‘Collaboration’ is the key word in the projects that are portrayed by means of eye-catching video reporting. ‘Growing Together with…’ allows leading horticultural entrepreneurs to describe their vision of optimum collaboration in the chain and how they put it into practice.
The starring role in the first episode is played by tomato company CombiVliet, founded in 1955 is now one of the largest and most progressive tomato companies in the world with a total growing area of 97 ha,., The company has become a major player in the cultivation of various types of tomatoes: round, beef, cherry and – since the establishment in 2004 of the site in Zeeland with lighting – also vine tomatoes. The name of the horticultural company has changed several times over the last sixty years on account of its crop focus. It was called Van Vliet Cherrytomaten for many years and the current name, CombiVliet, was chosen at the start of the NoordVliet project in Middenmeer. The family name ‘Vliet’ can be found in the site names of the various locations.
“Since 1997 we have implemented a structured expansion,” says Roy van Vliet, who is responsible for the NoordVliet site. “We decided, however, that we would prefer to pursue further growth at a single location.” The choice in favour of Middenmeer was made in 2006. “At that time, together with several colleagues, we were looking at the possibilities for developing Middenmeer into a modern, large-scale site for greenhouse horticulture”, adds father and CEO Theo van Vliet. The first phase of NoordVliet was completed in 2011, followed by a further phase in each subsequent year. With the most recent expansion phase 5, the total size of the project is 60 ha. “We do it because it’s fun, that’s our driving force. Passion and enthusiasm are the key words,” says Theo, adding a number of ambitions for the coming years: “We want to carry on with what we’re doing, i.e. expand the NoordVliet site to 100 ha. In addition, we’re also looking for a location abroad.” As chairman of Harvest House, he also has a vision for sales and marketing. “We want to keep improving the sales organisation that we have set up with all the other growers as we want to grow together! It is important for the future that we adapt to meet the needs of our customers and their clients.”
“Unique” is how Justin Schoemaker from Priva describes the implementation of NoordVliet. “We are involved in many large-scale greenhouse horticulture projects worldwide, but an implementation spread over a period of eight years is quite special.”
What is special for Roy van Vliet is his direct involvement, from the drawing board to the implementation of the project. “The fact that it is partly your idea that is shown on the drawing and that is ultimately being completed in stages obviously gives you a lot of satisfaction.” Theo then mentions the ultimate collaboration that forms the basis for the site in Middenmeer: the consultation and brainstorming between father and son. “We spend a lot of time thinking about developments together. In 2004, after the new construction in Zeeland, we started thinking, dreaming and talking about how we could achieve the optimum new construction project. As a result, NoordVliet became a natural process. Roy has steadily become accustomed to the process of establishing a large-scale greenhouse horticulture company.”
One of the complex factors that Roy encountered was that you have to complete things in the first phase that you will only need in the final phase. A phased implementation over a period of several years requires the ability to think far ahead and to constantly anticipate the latest innovations and developments in greenhouse horticulture. For example, it was assumed at the start that the whole complex would be heated using CHP. “The reality, however, is that we no longer need to install any more CHPs, as all future expansions will be heated using geothermal energy,” says Roy, describing an example of how their insight has been enhanced. NoordVliet has a large low-value temperature network, a precondition for the use of geothermal energy.