"I think we are better known in France than in the Netherlands", says Albert Haket, head of the sales department of the greenhouse builder Horconex. "People in France also rather see us as a French company that mainly uses Dutch technology than a Dutch company that builds greenhouses in France." But the head office is still in Naaldwijk and yesterday afternoon the first pile was driven for a brand new building on the ABC site in Poeldijk.
Business partners Michel Le Coz and Cees van Uffelen ready to drive the first pile into the ground.
With the new premises, which will be approximately 4,600 square meters in size on a plot of 9,800 square meters with more additional parking space, Horconex is responding to the growth of the market. "Growers nowadays no longer come alone to Naaldwijk to discuss the construction of a greenhouse with us", director Cees van Uffelen explains." More and more often groups of growers are coming to us, which we will be able to receive soon better than currently is the case." And often it is not only the growers themselves, but nowadays also investors who are paying a visit. "And when that happens, you do not want such an investor to go looking for a parking spot at the neighbors. It is also the appearance as a company that is important."
An artist impression.
In addition to its head office in the Netherlands, Horconex also has three branches in France, in Brest, Nantes and near Avignon. The Brest site has recently been expanded and modernized to continue to meet the demand for greenhouses, technical installations and service. From the start of the company, which is 32 years ago this month, the focus was on France. A conscious choice. Cees: "France is a fairly specific market that requires special attention. Because we do not want to make concessions, we do not just take on all the projects. Growers must comply with the 'Horconex profile'. A large part of the better French growers is now a customer with us. These are often growers with larger acreages. Modern growers, where you don’t see the difference with greenhouses in the Netherlands.”
Horconex is close to the market, despite the physical distance. "France has become local for us and even Central Europe is now local," says Cees. "We never had the need to build in the Netherlands, which does not mean that we are not ambitious enough. You must know your limitations. We focus on France and Central Europe and do not really need to build a greenhouse in China or realize a greenhouse horticulture project in the Middle East. But building a greenhouse in Kazakhstan in a few years’ time, for example, I certainly do not rule that out."
The grower’s wallet
The close ties with France and the location in the middle of horticulture in the Westland mean that Horconex can keep an eye on both the greenhouse horticulture in France and the latest developments in the area of greenhouse construction in the Netherlands. With these techniques it is important to always make an adjustment to the French situation. Albert: "You can’t simply copy the Dutch one-to-one approach. For example, connecting a CHP in France is different than in the Netherlands. The regulations in France are different. Unlike in the Netherlands, a CHP in France is not the personal property of the grower. As a result, the grower still has to buy his electricity himself, which in turn entails a considerable cost."
A cost aspect for which Horconex would like to inform the grower well before advising them to build a new greenhouse. Cees: "It does not have to be investment to invest. We are still working with the wallet of the customer, so the story must be correct. Growers who have attended a trade fair and have seen the latest techniques there, must then realize what such an investment in, for example, lighting entails. When you have to pay for the extra electricity that that lighting requires, your cost price increases sharply. To recover that higher cost price, you have to pick lots of extra kilos of tomatoes. We do not (yet) believe in that. Of course, the French also want locally grown tomatoes in the winter, but if they want to pay a higher price for it, remains to be seen. That is something to realize as a grower, just like the extra purchase of electricity."
Greenhouse horticulture concentration around residual heat sources
So lighting is not so much in use in France, but that does not mean that France in other areas isn’t going through the same developments as the Netherlands. "The tendency already is that many growers do not have a gas connection anymore," says Albert. "There is a lot of investment in using residual heat. This means, and I expect it will only increase, that greenhouse horticulture concentrations will arise around residual heat sources such as industry and power plants. Our heating department is fully adjusted to this. And you do not taste anything at all from that residual heat from incineration plants when eating tomatoes that are grown with that heat", laughs Albert.
Energy consumption is also a hot item in France. In the assortment at Horconex, the Activenlo greenhouse is a solution that responds to this trend. Albert: "Of this type of greenhouse, where the focus is on actively dehumidifying the greenhouse, we have already built a lot of hectares with good results. The extra investment in this system will pay itself back within three years thanks to the energy savings of up to 20 percent."
Horconex itself is also taking steps in energy saving on the new premises, in which the company hopes to move in by the end of 2019. Cees: "There is no natural gas connection, there will be solar panels on the roof and we will also use heat pumps. Although the new building will be three times larger than our current building, the energy bill is expected to be just as high." Not unimportant, just like the extra exposure on a beautiful view location where a nice building signboard is already announcing the arrival of the building along the provincial road.
A short photo impression of the driving of the first pile
An introduction speech by Cees.
Visitors gathering around the place where the first pile was driven.
Cees van Uffelen, Michel Le Coz, building director Michel Paalvast and Jan Broch.
Time for action by both Cees and Michel.
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