The Gartneriet PKM nursery was founded by Poul and Marie Madsen north of Odense, Denmark, in 1948. Since then, their son Kristian and their grandson Poul have become the second and third generations of the family to join the company. PKM currently employs a workforce of 165 people plus temporary staff at peak times. It produces 20 million pot plants a year and exports 90% to the European market, primarily to the retail channel. Niels Erik Andersson has been Production Advisor at PKM since 2011.
PKM channels 5% of its annual revenue back into product development to ensure that the company maintains its strong reputation as a supplier of healthy plants. “Product innovation is very important, of course,” comments Andersson. “But we need to compete with the rest of the EU and we can’t do that on quality and reputation alone. Price is an increasingly important factor for our customers, which means we also need to continuously improve our efficiency. Denmark is a high-wage country, so automation is a key way of reducing our costs. Not only that, but it’s hard work in a nursery. Especially in view of the ageing workforce, it makes sense to reduce the physical burden on our employees and let the robots do the heavy stuff.”
That is one reason why the grower’s high-tech greenhouses are highly automated. For example, in the planting department, robots are used to place the individual seedlings of Schlumbergera and Rhipsalidopsis in the sales pot with millimetre accuracy.
Therefore, when CEO Jack Møller was looking for further ways to improve efficiency around three years ago, it made sense to consider automating – and even robotising – other stages of production. “Packing is a particularly labour-intensive process, involving 70-80 employees at peak times, so when Møller saw a WPS automated packing system in action on a trip to the Netherlands, he was keen to explore the possibilities. Development work started in autumn 2016 and the system was then implemented in stages from early 2017 onwards,” recalls Andersson.
The result is a large, automated system combining internal transport, robotised sorting and packing on three of the four packing lines. “The first implementation stage was for picking, sorting and sleeving,” he explains. “We run a just-in-time operation based on agreements with our retail customers to supply the right quantity of plants with the right amount of flowers on the right date. So all our plants have to be sorted and graded based on their developmental stage before packing.”
In the system, the robot first picks the plants from the bench, eight pots at a time, and places them in small carriers for fast and easy transport during the packing process. Then the plants are graded by a vision system and matched with the orders. If the plant fits into an order, it continues in the packing system. Otherwise it is returned to the greenhouse.
The grading system has another important function, according to Andersson. Retail buyers place their orders – including details of quantity, size, flower-grade quality, labelling, sleeving/wrapping and delivery date – in the central order handling system called ‘DANPOT’. This interfaces directly with the new system, which uses the information in the packing process.
“Each carrier contains a passive RFID tag and, during grading, the tag number is linked with information in the order system. When a plant passes a tag reader at an action point, the system combines the tag number and order information to determine what has to happen next in the process, such as adding a label showing price information or plant-care details.” In that case, the relevant label is printed and automatically attached to the pot. “Next, each plant is sleeved if necessary – either in the own sleeve or a customer-specific one,” he adds. The sleeving system was supplied by Terra International, but WPS – with Bart van Meurs as team lead – arranged for it to be specially modified for the grower. “The final step in the process is to put the plants in the marketing tray. This is done by three robots, and each robot can cope with four different tray types: 6, 8, 10 and 12-hole trays.”
Once the system is at full speed, the two picking robots will be sending a total of 4,000 plants/hour through to the next stage of the dispatch process. In comparison, the average employee is able to sort and pack 250 plants/hour manually. “Besides the manpower saving, this system has made it easier to introduce shifts so we can benefit from 24-hour efficiency. It has also reduced the amount of overtime and eliminated long days for our employees,” states Andersson.
Another benefit of this integral solution is that it is based on electronic data transfer. Eliminating manual data entry has reduced the chance of mistakes as well as saving time and money.
What makes this project so innovative is its complexity. “We’ve set the bar high – we are trying to merge all the activities into a single packing system,” admits Andersson. “Something like sleeving is relatively simple, for example, but robotising the foil-wrapping of the trays has proven to be more challenging because it involves lots of steps: the tray is placed on a platform then a funnel covers the plants, the foil is attached to the tray, the turntable rotates the tray and the funnel, and then the foil is cut before the tray is ejected.”
