Crop clearance specialists Heecon celebrates 25 years

It takes remarkable vision to engineer a solution to a problem that no-one has tackled previously but that’s how Heecon, who celebrate 25 years in business this year, came into being. Until Kees Heestermans decided to apply his engineering skills to horticulture in 1988, greenhouse crop clearance was a time consuming and labour intensive business. But Kees saw a clear opportunity to mechanise the arduous manual work involved and set about building the first ever Heecon crop clearance system for tomatoes. It was an immediate hit with Dutch and Belgian growers and demand grew, first for contract crop clearance, followed soon after by the manufacture and sale of the machines themselves.

From the beginning Heecon have combined contract work with manufacture, which has been vital in keeping the Belgian company in close touch with the market, making it easier for them to respond quickly to the changing demands brought about by new techniques and growing systems. So Heecon’s excellent reputation in the tomato industry soon attracted enquiries from growers of other crops, and machines were also developed for cucumbers and peppers as well as for strawberries and raspberries in the rapidly expanding soft fruit sector.

News always travels fast in the greenhouse business, and these days it can travel a long way, bringing international success for Heecon in the 90’s when CMW Horticulture sold the first Heecon machines in the UK. There was also success in other export markets and nowadays the Heecon brand is established not only throughout Europe, but in far flung markets like Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico and the United States.

Still very much a family business after 25 years, Kees now mostly takes a back seat while his son Martijn runs an efficient operation with a close knit team of 8 permanent staff, 6 contract workers and an apprentice, though Kees still keeps his hand in by building machines for a range of different applications. He remains as down to earth as ever and has this message for aspiring young engineers: “You don’t need a degree to come up with something good. It’s a question of knowing where to look and combining things intelligently, that’s how you get an excellent machine.”
That’s the philosophy that has established Heecon’s leading position in its first 25 years, and will no doubt be the basis for continued success in the future.

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