Environment, sustainability and local sales are cornerstones in the operating strategy of the Dutch market garden company Vahl. It is a strategy that is widely applicable, not only in the market garden itself in IJsselmuiden but also beyond the national borders. In the federal state of Brandenburg in former East Germany, consumers place great value on regionally and sustainably cultivated products. For the market garden company Vahl, this was a key driving factor behind the decision to join forces in 2014 with the German sales organisation Werder Frucht and the residual heat supplier HBB and build a greenhouse horticulture business in Germany with 4.6 hectares under glass.
The initiative for setting up the new greenhouse horticulture company came from the German trading company Werder Frucht. They were looking for new knowledge about cultivation techniques and a new investment partner; they came to Vahl. Over recent years, the Vahl brothers have invested heavily in the company in IJsselmuiden. They introduced the ‘New Way of Growing’ and the business was substantially expanded. They were also the first to introduce geothermal heating for market gardening in the east of the Netherlands. This geothermal energy source was set up by a project called Greenhouse Geo Power Koekoekspolder. There are currently five companies in IJsselmuiden that are connected up to this geothermal energy source.
A new challenge
After the realization of the geothermal source, the IJsselmuiden horticulture company had rather less on its plate for a while. For Kees Vahl, that was a good moment to start thinking seriously about Werder Frucht’s inquiries about setting up a new company in Germany together. In close cooperation with André and Dries Vahl, he decided to take up the challenge. In 2014, Kees and his family left for a period of at least five years for Bralitz in Germany. André’s son Henry is now also working at the new branch.
The Berlin market
A brand new company has now been set up in Bralitz. There is a six-metre tall greenhouse of 216 by 215 metres on a white foundation structure. The company gets residual heat and waste CO2 from the nearby wood processing company HBB, letting it produce cucumbers and bell peppers sustainably for the Berlin market. The company’s products are marketed under the Werder Frucht brand name; it is a regional company with good brand recognition in and around Berlin. Residents of Berlin prefer to eat vegetables from their own region of Brandenburg and are prepared to pay a little extra for that. It’s a principle that fits in nicely with the Vahl vision of horticulture: sustainable cultivation for the local market.