23 - Outside agriculture: scope for research institutes

As described in various frames, the Board wanted to turn the Noordoostpolder into a hyper-modern agricultural region. One of the ways to do this was the transfer of knowledge to the farmers. Test and research companies and agricultural extension officers played an important part in this. The starting point was: 'the more one knows, the more questions one has'.

Agricultural research

Focussing on the development of becoming an agricultural pilot region, the Board established several test and research companies. For this purpose 26 plots were issued to eleven companies or institutions in 1964. For the development of the Noordoostpolder, the main initiatives were:

Test farm De Kandelaar in Marknesse (1953, arable farming), De Waag near Creil (1954, mixed farming), Test Garden Kraggenburg (1959, fruit growing) and Ens (1960, open-field vegetables and flower bulbs). 

Meeting with farmers in the 'Beurs', Emmeloord, by the Bedrijfsvoorlichting (Company Information), 1950.

Maintenance on the drainage system with a clack bit. The picture was taken on test farm De Kandelaar in Marknesse, 21 September 1956.

Setting up these initiatives was partly organised by the Board and also by the industry itself (through branch organisations), in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Exploitation took place on a fifty-fifty basis: industry and Ministry. With regard to Kraggenburg, this was done by the Board. The applied research mainly focussed on the testing of cattle feed, silage methods, the use and application of artificial fertilisers and crop protection products, crop rotation and cultivation methods. The test results were published in test reports which were sent on to the entrepreneurs, but which were also used by the different information services. 

Training centre 'De Waag', Creilerpad, 1975. 


Specialisation in the various sectors, the higher level of expertise and financial motivations were the reason that from the 1970s a gradual concentration of regional and national research institutions took place. This is why during the late 1990s De Kandelaar, De Waag en test garden Ens merged into Praktijkonderzoek Plant en Omgeving (PPO) Wageningen, the Dutch knowledge institute for practical research in arable farming, flower bulb, tree and fruit cultivation Earlier on, the board had already closed down test garden Kraggenburg. In 2011 two private research companies (NAK-research company and Agrico Research BV) and another two test companies of PPO Wageningen remained. The government withdraws more and more from the research activities, while the corporate sector is taking over the funding of many them.

The NLR 

The Nationaal Lucht- en Ruimtevaartlaboratorium (now: Netherlands Aerospace Centre NLR) was established in 1919, at the same time as Fokker and the KLM. After the Second World War, the NLR grew considerably. The NLR wanted to expand and they found the space to do so in the Noordoostpolder. Here, land was cheap, the energy and water supply were well organised, and the surrounding municipalities offered ample housing for the employees. In addition, there were no problems when it came to testing noisy engines as there were no neighbours to consider. The move of the NLR to the polder was also welcomed by the provincial and local authorities as it meant the addition of quality employment in a mostly agricultural area.

The definite move of the NLR to the Noordoostpolder took place in 1957. First it was just a test facility for rotor blades and helicopter engines. Shortly afterwards the so-called 'farm barn' was built, with a small office, where fatigue tests were done. The purpose of these tests was to see what the maximum load on aircraft parts would be. The head office at the time, 'De Vrije Vlucht' was opened in 1961, and other buildings were quickly added. In 1976, together with the German sister institute, the Association DNW, German Dutch Wind Tunnels, was established, which operates and manages the wind tunnels on the complex. The NLR's new testing hall was finished in 2006 and is used for research on aircraft constructions.

In April 1969 Queen Juliana visited the NLR during the celebrations of 50 years of aeronautical research. In this photo she's looking at a wind tunnel model of a Fokker F2 from 1920.

From a testing facility and just a few pioneers in 1957, the NLR expanded to become a building complex with a staff of 250 technicians. They are highly educated employees who are involved in applied aeronautical and aerospace research.

Aerial photo Netherlands Aerospace Centre. Bottom left: buildings of the German Dutch Wind Tunnels. Top right: part of the Geomatica Business Park (GBP).

This is how we gained great expertise in the field of composites, a light, strong and sustainable material. The NLR also participates in the neighbouring Geomatics Business Park (GBP), a collection of companies that, alone or in collaborations, enter the market with products and services based on geomatics. The GBP was co-founded by the European Fund for Regional Development.

The Hydraulic Engineering Laboratory

Around 1950, the 'Waterloopkundig Laboratorium' (Delft Hydraulics), established in 1927 in Delft, was looking for space where they could make large open air hydraulic scale models.

Aerial photo Waterloopbos, 1969.The models help with the design and building of hydraulic engineering works, such as the ports of IJmuiden, Europoort, Lagos, Bangkok and Marsa-El-Brega, closures of estuaries such as the Delta Works and improvements for the shipping sectors in rivers and canals, such as the bend in the river Waal near Nijmegen (Waalbocht), the North Sea Canal and the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal

In the sheltered Voorsterbos they found the perfect location with a large supply of water nearby via the Vollenhover Canal.

Between the Voorsterweg and the Zwolsevaart a large number of model locations could be built.

With funds from the Marshallplan two hundred metre long gullies for wind waves and currents were built in an indoor hall along the Repelweg, used for research into the construction of breakwaters and closure dams.

The need to be able to reach a higher efficiency led to more and more scale models being built in indoor spaces; not just tidal models, but also river models such as the Waalbocht.

For the models of the water works in the Oosterschelde, a 25,000 m2 hall was built.
Former main building of the Waterloopkundig Laboratorium, now the home of the Compoworld Foundation. 

Mathematical models

With the fast technological developments, more and more large surface models for waves and currents could be replaced by mathematical models, installed on increasingly powerful computers. After 1980, most of the open air models became obsolete. For business economic reasons the location De Voorst was closed in 1995. After this, the research activities centred again in Delft. In 2008, the Waterloopkundig Laboratorium was incorporated in Deltares.


The Society for preservation of nature monuments in the Netherlands (Natuurmonumenten) was able to become the owner of this special forest with funds given by the Dutch Postcode Lottery. In 2005, the forest was opened to the public under the name Waterloopbos.

Along the 3.5 km long walking trail (follow the white markers) in the Waterloopbos, visitors will pass the various models that were once built here by the Waterloopkundig Laboratorium. 

In this forest, with easy accessible walking paths, a number of open air models can still be seen.
Because of this, the area may be granted the status of official industrial heritage site.

Film: The Hydraulics Laboratorium 1941.

The Waterloopkundig Laboratorium in its heydays. The Wave basin was used for research on the closure of closing gaps.

A closing gap is the last gap that remains open with the closure of estuaries, such as with the Delta Works.

The Waterloopkundig Laboratorium and the NLR have been very important to the economy, renown and reputation of the Noordoostpolder. Hundreds of highly educated young people found jobs here and built up their lives in the new polder. On many levels they added to the agriculture oriented society. The Waterlab is no longer here, but the NLR and the GBP, housed in the former buildings of the Waterloopkundig Laboratorium, still employ more than 350 people.