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“My biggest challenge is finding more spare time,” says the smiling Marc Groenewegen of Prominent Grevelingen. "I'm always busy, but I do that to myself." Marc Groenewegen is the type of entrepreneur who does not sit still. He is always working on how things can be improved and he likes to be in contact with people including his own staff and fellow tomato growers all over the world. The fact that he likes to be connected is also confirmed by his active LinkedIn account with almost 3,000 followers. We also like to be in contact with Marc. Svensson advisor Ton speaks to him regularly, offline and online, about all sorts of things. The weather, his company, the future, Plant Empowerment, energy and of course, climate screens. Time for a talk with Marc. What challenges are keeping him busy?

Marc runs Prominent Grevelingen together with his brother. Like every greenhouse horticultural entrepreneur, Marc is also concerned about the energy crisis. “Of course we have to get rid of fossil fuels. It's not just a must, we also want to be sustainable. The big challenge is achieving maximum output while using as little energy as possible, and still maintaining quality.” With that in mind, Marc and his brother, along with two other companies in the area, switched from gas in 2019 to burning wood as the greenhouse heating source. “That was not profitable at the time and that is why we received an SDE subsidy from the government to compensate for that. When gas prices rose, that subsidy disappeared. Of course, the government could not have predicted this gigantic increase. A war, the blowing up of Nord Stream 1, nobody saw that coming. You expect or hope for a positive and active attitude from the government. With the cancellation of the subsidy, you as a forerunner are forced to take a step back and go back to fossil fuels. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to invest in a CHP, which is currently being installed. But of course this won't make you happy.”

Growing among the seals

The history of the tomato company goes back years. His father originally gardened in Gravenzande, at the entrance to the Staelduinsebos. The space at this location became too limited and so the company moved to Schouwen-Duiveland in 1999. Or 'the most beautiful island in the world', as Marc calls it. The greenhouse is located in the middle of a nature reserve. “We are surrounded by two national parks: the Oosterschelde and the Grevelingen. There is a lot of flora and fauna here, including flamingos and seals. Lighting is therefore not an option, but that is not so bad.” Since the introduction of Plant Empowerment and Het Nieuwe Telen, Marc has adapted his cultivation strategy. “I like to immerse myself in new techniques. I get what works for me, but also use my own experience and insight.”  


“A little stress makes a plant resilient”

For example, Marc believes that a little stress is certainly not wrong for a tomato plant. “That makes the plant resilient. Look, during the summer of 2022, the growing conditions were absolutely ideal. Then the plant gets everything it needs from the sun. We have never produced so much and never had such beautiful quality. But now, things have changed. Up until mid-May, the weather was still moderate. This pushes the plants then have to try harder and that doesn't happen automatically. And you notice that, for example in the fungi and viruses that many tomato growers had to deal with.” A little stress, so that the plant can take a beating, helps build crop resiliency according to Marc.

Marc combines his experience and knowledge with the data generated by the sensors in his greenhouse. In addition, he exchanges knowledge within the growers association and growers abroad whom he knows via LinkedIn. This is how he arrives at the best cultivation strategy. He also has to deal with the customer's specifications. “In the end, it's all about your customer being satisfied. ALDI wants something different from LIDL and England something different from Germany.” And those wishes are very specific. “Every customer has their own requirements for the weight of a tomato and the number of tomatoes on a truss. We grow specifically for that.”

Attention to company culture

And he doesn't do that alone. He runs the company with his brother. “He is externally focused, I am internal.” Day-to-day affairs are in the hands of three permanent employees: Jochem, Pjotr ​​and Raymond. “They take care of the cultivation, the labor and the shed. Jacqueline is our support in the office. The six of us turn the tent and then of course, there is the staff on the floor. They get out of bed early every day to come to Sirjansland.” Something that Marc appreciates and he also expresses that appreciation. “I think it's important that people have a good time and feel safe. I like to make people happy by maintaining a good company culture, which motivates them to perform.


More than just work, also a hobby

Marc is 53 years old and has two children. They have their own ambitions so taking over the company is probably not an option. His brother has three 

daughters and their interest does not lie in greenhouse horticulture either. “I will have to take care of my own pension,” says Marc, with a laugh. And he does that with pleasure. What plans does he have for the future? For the time being, he is not tired of growing tomatoes. On the contrary, it is not only his job, but also his hobby. This also applies to his 84-year-old father, who still comes to 'garden' with his sons. “He comes here from Naaldwijk three days a week. He doesn't do much. He just comes for the fun, but still knows everything about everything and gives solicited (and unsolicited) advice. I think I will also garden until I am 80.”

Future second screen

And so he continues to develop and innovate. His wish list includes a second climate screen. The entire greenhouse is currently equipped with Luxous Light FR . “Just a good bright screen, because a lot of light is important to us. We don't want too many additions, but a good standard screen that becomes a small package when open. We are very satisfied with this.” He also uses AC foil during the first weeks of cultivation. “That goes out after about six weeks. If you are unlucky, like this year, you can still get bad weather in March and April with cold and even frost. In addition, AC foil also produces a lot of waste. We will find a good destination for that, of course, but we want to get rid of that in the long run. That is why a second screen is definitely on my wish list.”


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