Flowering plants are very delicate and easily damaged. Plus there are slight differences in the sizes of trays from different suppliers – only at millimetre level, but a couple of millimetres can make a big difference for a robot. “This is being tackled by adjusting the distance parameters in the system. We’re around 95% of the way to full implementation now, so I’m sure it will be resolved soon.” And once it is, the next step could be to automate the quality control stage of the process after sleeving, he adds.
Alongside this project, PKM is working on a pilot to improve energy efficiency through the use of LED lighting. “Our greenhouses are already fitted with double screens, and they are heated based on district heating using residual heat from power plants. So the only way to further reduce our energy bill is to save on electricity costs,” says the production advisor.
“We tried a 100%-LED system seven years ago and achieved around 25% energy savings, but in the winter period the plants produced under LED needed a 3 to 5-day-longer production time compared to high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps. We are now trialling a hybrid system – 50% HPS and 50% LED – on 3,000 sqm. This combination gives us the full spectrum so we are hoping that we will be able to save energy without affecting the production time or plant quality.”
Founded in Denmark in 1948, the Gartneriet PKM nursery’s production area today covers 165,000 sqm of 20 m wide-span glass greenhouses (Venlo blocks) and an outdoor area of 40,000 sqm. The nursery has year-round production of crops including Campanula, Schlumbergera, Rhipsalidopsis, Gentian and Helleborus, depending on the season. The high-tech greenhouses include robotic solutions in the planting and packing areas.
Text: Lynn Radford.
AutoStix is a revolutionary system designed by Viscon to automate the sticking of cuttings using a patented transplanter and innovative biodegradable strips.
AutoStix is an open source system, so it can be used by anyone in the industry. The use of a strip/carrier makes it extremely easy to automate. Ninety percent of vegetative cuttings can now be automatically transplanted. The system provides better quality control of cuttings at the nursery (a visual check is now possible) and unparalleled uniformity in cultivation at the rooting station.
Another advantage is better rooting due to the good, solid soil-root contact designed into the strip. Shorter cultivation cycles are guaranteed as the process is controlled. The strip (cartridge) is biodegradable – a world first in horticulture. There are numerous spin-off innovations based on the this strip (the biodegradable cartridge). The strip is a carrier designed to efficiently handle the plants in many different ways.
Stand number: 11.410
In the ornamental industry, mixing and shipping goods on CC trolleys is highly labour-intensive. Growers dislike these trolleys because of their inferior manoeuvrability and limited automation options.
Eurotec has therefore launched Lowpad, an automation system for CC trolleys. It is an AGV (automatic guided vehicle) which fits underneath a CC trolley, lifts it up and travels autonomously with the CC trolley on its “shoulders”. Its wheels are separately driven and steered using Navigator, the on-board control and safety system. No floor infrastructure is required: all you need is a flat floor. It finds its way using an indoor GPS system combined with on-board sensors.
Lowpads are controlled by Supervisor (parent software) in an integrated system which provides traffic management, creates task and priority management, prevents collisions and plans the most efficient routes. Organizer (WCS) software can be supplied and connected to your current WMS/ERP system.
Stand number: 11.408
The ISO Robot Plug Planting Machine is a machine with robot arms that can plant small plants in the ground from a plug tray. This method of planting plugs in the ground with robot arms is completely unique anywhere in the world.
The current machine, which is specially designed for Lisianthus plants, can handle 6,000 plants per robot arm, and the maximum capacity can be increased to 18,000 plants per hour with a third arm. It can all be operated by one person. Up to now, the plants have been planted out by hand. With the humidity and warmth in the greenhouse needed to grow Lisianthus, this is a very tough, labour-intensive job. The machine is designed to enable the operator to control the plants as they are being planted.
