BBBLS B.V., known for its innovative soap bubble greenhouse insulation, has been declared bankrupt. The Dutch-Norwegian start-up was close to delivering a demo greenhouse in Monster to prove how the technology works in the Netherlands. The planned festive opening of the greenhouse in Monster failed to materialize this spring. The management filed for bankruptcy itself last week. There is hope that something positive will yet emerge from the bankruptcy.
Going through tough times
"We are stumbling on the real commercial breakthrough," explains Matthijs Plas. He had been the CEO since 1 April 2023, following the unexpected death of the founder and the face of the company, Anton Paardekooper, in December 2022. After that, the scale-up went through a difficult time. "Emotionally, it was a tough time for the team, and financially we also went into a negative spiral," he says.
It is precisely that emotional aspect that now makes them eager to continue. "We are trying to look forward, but that is easier said than done." The company has filed for bankruptcy itself. Last autumn, it was still in the process of another round of investment. Anton's death, among other things, meant that a new investment ultimately failed to materialize.
Completion of demo greenhouse
Meanwhile, BBBLS said it was "very close" to delivering the demo greenhouse. An agreement was reached with Koppert Cress under which BBBLS could build the greenhouse on the cress grower's premises in Monster. The aim was to see if the cress grower could achieve the same cultivation volumes and product quality as in its other in-house greenhouses and do so with significantly lower energy requirements.
"Now that the company is bankrupt, we will enter into discussions with the trustee about this," Bart van Meurs of Division Q, the cress grower's innovation company, revealed the day after the bankruptcy. "This will have to show what prospects there are to deliver and test the greenhouse. We still hope that this promising technology can contribute to making horticulture more sustainable."
That is also what the team of the Dutch-Norwegian scale-up hopes. "The recent search for additional investment has given us confirmation of the potential of our product," says Matthijs. "As far as we are concerned, that is where to start further discussions with a number of parties."
The BBBLS piece of the greenhouse on Assendelftlaan in Monster stands. The technical cultivation equipment wasn't achieved. "But the greenhouse is also not gone in one go with this bankruptcy," stresses Jan-Willem Kruijt, market analyst and business developer for BBBLS. "The greenhouse works, but there are just no cultivation systems and plants in it yet."
Demo greenhouse in Monster under construction
A bankruptcy need not be final, he points out. "It can also be the occasion to arrive at a better version of yourself." At BBBLS, they hope that it will eventually still come to an opening and a test of growing in the greenhouse. The only question now is how and which company will make that happen. Matthijs: "Important are the software and hardware, but especially the people. The trustee is also looking at that. The knowledge is in people's heads."
Norway already has four greenhouses insulated with soap bubbles. Those greenhouses were realized by BBBLS' Norwegian sister company, BBBL Solutions AS.
The Central Netherlands District Court pronounced bankruptcy on the Hague-based company on 4 July. The bankruptcy was registered under reference number: 16.mne.23.256.F.1300.1.23. Mr. K.C.S. Meekes of De Advocaten van Van Riet in Utrecht was appointed trustee.