Born and raised in the town of Weert in the southern part of the Netherlands, Gino Hartholt discovered his passion for agriculture a little late in life. After completing a degree in electrical engineering and working in that field for almost four years, he decided to go back to school to study horticulture and arable farming. Because of his technical background, he was approached to do an internship at EARTH focusing on assessing and improving our peri-urban farm, as well as creating blueprints for a new greenhouse research facility.
“In electrical engineering, once you know the practices, then it’s repetitive every day. It wasn’t my place. So I looked around and thought about what I really wanted to do, and that of course was agriculture. I was always interested in nature and growing plants, and I like working in the field.”
Gino currently studies at HAS University of Applied Sciences which offers various types of agricultural degrees to over 2,500 students. Just like EARTH students, HAS students complete an internship in their third year. Gino decided to do an entire year abroad, first completing an exchange program at the University of Florida, followed by a 15-week internship at EARTH. As the first student from HAS to intern at the University, he is setting the groundwork for a collaboration between the universities. When he first arrived in January, Gino was overwhelmed by the size of EARTH’s campus. “It looks very beautiful, like a paradise. It’s all tropical plants, and so it’s like a new world was opening for me.”
His internship is divided into two parts: first he will assess the efficiency of the resources already available on the farm, including the vertical agriculture, bio-intensive, floating bed and nutrient film technique (NFT) systems. He will also create a closed water system to allow the reuse of water. Gino’s second project is to draft blueprints for a new greenhouse capable of maintaining a consistent year-round environment that will serve as a research facility. He explains, “Once I’m back in the Netherlands, I will consult experts and advisors to write my report, and the final report will be sent to EARTH so that they can look for a partner who will support this endeavor.”
Gino is enjoying EARTH’s experiential approach to learning, which is quite different from what he is used to. HAS campus has a very high-tech greenhouse that measures 1,500 square meters, but only two hectares of outside land, and students first learn the theory in detail before they practice how to implement it. Gino reflects, “I like the fact that students here have to work in all different areas starting from the first year so they get a wide view of options that are available in the agricultural industry. The practices that they learn come through in the theory.”
After just a few months here, he has made strides not only in his internship work but also in learning Spanish and immersing himself in the diverse student body. “It’s great that there’s a small community of more than 400 students from all different backgrounds, and that we can all live together to learn.”
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