Jan Vrins, Bilancia Horticulture Projects: "The investment in knowledge and expertise needed at the start of a horticulture project, is not a one-year action. Such an investment has to be written off over a number of years."
Bilancia Horticulture Projects BV tries to get horticulture projects (usually in their early stages) back on track by providing guidance on site and training. This requires an investment from the owner/investor in knowledge and expertise. Projects which have been running for some time and which want to introduce improvements, can also approach Bilancia with a request for support.
But as soon as the word investment is dropped, the problems start. Jan: "The first thing you hear is: 'Does it have to be so expensive?' Because people did not take these costs into account. Costs which - by the higher yield which can be obtained with the knowledge and expertise - can be recuperated in one year."
Investment? That only applies to 'hardware', something you can touch, is what people often think. Investing in things such as 'software', which you cannot touch, are easily neglected, according to Jan.
"In the first year, the ROI (Return on Investment) of the investment in knowledge and expertise will not be optimally paid back, because inevitably mistakes will be made. But you have to learn from these mistakes. In the end, that is the way to achieve optimization of your people and to streamline the processes in the organization. If you do not invest in knowledge and expertise, you do not know what you could have achieved in production. Not just in the first year, but also in all following years."
In Russia, Bialancia guides a tomato company. "The company has just been built by a Dutch greenhouse builder. A few kilometers further down the road another greenhouse had been built by a Dutch greenhouse builder. The management of this last company deemed it unnecessary to invest in knowledge and expertise, the first company thought it was worthwhile. Both projects started growing tomatoes. At the end of the first year, when the balance sheets are drawn up, it was already clear the yield was 15% higher in this case.
Investors are often unaware that a lack of knowledge and expertise causes many mistakes and reduces the yield. And it is hard to make it tangible. Because people are happy if they have achieved 45 kilo per m2 (company 2), when company 1 can easily achieve 55 to 60 kilo per m2 with the right knowledge and expertise. To be clear: both companies grow the same variety of tomato.
As a result, the investors decided to build another greenhouse, again with proper guidance and training, to make sure that the basis is sound, a basis to build upon."