The workshop was well attended, with dozens of participants from all sides of the chain: from growers to researchers, and from buyers to suppliers. Paul Monincx (Topsector Tuinbouw & Uitgangsmaterialen) opened the meeting with a short introduction about market opportunities, after which the plenary part of the meeting started, with three speakers.
Alexander Prinsen performed the kick off. The founder of Van Blankensteyn told about his search for natural cleansing agents. Van Blankensteyn is producing natural soap products. The link to plant materials and horticulture is easily made. A lot of natural products contain substances which clean excellently. "Ask tomato growers, they often clean their hands with a few tomatoes."
A similar research will start shortly - in cooperation with SIGN - with tomato stalks, and Prinsen sees more interesting opportunities for cleansers based on horticultural products, such as enzymes from ornamental crops. "We want to democratize the availability of degradable cleansers: the grower should be paid for both product and waste."
But Prinsen is not only interested in making money; working with plant materials serves a higher purpose: "Healthy soil means healthy food, which means a healthy person. Together that makes a healthy spaceship 'Earth'.
Children of our children
The choices Verstegen Spices & Sauces makes are in the same vein. The company is active in the field of renewable energy - for example a research into electric cooking - and takes the situation in the countries where products are being bought into account. "Why would we grow peppers in the Netherlands when it can be done cheaper in another country and the people there are dependent on it?"
Transparency and cooperation
Transparency was central in Van Keeps' presentation. Retailers and consumers want to know more and more where a product is from, how it is made, and what is in it. For Verstegen Spices & Sauces this means: being able to indicate which farmer grew what pepper. "That is why we are looking into the possibilities of block chain."
Van Keep also pointed to the importance of cooperation, which for good reason is one of the 17 'world goals' of the Sustainable Development Goals: Partnerships for the goals. "We will have to cooperate, also in the field of knowledge. Having what your neighbor does not know is no longer added value."
Herbs with a story
Back to the production of, for example, pepper on Dutch soil. Van Keep does not believe in it. Firstly, enormous quantities are needed. And according to her it is also more difficult to tell 'a story' about pepper being grown in a Dutch greenhouse. The business model is insecure. "Look at vanilla: the prices are all over the place."
According to Geerts there are three critical factors in making such a product successful: legislation, product, and market. In the field of legislation it is, for example, important to know that plant substances for use in food supplements are not regulated in the EU, and that there are strict rules when making health claims. "That is an expensive process without certainties."
For the aspect Product, Geert showed a matrix, with simple products with low investor's costs on one side, and complex products with high investor's costs at the other side. Products for which the producer or supplier wants to make a health claim are among the last type.
Rose hip and 'zero emission'
After the speakers it was time for the World cafe, a form of work which was introduced by Peter van der Sar of Topsector Tuinbouw & Uitgangsmaterialen. All participants were divided over a number of tables: at each table one type of bio-based case was being discussed: from new horticultural crops to complete concepts with zero emission.
In two rounds the participants indicated per case which expertise they could contribute. This produced four concrete business cases, varying from a new chain for growth, processing, and sale of rose hip or California poppies to a completely new business model with zero waste. Participants could indicate afterwards which case they would like to be more involved in, the organizers told during the closing meeting.