“Capital and passion alone are not enough – you also need knowledge”
“Capital and passion alone are not enough – you also need knowledge”

“Capital and passion alone are not enough – you also need knowledge”

Horticulture ‘boomer’ in China. The Asian country has an increasing number of modern greenhouses. This is something that Rens Knieriem, Business Manager Asia at Rijk Zwaan, also notices. He is in charge of the Asian market with the seed supplier so he can tell us all about the latest developments in Chinese horticulture.

“The people of China are paying more and more attention to things like food safety, quality and taste. That’s why modernizing agriculture and horticulture is high on the agenda.” And the facilities are already in place with high-tech greenhouses that can compete with those in the Netherlands, but a link is sometimes missing: know-how.

Rijk Zwaan wants to take a step towards more know-how. “We try to train and support people in high-tech cultivation in China to maximize the potential.”

Regional governments in China are investing a lot of money in realizing high-tech horticulture projects, even in regions where such horticulture was not yet common, Rens says. The subsidies are for the hardware, ie the greenhouses themselves. “Companies are realizing pretty quickly that they also need support.”

The step to China
In general, Rens sees that the Chinese government is doing a good job of modernizing the greenhouse industry. For example, barriers have been removed for Western seed companies wishing to enter the Chinese market – the government realizes that it is not only the Chinese seed companies that need to be protected with a business license, but all seed companies need to be treated equally.

So the step to China is being taken faster now, but seed companies still need to make an effort to take that step. “The rise of high-tech horticulture means that a seed company should really pay attention to marketing better varieties. So you have to make an effort to release good varieties and provide support through technical know-how. It also sets high standards for our team. “

Horticulture in progress
But what exactly is behind the current developments in Chinese horticulture? Rens points out that horticulture in China is still somewhat behind other industries. “At the same time, we see that the government in China wants to optimize the use of land and workers. The same goes for the use of resources like fertilizers and chemicals. The fact that they are more aware of it also leads to better cultivation conditions. ”

So the government is playing its role, but consumers are also on the move. “The wealth of Chinese consumers has increased enormously over the last thirty years. The middle class in China will settle for nothing less than what we have here in Europe: they will also have a product that is safe and full of flavor. “It is important to establish new chains with professional cultivation.

The role of government
Back to the role of government, which in itself is quite interesting. The Chinese government’s new agricultural policy aims to fundamentally improve rural areas. “This has led to a lot of grants for new projects, logistics systems and initiatives in the production chain. This applies to both state-owned companies and private investors, both of whom can benefit. ”

Knowledge – the missing link
With these government grants and private investments, many large projects are realized. But just building a greenhouse and investing in the best technology is not enough. “Capital and passion alone are not enough – you also need knowledge. And in many cases, that knowledge is still lacking. ”

Many growers in China are still at the middle-tech and low-tech level, says Rens. “A number of them realize this and learn new know-how for themselves, for example through social media like WeChat and TikTok. Moreover, high-tech projects are not always the solution. Traditional gardening in Chinese greenhouses can also yield results if it is carried out efficiently on a large scale. ”

Chinese breeders are also generally sensitive to new trends. “They are ready to make changes, and they also understand that they need high-quality seeds to optimize yield and quality.”

Market development
How do they handle all this development at Rijk Zwaan? “For us, China is a promising, new market. We have products in the market for high value and added value, and we have an above-average interest in new cultivation, such as high-tech cultivation and specialties, as well as new market developments. So our products and services fit well. Chinese market. “

Of course, the Rijk Zwaan team in China also plays a big role in that. “We have a fantastic team there, with young and loyal people who understand the corporate culture and innovations really well. So I’m really optimistic, and it resonates with the great growth we’ve realized for several years already in China, and which still continues.”

Rijk Zwaan also has a research station in China to support the worldwide breeding program. China itself, moreover, requires specific varieties. “The country is almost a continent in itself. You can almost never copy a variety from Holland directly to China. But it is true that the more high-tech a market becomes, the easier it will be in principle. ” Due to the specific climate and market conditions, Rijk Zwaan China also works on specific varieties for that market – even within China, different varieties may be needed due to the country’s size and climatic differences.

These developments are supported by a team of 140 people working for Rijk Zwaan in China. “And almost everyone at Rijk Zwaan China is in contact with Europe and America. So there is a frequent exchange of know-how.”

So all in all, China is a very interesting market for Rijk Zwaan, and also for Rens personally. “We really have a fantastic corporate culture at Rijk Zwaan, both in the Netherlands and worldwide. And it’s wonderful to work with the team in China. They are passionate about the profession and the company, just like everyone else at Rijk Zwaan. Our core values ​​are very important everywhere, with the aim of getting better together. ”

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