In 2015, a group of Dutch entrepreneurs started designing a greenhouse. And not just any greenhouse, a greenhouse that would bring the consumer into contact with the cultivation of vegetables and herbs. Meanwhile, there are mini-greenhouses at various locations, including at star restaurants but also with private individuals. It was also recently announced that the greenhouse is going abroad. A pilot has been started in a restaurant in Berlin. Bart van Meurs, Kweecker: “Placing a Kweecker in a city like Berlin is something very different from delivering and installing one myself somewhere in the Netherlands within an hour.
What developments has Kweecker experienced in recent years?
“The Kweecker has undergone a major development since the start in 2015. The first version was only suitable for outdoor use, but it was fully equipped with all the techniques that are also applied in larger greenhouses. The mini-greenhouse was equipped with LED lighting as well as irrigation and ventilation. Based on feedback from the first users, a second generation was developed that was even more compact and also suitable for inside use. The greenhouse is now controlled remotely thanks to a climate computer and a smartphone app.”
Kweecker explicitly seeks the link with the greenhouse horticulture sector. Has that been successful from the start?
“Yes and no. In the development of the Kweecker we have extensively made use of our position in the middle of the Westland horticulture sector. For example, it may concern companies from the sector that act as suppliers of specific components or knowledge for the development of the software or the running of tests. There are also various ‘green’ companies that have purchased a Kweecker. Finally, there are the suppliers of plants, cuttings, seeds and all other required cultivation materials to our end users.
Nevertheless, we would like to increase the idea of ‘Westland in a box’. After all, Kweecker, as a product-oriented local grower, really comes from the heart of Dutch horticulture. Parties that want to get involved are most welcome. This, of course, can be in the area of hardware and software, know-how or consumables, and certainly in the field of sales and marketing. We are specifically looking for parties with whom we can collaborate in those areas. Commercially it is time for a next step, where we as technicians see that we need strong parties from the sector.”
Therefore also the step abroad?
“In order to make Kweecker a success commercially, a next step is needed with a strong partner. But we do not want to limit ourselves to the Netherlands, we are looking where the demand lies. In the case of this pilot, the possibility of co-operating with a strong multinational (Kweecker is part of the NX Food start-up program of the Metro Group) is found in Berlin, a metropolis where there is a lot of attention for green, locally grown and fresh.”
What are your expectations for your first international pilot? And what is the purpose of the pilot?
“We want to explore how Kweecker fits Metro Group. As part of the assortment for their high segment cash & carries or more focused on services, but also a more intensive collaboration, such as participation/venture capital, is a possibility. At the same time, it is also an opportunity for us to discover the practical side of doing business abroad. To place a Kweecker in a city like Berlin is a lot different than delivering and installing a unit myself somewhere in the Netherlands in, say, an hour. Packaging, logistics, installation and remote service, issues that we tackle through this pilot.”
What are the newest techniques applied in this pilot?
“It concerns mainly a lot of small, practical improvements that we have learned from our first users. The biggest improvement being the climate computer. ‘Under the bonnet’ we have developed a completely new hardware that greatly simplifies production and improves reliability.”
Where is your future? In the catering industry or also outside of that?
“We see gastronomy as a sector that presents itself as a forerunner when it comes to experiencing fresh. This certainly will remain our most important target group. Besides, gastronomy is a wonderful shop window for the consumer. Look at a product such as Big Green Egg; known from top chefs, but now also present in the garden of many consumers.”