'I like the combination of cultivation and entrepreneurship'
An interview with Jorg van der Kaaij about Kaaij Kwekerij
When Jorg van der Kaaij (17) was born in Berlikum, Friesland, his father Theo and uncle Arjan had just taken over the family business a few years ago. Jorg's great-grandfather started growing grapes in Westland in the 1930s. After various changes, including to the cultivation of vine tomatoes, his grandsons took over the company in the late 1990s. In 2000 Kaaij Kwekerij moved to Friesland. The company has since experienced significant growth. The company grew from 1.5 hectares of greenhouse land to about 24 hectares. We meet Jorg at the entrance of the nursery. Stately sheds and greenhouses full of tomatoes rise to the left and right of the paved road; each part of Kaaij Kwekerij.
Kaaij Kwekerij has 20 hectares of tomatoes, the other 4 hectares are asparagus. “When a neighbor went bankrupt, they took over his greenhouses. However, those were suitable for peppers, not tomatoes. At that time, things were not going so well with the peppers, so it was decided to start growing asparagus. However, our main crop consists of vine tomatoes.”
We have been able to take a step every few years to expand the business.
Jorg works in the company every Saturday. “Actually, everything in the greenhouse is still handmade. Lowering the plants, pruning, leaf cutting, clipping and of course cutting the tomatoes themselves. We are working with a company on the robotization of cutting work, among other things, but this is not that easy, because every tomato plant grows differently.'Three days a week, Jorg attends the MBO course in plant cultivation in Hoorn, about 100 kilometers away. 'It's quite a ride, which is why I've looked for my internship closer to home, namely with the neighbor', smiles Jorg. After his education, Jorg hopes to continue studying, preferably business administration.
'My father works 7 days a week in the greenhouse and my mother does the administration of the company. Cooperation was part of the upbringing and now I am a bit more involved in the company. I have great admiration for my father and uncle.
Sustainable energy and the new generation
As with many growers, energy is currently a hot topic at Kaaij Kwekerij. ‘We have purchased our gas for a longer period, but we are working on making our cultivation more sustainable and more efficient. Ultimately, the game is to achieve as much yield per square meter as possible. A few years ago, we invested in 10 hectares of LED lighting and replaced a boiler with a CHP installation (combined heat and power). Perhaps we will install another one in the future, perhaps one that runs on hydrogen.
Jorg wants to join the company, that's for sure. My father is now 51 years old, so it will be a while before he stops. Of course, the company also belongs to my uncle, who is only 46. His daughter and my sister, together with me, form the 4th generation within this family business. They don't want to take over the company for the time being, so I'm the only candidate at the moment. I want to gain a lot of experience first.