A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to Amsterdam for a trade mission organized by the City of Edmonton and EEDC. EEDC has been working to raise the profile of Edmonton internationally as a trade partner and KLM Airlines started a direct flight from Edmonton to Amsterdam, so this mission was born. The intent of the trip was to build and bolster relationships with Dutch organizations and to ignite a conversation about how we can work together within the food sector.
I was humbled to be invited and also extremely excited go back to Europe after a few years. Being the first Localize team member to introduce our company and our work to Europe was a pretty big step.
Many questions came to mind while trying to figure out how I, personally, would fit into this big trip and contribute. The answer became apparent quickly and it was a really exciting one. Brad Fergusson, CEO of EEDC, mentioned that after a trip to Boulder, Colorado he started to realize how ‘the days of traditional trade missions are dead’. You don’t go to other cities to only talk about socio-economic data and why your city is interested in trade. Instead, they are choosing an approach that I’m confident will yield the best results – create an opportunity for like-minded people to meet, and the rest will follow.
During this mission, I had the good fortune to travel and meet some of the finest folks Edmonton has to offer food and beyond. Ironically enough, I traveled thousands of miles to find out more about my city and meet other people who are building and ensuring a sustainable future for Edmonton.
Our trip was short, only 3 days on the ground and the mission didn’t end until well into the night. So not a whole lot of ‘wander around’ time, but believe me when I say, it was time well planned and spent. We began our visit by sharing a few cold Heinekens and a lovely meal with people from KLM. They told us just how much of a gamble it was to put a direct flight from Edmonton to Amsterdam. Thankfully, they are forecasting that the demand is there and they’ve started to see traction already.
While in Amsterdam, we learned about the food sector in The Netherlands by experts in the field. It felt like this day was entirely catered to Localize as we learned about the grocery store dynamics, their complexities, and the differences between the EU markets and their consumer preferences.
Going to the Food Valley in Wageningen was an enlightening experience. Think of it as the Silicon Valley for the food industry. Food Valley hosts over 20,000 professionals that work in food science and tech. Here, we learned that most of the equipment that is used worldwide for processing or manufacturing of food products is made by Dutch companies and that the Netherlands are the world’s largest exporter of agricultural products, after the USA. We were floored. I’m sure I could have spent a full year there and still have new things to learn.
The great part about Food Valley is that they are attempting to create the right conditions so that scholars, the private sector, and the government work together in developing new and innovating food concepts and technologies.
Besides learning about the world of food, we also had a chance to go to Deloitte’s The Edge building, the world’s most sustainable office building. It was an incredible show of engineering and forward thinking. A perfect example of what every building in the world should strive to be.
Going to Amsterdam, exploring a foreign continent and completely different market, and seeing possibilities outside of North America for Localize was inspiring. My time in Amsterdam really highlighted our opportunities for international trade and it’s now something we’re exploring further. Big thank you to EEDC and KLM Airlines for allowing me to take part in this adventure.