For the past two years, big Dutch horticulture suppliers have been working together to put the sector on the international map. Dutch Greenhouse Delta is the name of the consortium which KUBO helped set up. There are now nineteen member companies. This is a unique initiative, bearing in mind that several of the companies operate in the same markets. But it is also an essential initiative, according to director Eric Egberts.
'We target governments, investors and retailers. They are less inclined to talk to individual companies. That is sometimes regarded as a private negotiation, as favouring a company. A party does not want to get involved in that. We can operate independently with no underlying commercial interest. If you do that collectively, you have more input. Which is why Wouter Kuiper got involved in setting up Dutch Greenhouse Delta.'
Eric recognises that Dutch companies - also KUBO - have done very well recently, even without Dutch Greenhouse Delta. But he warns: 'Countries like Israel and Spain have also done well. And they may be moving even faster. If you are doing well, like KUBO, it does not mean that you operate excellently. Obviously, I do not doubt the expertise of KUBO. But we can only tackle large and complex projects as a collective or in a consortium.'
Furthermore, the strength of the 'Delta' is that it is more than a collective of greenhouse builders, in the way that other horticultural countries approach the international horticultural market. 'We have a complete ecosystem. We have seed companies, climate companies, companies specialised in logistics, in finance, in insurance. Our ecosystem should be richer than the ecosystem abroad.'
But as a sector, our reputation extends over the entire globe, wouldn't you say? Eric: 'Yes, horticultural businesses know where to find us. But that is not usually the case for governments, investors and retailers. And when things go wrong, it's because they don't know how to concretise a plan. There may be a master plan or a strategic vision, but they cannot convert a vision into reality. With our pragmatic approach, we can implement those plans.'
The objective of talking directly to retailers is less unusual than it seems, says Eric. 'In countries like China and the Gulf region, you have a government-controlled economy. In other countries, a retailer might say: I want products on the shelves that are more sustainable, safer and healthier. That's the case in India, for example. We develop projects on a demand basis. The retailer knows the needs of the consumer and we need them to make the right product with the right specifications. We turn the chain around. Not from farm to fork, but from fork to farm.’
Dutch Greenhouse Delta continues to be the conversation partner in - what Eric calls - the pre-competitive phase. 'When a prospect comes along, we talk to them to clarify the need. After that, we organise a meeting with the partners. That partner can then assess: do I want to continue with this prospect? But we don't concern ourselves with commerce.' Laughing: 'I don't mind if partners get competitive. That's how it should be.'
KUBO is not just one of the 'founding fathers', but it is also an actively involved partner, according to Eric. ‘KUBO is a pioneer. Because wherever you find Dutch Greenhouse Delta, you'll find KUBO too. A good example: last year, KUBO went along on a trade mission to India. Which is the reason that KUBO now knows: OK, so there are more opportunities for horticulture there than we thought.'
And it's not always about a greenhouse with 'Greenhouses', he adds. 'You might be able to install a project somewhere in a different form. We are not bound to greenhouses. The principle is always: healthy, safe, sustainable, reliable.'