Stand number: 11.307
Wolfgang and André Ripkens have made a lot of progress in recent years. Apart from investing heavily in automation, the German pot plant growers have also introduced three new sales concepts: Silver-Land, Out-Land and Stone-Land. It turned out to be a great move; the market has responded enthusiastically to the combination of a recognisable look and premium quality. This is generating a lot of added value for father and son.
Topfpflanzen Ripkens is situated in Straelen in the heart of the German Lower Rhine region. This area near the Dutch border is one of Germany’s main horticultural regions. It is plain to see in Straelen: nearly every street boasts at least one horticultural business.
Laurenz Ripkens founded the family business in 1971. Initially they grew both vegetables and cut flowers, but from 1980 pot plants started to play an increasingly important role in the business and in 1990 they switched completely to pot plants. “We’ve tried all sorts of things to find out what suited us best,” says Wolfgang Ripkens (56), who joined the business in 1978. “Cyclamen have played a central part in our cultivation plan. They are particularly interesting because the season covers a large proportion of the year: we deliver cyclamen from the end of June until February. At present we ship 400,000 cyclamen every year, all in 11 cm pots.”
Aside from cyclamen, silver leaf plants are also an important pillar of the business; the entrepreneurs grow Calocephalus, Sanatolina and Festuca, among others. “We deliver around one million silver leaf plants annually, between July and November. Some varieties grow in greenhouses and the rest are kept outside, on the container field,” André explains. He joined the company three years ago and runs it alongside his father.
Lavender became part of the cultivation plan five years ago, and from mid-May onwards father and son deliver around 250,000 lavender plants every year. “We started growing lavender because we didn’t like the container field standing empty for so long every spring,” says Wolfgang. “Our product range is rounded off with Culphea and several Sedum varieties, which are shipped in spring and summer. The variety in our crops keeps us busy year-round and means we can employ our workers throughout the year. We only work with permanent staff and employ ten people in total.”
Expansion and automation
The Ripkens pot plant business comprises 1.5 hectares of greenhouses and 4 hectares of container fields. Most of their greenhouses were built in the 1990s, with 0.4 hectares of new glass being added in 2012. “We use only Venlo greenhouses with 4-metre roofs. Nothing special, really, but it works well for us, especially with the combined energy and sunshade screens that we use.”
In 2012 the container field was also expanded by two hectares, but further growth was not an option, according to Wolfgang. “Our land parcel was packed to the hilt. The only expansion opportunity I can see is if the businesses across the road eventually close. Buying or renting a different location would be too inefficient.”
To boost their existing production, the entrepreneurs recently invested in rolling benches and an internal transportation system. “The optimal use of space that comes with these investments allows us to deliver 20 to 30% more plants annually. That is why this investment more than pays for itself,” André confirms.
Investments in automation
To enable them to process larger quantities and be less dependent on staff, they have also invested heavily in automation over time. In addition to two potting machines with pot dispensers and ejectors, the company works with a special forklift combined with a release fork. “All our potting and ejection machines are supplied by Mayer. We chose Mayer for their quality and service. If there is ever a problem, they always send a mechanic very quickly,” André tells us.
His father emphasises that the high degree of automation helps them to maximise the output of the business. “Despite the increase in production numbers, we haven’t had to hire extra manpower in recent years.”
It doesn’t happen overnight
Father and son Ripkens were keen to up their production as a result of increasing demand, which was all due to the success of the sales concepts they had developed. “It started in 2007 with the Silver-Land concept,” Wolfgang explains. “We had been growing the silver leaf Calocephalus since the 1980s, but because more and more breeders were including this plant in their assortment, the auction price plummeted. That’s when we hit on the idea of combining various silver leaf plants in a single tray, with a recognisable name and look. We called it Silver-Land and put the plants in a blue 12 cm pot with special pot labels. Our triangular blue and green logo also provides a certain level of recognition.”
