When it snows like last week, Hans Boer of J.F. Boer from Berkel en Rodenrijs, also known as Boer Berkel, knows what is going to happen. Growers get nervous and call him. "It has always been this way. But things are usually not that bad and we can provide a timely solution.
Hans should know, the 'Boers' have been active in the business for a while. More than a hundred years ago Hans Boer's grandfather, Piet Boer, started manufacturing heaters. Over the years, he decided to focus more on the sale of generators. Later, his son Jo, Hans' father, took over the business. Hans has now been in charge for almost thirty years.
The work has changed considerably over the years. "We used to visit all those small growers. Now, they already look online to see what they want. Of course, the power has grown tremendously. It can happen that we sell 2,200 kWh generators weighing 16 tons. And work often leads to more work. If we sell a generator to a greenhouse builder, the grower also needs a new generator in his new greenhouse. The busiest period is usually just before Christmas. Greenhouses are empty and growers want to make some last investments."
"The internet has also made the demand a lot more international. I just sold another generator to someone in Bulgaria. This is also due to Dutch growers who started cultivating elsewhere in the world and still come to us for their generators, our reach has grown a lot. 40% of our generators are destined for export. For example, we sell a lot of generators to flower growers in Africa. If they have Wi-Fi, we can log in to the generator. But if that doesn't work, every generator has a number. With the number, we can often tell them what is going on pretty quickly", Hans laughs.
Africa has become Hans' favorite destination. He has a house there and has spotted many wild animals already. His customers enjoy it through the Christmas card that he sends to his clients every year with a photo and the fixed text 'De boer was away again! Happy Holidays! "Unfortunately, because of the coronavirus I haven't been in a year. But even there there is work to do. You're sitting in a lodge in Namibia and the owner thinks the generator is making a strange noise. And if you could take a look at it... Well, then you're up to your elbows in grease again."
Although Boer Berkel sells fewer generators because of industry consolidation, the same applies to the number of suppliers. "There are two or three players on the market. In that sense, competition is not so great anymore and we respect each other." How does he differentiate himself? "Say what you do and do what you say. And of course with his service. If someone calls with a problem, we immediately go over there, so they can always resume their activities."
Lately, Hans has been getting quite a lot of questions from growers because generators now fall under boilers and are subject to the SCIOS inspection. "An authority comes to certify the generator that turns out to have been running for forty years without an hour counter or a bird could have ended up in the exhaust. No one wants this, but you have to deal with it."
Besides generators, J.F. Boer also rents out trailers. "We started with this to have enough work during the summer, when it was quiet with the generators, but now it's something we do year-round. We mainly sell trailers to individuals, but also a grower who has to move his pipe rail trolleys to another greenhouse knows where to find us. People come and go here the whole day.
Boer Berkel looks at the future with confidence. "We just keep going. Our generators have been used in horticulture for decades and that will not change in the coming years. And the questions remain diverse. Sometimes you deliver a generator to a grading machine supplier who wants to test it for an international project, but for the Covid-19 testing locations they also knew where to find us.