies were greeted at AG Horticulture by Minister Piet Adema. AG Horticulture is exploring options for more sustainable ways of farming but for many years has used used Dutch greenhouse technology. Like most of the country’s energy, these greenhouses have been heated by coal in the past and South African companies are actively exploring options to decarbonise.

Group of people stand and talk in a circle while visiting a produce market in Johannesburg, South Africa
Beeld: ©Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Participants had an early morning start to witness trading at Johannesburg's Fresh Market where buyers and sellers meet, and food crops are sold ahead of the start of the working day in the city.

Minister Adema led the opening of the economic mission at the Innovation Village. The Innovation Village, an exhibition, allowed the three economic missions running parallel to the royal visit (green hydrogen, circular waste, future-proof agriculture, and the knowledge mission) to meet in one place, share knowledge and network. Examples of succesful Dutch-South African cooperation were also on display here. The Royal Couple attended too, with Queen Máxima visiting a model greenhouse to learn about tailor-made greenhouses for the South African market and what makes them unique. The companies were able to see the real thing at the Stellenbosch Horti Demo Centre later on in the economic mission.

Group of people pose for a photo at an exhibition stand for future-proof agriculture
Beeld: ©Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Participants of the agriculture track of the 2023 economic mission to South Africa with Minister Adema attend the innovation village, an exhibition with three other missions where companies and knowledge institutes can network and learn about opportunities in South Africa.

Sasol and Eskom are two important companies in South Africa. Both operate in the energy sector and hosted workshops for the companies. Sasol, is a private company that manufactures petroleum products from coal while Eskom, the country’s national electricity company, continues to produce the majority of its energy from coal power stations. Both organisations are exploring opportunities to decarbonise, without leaving those dependent on coal for employment behind. These workshops took place in Dipaleseng Local Municipality region with DG Agro Guido Landheer taking part. Discussions and presentations focused on the Just Energy Transition (JET) and climate-smart horticulture. The JET is South Africa’s decarbonisation plan which aims to create opportunities so that those working in carbon-intensive sectors are not left unemployed, an important approach considering the country’s high unemployment. The Netherlands Embassy in South Africa has been actively supporting Eskom with its JET goals and on creating alternative employment in the agriculture and horticulture sectors.

Group of people stand looking out at the view over fields to the left with a minibus and tree in the background
Beeld: ©Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in South Africa
Participants of the economic mission take a visit to the Grootvlei region to learn more about the Just Energy Transition and Eskom's plans to create alternative employment in the agriculture sector, as well as how the Embassy is supporting Eskom.

To wrap up the mission, companies visited Cape Town and surrounding winelands. Participants kicked off their time there with a breakfast and discussions on undercover farming that involved both the Western Cape Provincial Minister of Agriculture, Ivan Meyer and Minister Adema. Following this, Stellenbosch Horti Demo Centre, a flagship example of Dutch-South African cooperation hosted an open day, where participants could learn more about the unique feature of South African greenhouses. Here the centre also presented the lessons learned from the Dutch-South African cooperation, ways to create income, research, and the learning taking place there. The centre was opened exactly a year ago and the positive response it has received is a good indication that these kinds of partnerships can be rolled out across the country.

The grape and wine industry is an important sector for the Western Cape and the country in general. It was therefore only appropriate for the mission to close with a visit at organic wine farm, Longridge, where they could learn more about the sector, challenges and opportunities.

Group of people standing and listening to presentation inside the technical room of a greenhouse.
Beeld: ©Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Mission participants are welcomed and given an explanation of the Horti Demo Centre by centre manager, Estelle Kempen. In the technical room, water recycling and nutrient supply are managed by advanced computer systems.


The mission featured a variety of participants across the agri- and horti- sectors including private companies, knowledge institutes and public sector bodies. Some companies had experience in South Africa and others were visiting for the first time. InThe group showed a good mix participants, with 16 women and 15 men.

Immediately after the mission, several companies indicated that they have concrete leads and would like to make contact with local companies we visited. Others indicated that they have already planned follow up visits. In general, companies provided positive feedback on the mission and the field visits were a highlight for most participants, being interesting and relevant.

“[LAN team Pretoria & RVO] raised the standards of missions to a new level” – Peace Quadt, Delphy.

Next steps

LNV Attaché Netwerk is ready to facilitate support actions for organisations, both South African and Dutch who are looking to follow-up this visit with concrete steps and cooperation. We are also willing to provide additional market information on South Africa and can assist connecting you to the right partners within our network.

Despite the challenges of doing business in South Africa, this visit proved that there is both interest and opportunity in South Africa. From Tzaneen to Cape Town, companies witnessed first-hand the potential, dedication and resilience of South Africans. With companies already expressing interest in doing business in South Africa, mission goals are already coming into fruition.

Contact for more.