The market responded well to this concept, which was quite innovative for its time, according to Wolfgang. “But it didn’t happen by itself: we visited many garden centres in the first few years, as well as many trade fairs. We certainly wouldn’t suggest it happened overnight. But we’ve seen great improvements in the past three to four years; our concept is gaining popularity and demand is on the increase.”
Faith in the future
Following this positive market response, the entrepreneurs introduced several other sales concepts. They combine different varieties of cyclamen in a single tray under the name Out-Land, for example, and Sedum varieties are marketed under the Stone-Land flag. “These concepts also embody quality and uniformity. Automation provides added value here as well. In order to be able to deliver a product with optimal uniformity, they always pot large batches of plants and prune the plants every five weeks. Garden centres have indicated that the quality and look of their products give them a competitive edge.
Now Wolfgang and André sell all their potted plants under the Land Concepts flag. This has made supplying auctions a thing of the past; they only sell directly to traders and garden centres. “We deliver to higher-quality garden centres, not to discounters,” Wolfgang Ripkens emphasises. “It goes without saying that selling through this channel yields a better sales price; consumers who buy at higher-end garden centres don’t mind paying a little more for products that appeal to the senses and are guaranteed to be good quality. Because we hold a patent on our products, other businesses can’t just run with them. In other words: our products can no longer be substituted by others. That gives us certainty and faith in the future.”
Wolfgang and André Ripkens grow a large variety of plants in the German town of Straelen: cyclamen, various silver leaf plants, lavender, Culphea and several Sedum varieties. In order to be able to increase production despite the company’s limited opportunities for expansion, they invested in rolling benches and an internal transportation system a few years ago. They have also made significant progress on sales in recent years, introducing various sales concepts with a recognisable look and a focus on quality.
Text and images: Ank van Lier.
Stan Vander Waal got his first taste of working in horticulture when he was just 13 years old. His father switched from crop and dairy farming to growing flowers and plants, moving the family from Iowa (USA) to Canada and setting up Rosedale Greenhouses & Farm in British Columbia (B.C.). At the age of 20, after spending a few years working in the pig farming business, he rejoined his father in the greenhouse operation. He particularly enjoys the combination of production and sales, and has since built up the business into a three-facility, over 23 ha.
Stan Vander Waal founded his own company, Rainbow Greenhouses, in 1985 together with his wife, Wilma. From just 280 m2 for brokering potted plants and cut flowers in Seattle, the grower became a wholesale/broker for chain stores, florists and garden centres in northern B.C. and Alberta in 1986. In 1987, they purchased a greenhouse operation on South Sumas Road in Chilliwack, approximately 20 kilometres from the family’s Rosedale operation.
In July 2003, Vander Waal acquired his second facility by purchasing Rosedale Greenhouse when his father retired. That operation has been expanded several times since then and is now a production site totalling 35,000 m2. “We also significantly expanded the South Sumas complex in 2013, adding a large new Prins glass greenhouse structure with ebb and flood floors. This brought the facility to 77,000 m2 in total. The rest is double poly houses with concrete flood floors,” comments the grower.
Rainbow’s third facility is located in Iron Springs, southern Alberta. “We built it in 2005 to reduce the delivery time and costs by being closer to our customers. At 11 ha it’s our biggest facility and also has the largest seasonal component. We try to keep most of our year-round production – such as foliage plants and indoor colour – in Chilliwack which is the main shipping point,” Vander Waal adds.
For this grower, a typical season starts in mid-December when the first cutting material is brought in. The propagation areas are filled up first. “This is a high-turn, high-activity area which gets increasingly busy from mid-January. At peak planting time around 15 April, our greenhouses are bursting at the seams.”
The first early spring shipping starts in mid-February to the more temperate areas on the west coast of Canada. Then the main shipping starts around the third week of April and the spring peak runs until early June. “June is good month, but sales taper off quite quickly from 1 July onwards. We start propagating the poinsettias in June which are all shipped by 20 December. They fill about a third of the area. In the autumn we run a few small programmes such as chrysanthemums and in-and-out floral programmes,” continues the grower.
