The research project "Government Digitization to Enhance Agro-food Chains" has been funded by TKI Dinalog/NWO in conjunction with the Province of Limburg and will begin on January 1, 2020. This project aims to increase the competitive advantage of the Dutch agricultural sector by digitizing paper certificates and ensuring greater efficiency of international supply chains through e-certificates. The project is led by Rob Zuidwijk, Professor of Global Supply Chains and Ports at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM).
A certificate accompanies each batch of fresh produce, which contains various details such as freshness, origin, and safety. This "passport" travels from inspection station to inspection station until it reaches its final destination. Paper certificates will be replaced by e-certificates, which can be linked to data, made digitally available when the batch arrives, and used for learning purposes. A consortium of Dutch stakeholders will now digitize certificates and develop a "serious game" to engage those involved.
Hubert Mackus, Provincial Executive of the Province of Limburg, is a co-initiator of the Fresh Logistics theme at Greenports Nederland: "It makes sense that we start here, on the logistics axis of Rotterdam-Venlo-European hinterland, where agro and logistics go hand in hand."
Paper certificates are a weak link in international supply chains as they cause inefficiencies and trade barriers due to longer processing times, reduced predictability, unreliable activities, and additional administrative burdens. These effects are particularly negative for perishable goods. E-certificates simplify and accelerate certification and mandatory documentation processes, enabling better coordination of global supply chains.
E-certification also allows small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to benefit from the advantages, thereby strengthening the competitiveness of the Dutch economy. Logistics efficiency and waste reduction increase sustainability and contribute to CO2 reduction. The research project is transdisciplinary as it integrates knowledge of agro-logistics and supply chain management with legal and customs aspects in the phytosanitary and veterinary domains.
Han van Hagen of Numidia BV: "The project was set up to change the paper flow associated with the export of agro-products into an electronic flow. It fits perfectly with our goal to work as transparent, efficient, and paperless as possible."
The project is carried out by a consortium consisting of government agencies Dutch Customs and Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA), alongside industry partners Total Produce BV, Wiskerke Onions BV, Eosta BV, Hoogwegt International BV, Jonker en Schut BV, and Numidia BV. Knowledge partners are Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), and Fontys University of Applied Sciences, supported by SmartPort, Topsector Logistics, LIOF, GroentenFruit Huis, Erasmus UPT BV, and TripleOre BV.