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Innovation pays off

Costs savings from innovation

About Van der Linden

The bar is constantly being raised: production has to go up, costs have to go down. Cucumber growers Henk and Floris van der Linden follow all technological developments closely to drive down the production cost per square metre ever further. Improved logistics and energy management have now delivered a profit in hard cash.

"Our company Van der Linden Tuinbouw in Oud-Beijerland grows cucumbers all year round. Since its founding in 1968 there have been various crops, but in recent years we have definitively decided on cucumbers", says one of the director/owners Floris van der Linden.

"The primary objective is to remain disease-free. That is why no people from outside the company are admitted to the greenhouse, and others only in a special suit. Rising costs are an equally large threat. Labour is expensive. Heat is expensive."

A first in logistics

With its new internal transport system, Van der Linden achieved a world first. This is an achievement in itself, but the most interesting figure is the 25 to 30 percent labour saving that it brings to the company. Everything from harvesting to sorting now literally takes place on the production line, instead of the manual filling, stacking and lugging of crates. "After six months of testing, we were already convinced. After all, the workforce is the biggest expense at the company. Although... with the rising natural gas prices, heat and CO2 are almost overtaking labour." For this reason, the company also placed its energy management under the microscope. Van der Linden: "We called in an independent consulting firm to compare CHP solutions. They produced a list of suppliers that we invited to tender. After considering investment and maintenance costs, the return on investment, guarantees and references, two remained: the largest in the Netherlands and the oldest in the Netherlands.

We opted for the oldest, Centrica Business Solutions (then ENER-G Nedalo). They have a lot of knowledge in house and are working hard on a comeback, making them extremely focused on service. And it immediately clicked. What difference does it make? Again 25 to 30 percent per year."

Growing upwards

Now that logistics and energy are once again mostly futureproof, Van der Linden is already focusing its attention on the following improvement: high-wire cultivation. This should increase the yield by at least 10 percent. "With a cucumber plant, we normally pinch out the growing tip at a height of 220 cm and hang the side vines over iron wire. That produces a lot of pressure and overcrowding, and you end up "capping" the yield. With high-wire cultivation, the tip isn't taken off and the plant simply continues to grow. Technically we are ready, and as an entrepreneur we won't miss out on this kind of opportunity."

Why Centrica Business Solutions?

Centrica Business Solutions is the oldest supplier of CHP units in the Netherlands and has the largest fleet of CHP units in Europe. A 1560 kW MTU installation with flue gas cleaning was supplied to Van der Linden Tuinbouw. As a special feature, it was installed in a beautiful outdoor enclosure. Here too, Centrica Business Solutions is proving to be a true horticulture specialist. Customers that make intelligent choices in terms of energy will see their returns grow even faster than their crops.