An arid climate
The three facilities are located in two very different climate regions. Chilliwack, in the Fraser Valley, B.C., has a very mild climate with an average yearly rainfall of 168 centimetres, average summer temperatures of 23ºC and average winter temperatures of 10ºC.
Meanwhile Alberta is an arid climate with hotter summers of up to 35ºC but also harsher winters, where snow is still a possibility until the end of April and frost remains a risk until late May. “We have Argus climate control systems in all three facilities which take care of the humidity, temperature, irrigation and so on. Everything is completely automated. The crops grow very differently in Alberta; there is more light, but more heating is required too. It could be minus 35 degrees but I still need to keep the greenhouse frost-free, even if it’s empty.”
Gas and wood waste
In Alberta, the heating is currently based on a combination of coal and natural gas, but that’s changing, according to Vander Waal: “Coal is no longer part of our long-term objective for heating and we’re switching 100% to gas, partly due to the environmental pressure on coal. Inside the greenhouses we have floor heat under the concrete floors and the rest is monorail heat.”
Stemming from the energy crisis in 1998/1999, the heating in Chilliwack is a combination of gas and wood waste. “We get the waste from a supplier of pines killed off by the pine beetle, and also from a manufacturer of fence posts. In peak times we burn around three large trailers of wood waste a day, and the rest of the heat comes from gas. Renewable energy systems are a great concept but they require lot of maintenance and due diligence, which can actually end up costing you energy in other ways,” he comments.
150 merchandisers go into stores
Rainbow is a full-service grower selling directly to major retailers including Home Depot, Walmart and Costco throughout British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It supports its retail customers at store level with marketing and merchandising programmes. “In the peak spring season we have a team of more than 150 merchandisers who go into stores to ensure that the product looks good on benches, that the displays are clean and neat. The biggest challenge in a retail environment is the lack of knowledge of plants and how to take care of them. Plants and flowers are an impulse business. If they don’t look good, consumers aren’t going to buy,” explains Vander Waal.
“The huge geographical expanse of Canada means that our average delivery distance to a customer is 800 kilometres,” he continues. The grower has its own fleet of 20 temperature-controlled trucks and trailers. “However in the peak spring season, our volume reaches upwards of 30 trailers leaving the B.C. facility every day and 40-plus trailers a day from Alberta, so we also work with various carriers. The average order process time, from getting the order to delivery to the store, is usually less than 36 hours.”
10% more product out of the area
Automation has become an important way of completing day-to-day tasks. As Vander Waal says, “When I look at agriculture today, and especially the greenhouse business, it really is a business and we have to make our decisions based on analysis of costs, sales and margins.” The recent expansion in Chilliwack included a new propagation block with LED lighting and a new WPS conveyor system. “With a turn rate of 12 to 16 times per year, the propagation area has the most active movement so we wanted to cut out steps such as loading/unloading carts. The conveyor system helps us increase the pace a little, improves our use of space and enables us to get 10% more product out of the area.”
In another step to improve efficiency, Rainbow works with several vertically drained cultivation floors by Dutch company ErfGoed, the first of which was installed in Alberta in 2013 on around 18,500 m2. Vander Waal explains: “We were unhappy with our gravel floor because the gravel was slowly sinking into the clay soil. The capillary mat system solved two problems. It avoids the cost/effort of replacing the gravel, and also gives us complete 100 per cent water recovery. This is especially important in Alberta where our water reserves from the previous year have to last us until the next spring. Reusing the water means that we makes savings on fertiliser too. We also noticed that the floor system creates a better microclimate for the plants in Alberta’s arid climate.”
Plenty of opportunities
Since then, two of the supplier’s ebb and flood floors have been added in Chilliwack. “This allows us to water up as well as recover water. Compared with concrete, this floor significantly reduces the pressure of root disease. I’ve learnt to consider the plant’s native environment and that’s what this floor does in effect, because it keeps the root zone cooler on warm days,” he continues. A further two floors have also been installed in Alberta. “In the newest floor, a small gravel zone has been added to the multilayered capillary mat. This creates a more stable base so the floors dry just a little quicker which is useful for certain crops and gives us more control. ErfGoed have helped us to achieve the results we’re looking for,” states Vander Waal.
