Driven by efficiency, corporate interest, finance and governmental policies, the architectures of agriculture and horticulture, and the spatial organization of human and non-human labour are being reconceived. In the countryside, dairy and horticultural farmers oversee ever-growing automated operations through dashboards on desktop computers and smartphone apps. Cows and workers become data, and their bodies are managed as abstract components of a larger system, accessed from anywhere by logging on the cloud.
Stimulated by postwar agricultural policies, a Dutch landscape of small dairy farms gave way to an efficient, booming production machine relying on rationalisation and mechanization. Challenged by the European milk quota system in the 1980s, the sector’s focus shifted from expansion to achieving greater efficiency. Cutting costs yet increasing milk yields per cow was attained by concentrating in fewer, bigger farms and by integrating new breedings techniques and adopting new technologies, particularly the milking robot—a Dutch invention. Despite the recent abolition of quotas, high labour costs and new regulatory pressure for cleaner and sustainable production pushes farms to keep increasing their size and rely even more on automation technologies in order to remain competitive.
Horticulture is one of the top sectors in the Dutch economy, with more than a third of its production concentrated in one single cluster, Westland. Increasing labour costs, scarcity of qualified personnel, competition, and the impossibility of spatial growth are leading the sector to specialize and achieve higher productivity per square meter by means of automation and digitization of operations. While the number of horticultural businesses, total production area, and demand for labour have decreased since 2000, the average size of companies and their footprint keeps growing, resulting in larger greenhouses and informal processes of land consolidation.
Research department, Het Nieuwe Instituut: Marina Otero Verzier, Marten Kuijpers, Ludo Groen, Emma Paola Flores Herrera & Chris Zogopoulos, TU Delft: Víctor Muñoz Sanz & Grace Abou Jaoudeh.
Automated Landscapes and the Human Dream of Relentlessness
Behind the beauty and crudeness of automated landscapes, this report from the Netherlands reveals that human bodies are not absent at all in these centers of production, but instead adopt the uptime rhythm of automation. This article, written by Marten Kuijpers and Ludo Groen, accompanied with photographs by Johannes Schwartz, was published at Strelka Mag (03-03-2020).
Automated Dairy Farming and Horticulture in the Dutch Hinterlands
The Countryside Tour: Discussion
From its main port in Rotterdam, to its productive hinterlands of greenhouses and farms, the logic and relations that define the physical and social landscape of work and labor in the Netherlands are being redefined by machines, data and interfaces. In this event, Meiny Prins, Susan Schuppli, Stephan Petermann, Víctor Muñoz Sanz, Marina Otero Verzier and Marten Kuijpers will engage in a public conversation on the spatial implications of automation for the built environment. Arjen Oosterman will moderate the evening.
“Down with the Suboptimal Sunset!”
The Countryside Tour: Field Trip
Bringing together a select group of experts, practitioners, academics, and students of disciplines related to the built environment, a bus tour will become partly a leisure activity, and partly a workshop aimed to explore current developments in automation and their impact in planning and architecture. Marten Kuijpers and Víctor Muñoz Sanz will act as tour guides of a journey that will take the group around some of the Automated Landscapes of South Holland, including visits to an automated dairy farm, an automated greenhouse, and to the headquarters of the leading Dutch firms in farming and horticultural automation.