After 41 years of teaching students indoor cultivation and the last 12-13 years on vertical farming, Jasper den Besten is retiring. He is leaving HAS University of Applied Sciences at the end of the month. As a man who cannot sit still, he will join Planet Farms, an Italian vertical farm, in the role of agricultural advisor.
Since he started teaching, he has enjoyed the feedback after his evaluation meetings with his manager and students, he said during his farewell meeting at HAS. Jasper wanted to ensure that students engaged with his lectures and had a real impact on their later careers. And it turned out, because the many fun moments with students, specialists and others ensured that he stayed around for a long time.
Den Besten during his farewell speech at HAS College (photo: Roel Janssen)
New role at Planet Farms
“As long as I stay healthy, I want to share my knowledge, both theoretical and practical, with the whole team. It’s great that I can become active in this dynamic sector, because I love this sector. Vertical farming is relatively new and offers on many challenges Even on ‘good farms’ not much goes wrong but there are always things that can be improved Having been lucky enough to have been involved in many investigations it’s great to be able to pass that on to the team, ” Jasper says. The best.
Jasper is eager to participate in the company’s future plans as they have big expansion plans going forward. “It would be great to leverage my global network in their interest by engaging other specialists to improve Planet Farms’ production.”
“Planet Famrs is one of the few farms that I really see as viable because they are not just ‘growing herbs in a pot.'” In the future, they bring a value-added product to the market, such as their pesto product, and I see looking forward to passing on my expertise to the team there, even though they are already highly competent,” added Jasper.
Looking back at some special moments
When we asked Jasper to share with us some of his best moments during his long career as a teacher, he pointed out a few things that stood out to him. During the last 12/13 years of focusing on vertical farming research, he saw many faces pass by. In the beginning, they were the heroes who had to save the world by growing lettuce in several layers on top of each other, he says.
“That bubble popped quickly,” he says with a laugh. “Others would welcome crops like rice and potatoes because these crops can actually feed people. But given the state of the sector, they were far too expensive to grow in a closed environment.”
Surprisingly, the following happened. “A few years later, I saw the same people show up at my door. They were determined to give indoor cultivation of rice, grain and potatoes a second chance because the environmental problems had become even more worrying. As cultivation systems were much more efficient then , it was actually, it had become a completely different matter than before, now it was the choice between expensive food or no food, and it was quickly done,’ says Jasper.
He says it’s great to see people come back after years of research because in the early stages of vertical farming they were more focused on the product itself. The changes in the market, also the prices of the products have increased, automatically put the growers in a different state of mind. Entrepreneurs who ask Jasper for advice talk directly about the market, sales prices, cost price and business models. “It suggests that the market has matured.”
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Jasper den Besten, cand.scient., agricultural adviser