Yet another new block is being added in Chilliwack later this year, comprising 3 ha, and this too will include a premium floor. Vander Waal clearly still sees plenty of opportunities for expansion and further efficiency.
Rainbow Greenhouses in Canada is a privately owned wholesale grower and distributor of high-quality potted plants. Owned by Stan Vander Waal and his wife Wilma. They have been producing a wide variety of indoor, outdoor and seasonal plants for over 30 years. Having started out with just 280 m2 of greenhouse space, the company now comprises over 23 ha of production, spread across three greenhouse facilities: two in British Columbia and one in Alberta. The company is focused on maximising efficiency, primarily through automation, to achieve business success.
Text: Lynn Radford. Images: Rainbow Greenhouses.
‘Internationalisation is crucial to us’, explains Meiny Prins, CEO and co-owner of Priva, and Businesswoman of the Year 2009.
‘Priva is a family-owned and operated company that supplies climate control products and services. We serve two markets: the built-up environment and production horticulture. We offer measuring and control equipment that will enable its users to achieve the highest possible returns with the least amount of energy possible, and while using the greatest amount of recycled water possible. Our knowledge in the field of horticulture is based on two components: our expertise in the field of measuring and regulation, on the one hand, and our knowledge of plants, on the other. We know precisely what each plant needs and are able to coordinate our parameters to these requirements. This is also the difference between the two markets. There are a lot of variables in greenhouse horticulture, but a greenhouse is also a kind of intensive care unit. If something goes wrong, all the plants in it could die within an hour. This process is not as critical when it comes to buildings; we usually don’t complain unless it’s too hot.
'To keep a leading edge with regard to technology, over 150 of our 450 employees focus on product development, which is an aspect in which we invest a quarter of our revenue.'
‘Our exporting activities are also crucial. To keep a leading edge with regard to technology, over 150 of our 450 employees focus on product development, which is an aspect in which we invest a quarter of our revenue. The Dutch market is too small to bear these costs, let alone the risks of a possible crisis on the market. A workable distribution of risks is, in any case, important. We have to offer our employees a solid foundation. It takes three years to train a salesperson to be sufficiently knowledgeable with regard to our technology, for example. Training a service engineer takes five years, and the training programme for a project engineer takes a full decade to complete. When you invest as heavily as this in people, you can’t suddenly cut costs and then decide to expand immediately after. We sell our products for the horticulture industry in over 100 countries, we have 10 branch offices and supply our products to 140 specialised installation professionals worldwide. Our dedicated consultancy services, however, are still offered only from our head office in De Lier.'
‘As I mentioned previously, our exporting activities were relatively easy to get off the ground, as we are active within two sectors in the horticultural industry. It comes down to simply travelling along with your customers. In the course of time, Dutch growers have been relocating to all corners of the globe. I could even go so far as to say that every greenhouse horticulture project launched today, no matter where in the world, has a Dutch person or firm somehow connected to it. Growers become used to working with specific equipment when they were still in the Netherlands, and want to continue using it at their new location.'
‘The situation is entirely different in the building and construction industry. In this case, we moved from country to country, conquering our niche in the market as we went along. The first country we established a new branch in was Germany. This was not the easiest place to begin, as it was also the home base of many of our competitors in the building management system sector. It may not have been the best choice at the time. We currently have ten offices in such countries as Canada, the UK, Belgium and China.'
'Our new strategy focuses more on “verticals”, specific groups of customers.'
‘We are, however, planning to adjust our strategy, because this approach simply takes too long. It takes five to seven years for a newly established branch to start generating a steady profit. This procedure is too expensive, and too slow for building up a global network. Our new strategy focuses more on “verticals”, specific groups of customers, with scalable solutions that we can develop for specific segments and can subsequently roll out on a global scale. Examples include climate control in supermarkets, or operation rooms.’
