By Peter van den Bosch
Originally published in Issue 12
A new initiative in the Netherlands looks to bring together Dutch companies in an organization that would market their horticultural expertise worldwide.
Though a small country, the Netherlands has an important economy and is a key world player in both horticulture and agriculture. Its success is driven by innovative production methods, high tech growing and plant breeding. Holland is the biggest “roundabout” in flower trading, selling product locally as well exporting product to many other countries.
The Dutch have always acted with an international frame of mind. In the past the Dutch sailed the world’s oceans for trading purposes and these international activities continue. Regardless of the size of their country, the Dutch people have always looked at themselves as playing an international economic role.
Adapting to changing markets
The international horticulture industry is changing rapidly. For the Netherlands, which depends heavily on international trade to maintain its economy, it’s needed to adapt to this evolving situation. An increasing amount of horticulture production is shifting to areas in the world with optimal climates and low production costs. One of the limitations with production in these locations is the cost of transporting product to international markets.
In the Dutch flower industry a common question asked by growers is whether a product is “easy to fly?” For instance, a major amount of rose production moved from the Netherlands to African countries. These African roses are finding their way back to the world’s markets either through the Netherlands or the involvement of Dutch distributors. Chrysanthemum cuttings used for Dutch flower production are also coming from East African propagation operations. In many of these countries the increase in local production is leading to the development of a wealthy home market.
The shift in the production of horticultural crops is posing a challenge for the historically strong Dutch horticulture industry. In order for Dutch horticultural suppliers to remain profitable they have had to follow where crop production has moved. Consequently, Dutch greenhouse builders are more active in other countries including Brazil, South Korea, Turkey and the United States.
In most cases, these greenhouse projects are “turn-key” facilities. Once these projects are completed, it depends on the capability of the local growers to properly manage their companies to ensure they make a profit and develop a long term strategy.
A need for Dutch knowledge
Because of the Netherland’s renowned international reputation, an increasing number of companies worldwide are seeking Dutch expertise in high tech production methods, growing advice and other related topics. In some cases, growers in other countries have been required to solicit the assistance of Dutch companies by local financers, including banks, credit unions and private investors. These financial institutions are looking for reassurance that the horticulture companies they are investing in will be profitable. In many countries there’s a knowledge gap that has led to an international need for Dutch production and business expertise. There is a Dutch idiom: “You can buy a nice car, but if you don’t know how to drive it, you need help, otherwise it won’t work.”
Marketing Dutch expertise
To help fill the international need for horticultural knowledge, a group of 25 Dutch companies have started a new project, which in Dutch has been called “Grenzeloos groeien.” These companies are outstanding in their specialty areas and realize that exploring international markets on their own isn’t easy.
The purpose of this project is to combine each of these companies’ experience, to bring together their networks, to help each other and to protect each other from making mistakes to avoid failures when active in other countries. Combining their expertise makes them stronger and more attractive to foreign clients.
This group of companies is very diverse, including large tomato and pepper growers, pot plant flower growers and small breeders. This diversity makes the group more attractive to potential clients. What one company may lack another company has the expertise to fill the void.
Having a group of 25 companies means dealing with different business ambitions, company structures and ideas on how to conduct business outside of the Netherlands. Some of these companies are already active abroad, while others see the need to start marketing themselves in other countries. Bringing some type of structure to this business diversity is a challenge. It will require time to establish a professional organization that can offer some guarantees that it will work in the long run.
The companies have conducted three pre-operational meetings to familiarize themselves with each other and to find a mutual organizational structure that suits everyone. The third in-depth meeting was facilitated by a professor in entrepreneurship at Erasmus University-Rotterdam, who offered a lot of eye-opening ideas on how to create a business model.
A fourth and final meeting is scheduled for January 2016. During this meeting decisions will be made on what to do, where to do it and how to do it. By the fourth meeting proposals must be ready for an easier to understand and better name.
The goal of the new organization is to start its activities in spring 2016. The organization is looking to offer a wide variety of services, including “bold” consultancy, licensing and even partnerships. Services offered will depend on the needs of the clients and the ambitions of the organization’s members. The organization is seeking to find the best match of companies that fit together for client projects.
The organization’s companies see the horizon is open and the atmosphere is “Let’s go in the green meadow. And see how we can grow.”
Peter van den Bosch is a plant breeder and cut flower producer in Valkenburg, Netherlands.
He is co-owner/director of breeding company Celex b.v.
and co-owner of Van der Boog & Van den Bosch
(http://www.boogbosch.nl). Peter is also a webmaster responsible for a mutual website of PanAmerican Seed Co., Ball Horticultural Co., Florensis and Celex b.v.(http://www.celosia.eu).
Editor’s note: Peter’s van den Bosch’s LinkedIn contact:
When connecting with Peter van den Bosch on LinkedIn, please mention “Urban Ag News.”
Peter works with his associate Henk van der Boog. Both have joined the new Grenzeloos groeien organization with their companies Celex b.v. and Van der Boog & Van den Bosch.