Six months after its launch, the ‘Club of 100’ continues to grow steadily; around 40 supply companies are now more closely involved in strategic research into greenhouse horticulture at Wageningen UR, and jointly carry responsibility for the research. The participating companies are right on top of the latest developments, have a say in the research and develop an interesting network. Sjaak Bakker and Willem de Vries of Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture hope to welcome more companies to the Club of 100 in the future.
The cancellation of joint financing via the Product Board for Horticulture had a major impact on strategic applied research at Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture and required adjustments and reorientation. The results were impressive as supply companies in the horticultural sector demonstrated their desire to maintain the knowledge infrastructure in the Netherlands. “It is heart-warming to see how many people believe in the importance of research”, says team leader Jan-Willem de Vries. “Some have even volunteered to act as ambassador. It has really energised us.”
Support, participation and networking
By analogy of sports clubs – which often work with a Club of 100 – a model was developed in which the supply industry can be much more involved in research. The participants signed a two-year commitment agreement for a contribution of €15,000 a year. “The companies can spend half of these funds on their own research issues. The other half allows them have their say about the direction of our strategic applied research”, says Sjaak Bakker, manager of Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture. “Additionally they are on top of the latest innovations and benefit from the ‘chemistry’ that develops within the network at the half-yearly meetings. Companies that would normally be competitors now meet in a very different environment, and it is having surprising results.”
Four selected research themes
In consultation with the members, four research themes have been determined for the coming period, namely: light & growth, defensible systems, energy, and water/nutrients/emissions. These themes are currently being further developed together with the supervision groups in which the companies are involved.
The interest in participation has exceeded the highest expectations of De Vries and Bakker. Only six months after the first exploratory meetings, the Club has a solid foundation. “It is a great success, especially in view of the difficult economic situation in the sector. We always felt a strong connection to the sector, but this approach increases accessibility for both sides and results in even closer contacts,” Bakker adds. “We focus on Dutch supply companies, which are represented by the decision-making directors and owners. This has been one of the reasons for the synergy.”
Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture and the current members of the Club of 100 invite other supply companies in greenhouse horticulture to join. “Everyone benefits from keeping the sector in the Netherlands above water”, De Vries concludes.