Many business enterprises with a focus on exporting activities employ stringent selection criteria from the very start. All applications that do not immediately fall within a specific niche are not followed up on. What is Priva’s strategy in this?
‘Of course, we will look into the application, and do follow up on practically every lead except for in specific cases. What is an important point for consideration is that we are the absolute market leader in our segment. What we want to prevent under all circumstances is getting the reputation of being slow - or, even worse, arrogant.’
Are you personally still active in the market?
‘Certainly! My portfolio within our three-headed management team is commerce. I undertake a long journey twice a year, during which I concentrate on business development, in addition to customer relations management. My position as a CEO opens quite a few doors, and gives me opportunities to set my foot on hitherto unpaved roads. What I specifically aim to do, is to launch pilots in collaboration with businesses that play an exemplary role in the market. By using our equipment and accurately calculating the results and, above all, communicating clearly, we are able to convince other companies of the advantages of our technology much faster.'
You are unlike many other CEOs because you are actively engaged in marketing your firm’s products. Many companies these days are led by spreadsheet experts, and not by people who still play an active role in the market. What’s your opinion of this?
‘I’m not such a big fan of spreadsheets. If you start making calculations, you have to use them sooner or later and most often that will mean cutting costs. After that, it takes about a year to straighten out the consequential damage. What’s more important is that, if I were to start working that way, the rest of my business would be prone to following my example. Before you know it, everything will be directed at internal operations, and that’s not what I want at all. I - and the same goes for the rest of my company - prefer to direct my energy outwards.’
'“Adding value” is our motto, and if I succeed in doing this for another decade, I’m satisfied and will take it from there.'
Meiny Prins is a fervent supporter of the circular economy. She launched the ‘Sustainable Urban Delta’ initiative, a string of pearls in the field of water, food, energy and knowledge.
Is this a personal hobby, or does this tie in with your company somewhere?
‘Sustainability is never a mere hobby; it is a significant theme that deserves the same status as quality. I firmly believe that whoever can offer integrated solutions will have a leading edge on the competition. And that it is important to have a vision for the future. More and more people are drawn to living in a cosmopolitan environment, to urbanisation. This means that the waste water produced by these people will have to be used for the production of food. Waste derived from food will, in turn, be used as biofuel, and residual heat derived from greenhouses to warm residential areas. All of these systems will be scaled downwards, and inter-coordinated. As control is our business, we’re already engaged in developing the next generation of control equipment, in which we don’t take only the greenhouse or building into consideration, but also look into how we can coordinate our system to the processes going on in the direct environment.’
You are the co-owner of a successful business. What are your plans for Priva in the next 50 years?
‘I can’t think that far ahead! My motivation stems from the ability to provide added value. Following in the footsteps of my father, money is not a goal onto itself. Every euro is reinvested in the company. “Adding value” is our motto, and if I succeed in doing this for another decade, I’m satisfied and will take it from there.'
‘It’s not without a reason that I say a decade: these days innovations come and go at such a rapid pace and have such a gigantic impact that added value is the key to survival. Even stronger, everything that is not capable of contributing some sort of added value is disappearing or will be disappearing. This shift is more far-reaching and faster than gradual technical developments. In our niche of the business, we are already referring to what we call “disruptive innovations”, and “game-changing inventions”.'
'It is far better to develop your own Uber Taxi and retain control over it than to relinquish it to the competition.’
‘Within Priva we have already developed all the knowledge we need to cannibalise our own products. If we were to introduce our new concepts on the market, our own sales figures would drop by half. But that’s not what it’s all about; you can also think in terms of possibilities. By considering new markets to tap into, for example. Of course, you don’t really have a choice: if you don’t jump on an initiative, someone else will. It is far better to develop your own Uber Taxi and retain control over it than to relinquish it to the competition.’
This interview was made possible by Tuinbouwvertalingen.nl. Photo: Priva.