Dutch growers association Prominent is going over the border. The growers association is involved in an adventure abroad, together with pepper growers of Rainbow. This has resulted in building a 5,4 HA large glasshouse in western Ukraine. Arne van Aalst, general director Prominent, is speaking of a wake up call. "There are enormous opportunities in this area. The countries want to become less dependent on import. People are shouting for local horticulture. One can then remain uninterested, but then do not complain when one is not part of this."
The project of the Dutch growers is a result of a healthy interest in internationalizing. "We have seen developments in the international field for years already" Arne tells. "Especially the Eastern European countries outside the EU, which import more than 80% of their fruit and vegetables, want to become more and more self-sufficient in their food supply. Up to now we have fruitfully traded with these countries via the Dutch exporters. However, the local governments there now enormously stimulate the independency. As a result opportunities arise. We have decided to grab those.
Arne van Aalst
The opportunities seen by Prominent are mainly in the form of knowledge and 'goodwill'. Arne: "By establishing ourselves in Ukraine we have first class opportunities to gather knowledge regarding further internationalization. We come into contact with local governments and assist each other. We are full of confidence, that relations like these will result in positive "Spin-Off" export opportunities. The 'good will' we show here, will finally show its profits to our growers in the Netherlands.
The collective behind building of the glasshouse complex close to the town of Busk includes, in addition to Rainbow and Prominent, also a former Dutch agrarian. Dirk Aleven of Foodventures, a project developer with the necessary experience in Eastern Europe and Turkey, is also involved in the project. Together with the assistance from a Dutch bank the plan finally received its final form. Prominent and Rainbow both have a share of 8,75 percent.
"Being Prominent we especially bring a lot of knowledge into the company" Arne completes. "It is of course very nice and exciting to invest in an unknown area, but one cannot and should not run a risk. Therefore we divided the risks. Nevertheless a lot of money is still involved, but this is the best way to establish the possibilities."
That the Dutch growers in the first instance reacted rather sceptically did not surprise van Aalst. "It is of course not the easiest period, but luckily from the members we also received a lot of understanding. In 2011 a working party was established, in which growers with experience of projects abroad are also involved. Amongst others dutch growers Tom Zwinkels and Marcel van de Berg have done a lot of work here. Finally during a member meeting the decision was taken and building started last summer."
The legs and feet are ready in the meantime
The 5,4 ha large glasshouse is being realised by the Dutch company Agrotech from Didam on a turn-key basis: 2,5 ha is to be used for growing tomatoes under light and 2,5 ha of peppers will be grown. In the remainder short cultivations will stand,
herbs and lettuce on water. Heat will be supplied by a boiler and the electricity for lighting will be taken from the electricity net. In the future there will also still be the opportunity to take heat from a close-by organic fermentation installation. As expected the company will be in operation by the end of 2013. Products will be sold locally by its own selling company.
The new greenhouse has received the name Galicia Greenery and will be managed by Peter de Vreede. "Peter knows the Ukraine as no other, because of his previous employment" Arne agrees. "He is therefore the best person to be the CEO. He will be supported by grower Louis Hendriks. He also has earned his marks in horticulture abroad, especially in Germany. Also HAS-student Mikel Honders, the son of one of our growers, has departed for Busk."
Arne van Aalst is, just like all other partners, very proud of the project. "We are happy, that we, thanks to the good partners, contacts and built-up relations, may be a part of the adventurous route. Also the confidence from the association and the drive behind it, show that Dutch growers are prepared to look further than the length of their noses. Only in this way will the Dutch horticulture be able to keep its strong position. That is what I believe in."