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Xander van der Zande, VEK:

Chinese private investors enter the greenhouse industry

When you think about Chinese horticulture, the immense solar greenhouse industry might be the first thing that will cross your mind. But what about the development of more high end greenhouse projects that include more sophisticated technology? Speaking to Xander van der Zande of VEK, we learn that China is still an interesting market for this development. “The development is slow, it takes time, but the interest lies here.”

VEK is a Dutch company that designs and supervises the construction of greenhouse projects worldwide. From the initial idea of growing in a protected environment, VEK assists growers with everything from low tech polyhouse complexes towards highly sophisticated research greenhouses and state-of-the-art flower and vegetable glasshouses.

Sales director Xander van der Zande was present at the 17th Hortiflorexpo in Shanghai last month in order to serve the upcoming Chinese market with their knowledge on these sophisticated projects. He told us that there are more and more chances for the development of such high end greenhouse projects in China. "For us China is an important market, but also a very difficult one."

In order to target that interesting, but difficult Chinese market more efficiently, VEK has partnered with Chinese greenhouse grower and supply company Rui Xue Global. Van der Zande: “Rui Xue Global is a very sophisticated company; As a high-tech company in China, they are not only a successful young plant supplier that uses the latest and advanced technology, but also devoted to providing customers with horticultural products for turnkey projects as well as one-stop professional and technical services. At the same time they try to convince their customers and other Chinese horticulturists to adapt more efficient supplies and technology as well. They have an extensive network and a huge drive to improve the sector that they are active in."

Van der Zande explained that 99.9 % of the Chinese growers are still using the traditional solar greenhouses. "We focus on that small percentage of the market that is interested in new and more efficient and advanced technology including ‘green thumbs’ for managing the greenhouse."

According to Van der Zande, this part of the market usually consists of governmental projects and the developments of some larger companies. "More and more, Chinese private investors are active in the horticulture industry. They realize that investing in greenhouse horticulture is a very attractive market as the demand for exclusive flowers and food-safe produce increases. Also the Chinese government is still investing in high tech demonstration projects, because they want to develop the local economy as well."

But before they can take part in these projects, a lot of commitment is needed because you cannot simply sell consultancy, knowledge or greenhouse technology in China like you can in any other country. "Here you really need to participate in a project as an investor with dedication to a successful working company. The Chinese are open for a company like us to participate in a project as a turnkey partner, but it takes time. It can take up to three years or more before something eventually takes off."

But according to Van der Zande, there are also many things that take less time in China. "If you compare greenhouse development in China with greenhouse development in Europe, you can say that the Chinese are more demanding in regards to commitment; they need you to participate in their projects. As said before, it costs a lot of time before this relationship is well established. On the other hand, a lot of other things speed up once the decisions are made."

Van der Zande explained that China is maybe a country that is known for their rules, but in regards to project development they are becoming less strict. "Permits are not a big deal anymore, and projects tend to take off faster. They decide where to build a project and when it needs to be finished. How they are going to do it is something that they will decide along the way. In Europe however, the planning, permits, legislations and rules are only becoming a bigger and more time-consuming issue. So in this respect, it is sometimes a relief to work in China."

For more information:
Xander van der Zande
[email protected]
Skype: xvanderzande