'Growing is not really necessary for me. I prefer to invest in labor and energy'
An interview with Joost van der Vleuten about Kwekerij van der Vleuten
Cees and Claartje van der Vleuten started a small-scale horticultural business in Oirschot in 1968: Kwekerij van der Vleuten was born. Grandson Joost is now ready to take over the company and of course we are very curious about his view on the growers' profession.
We speak to Joost in the office at the greenhouse in Oirschot. There is a friendly atmosphere in the greenhouse, the employees enjoy their workplace. The greenhouse is well-organized and spacious, but also has something cosy.Joost has been working in the company since 2016 and says that he has just finished his training as a cultivation specialist in green technology. ‘If my father retires in a few years, I would like to be able to take over the company. It was important for me to complete my mbo education before that time. I now work here full-time, but I still regularly follow courses, such as now a course on 'the new cultivation'. After this I will participate in the ZON Executive Academy, focused on both hard and soft skills.
It is great that ZON offers young growers the opportunity to participate in this training and to meet each other.Joost van der Vleuten
When Joost's grandfather started the company in 1968, it consisted of only a few hundred square meters. When son Gerard joins and eventually takes over in 1997, the company slowly grows to 2.2 hectares and focuses on growing tomatoes. Joost remembers how he spent a lot of time in the greenhouse together with his three sisters as a child. “We were allowed to sit on the cart with the staff to ‘help out’, but I think we actually got in the way,” laughs Joost.He sees his childhood as a good time. ‘First we had loose tomatoes, then truss and cocktail tomatoes and now we grow loose tomatoes again. They are specific slicer tomatoes, intended for ready-made food packages and sandwich shops, among other things.'
Sustainability is important to Kwekerij van der Vleuten. For example, we are currently installing 200 solar panels and we are experimenting with a machine that extracts nitrogen from the air. We can use the liquid nitrogen again for the plants in the greenhouse. The technology has a good CO2 footprint and is still very new. Our company is participating in an investigation into this.
We are always working on innovations to save energy, which is good for nature and good for our company.Joost van der Vleuten
Like father Like Son
‘When I was 16, I first followed a mbo education in metalworking. Actually, I didn't like that at all. Then the idea of going into the business came to mind. I already worked in the greenhouse on weekends and holidays and that was always a lot of fun.
Joost has been with the company since 1 January this year. ‘There is a lot involved: finances, plant knowledge, recognizing and combating diseases, computer technology and everything related to energy and climate regulation. Working with my father is also going well, we have the same mindset and there are hardly any disagreements.
Joost's grandfather is also still active in the greenhouse. He comes in regularly to help. My father will also start working less in a few years. He already goes on holiday now and then and it's nice that I can run the company.'
‘There is a lot involved in running a cultivation company, I like the variety’
Joost's parents used to think it was important to go on holiday as a family. Joost: 'I also think it's important to get enough rest next to work and to go on holiday now and then. In that respect, there is a nice balance in our company. We can divide the work in such a way that I can also participate partly and don't have to sit in the office all day, I shouldn't have to think about that. We are also in a niche market, so we are not so bothered by competition. So I don't feel the need to expand.