After more than 12 years of loyal service at Limgroup and Engels Techniek, the time was ripe for Ton Smolders to set up an independent company. Under the company name Aspavanza (a combination of asparagus and the Spanish Avanza which means progress), the experienced hand in the asparagus sector will officially start operating as an external consultant in the asparagus cultivation from 14 September. "I do not focus solely on the European market, but also beyond."
As an asparagus crop specialist, the born and raised Limburger was active for over 9 years for the breeding company Limgroup. For the last three years he was the face of Engels Techniek, a well-recognised supplier of machines for the asparagus industry. In this role, Smolders built up an international network over the years, which ultimately led to the plan to offer his knowledge and expertise as an external party. “Asparagus is now grown worldwide, from Germany to Southern Europe and from North America to Australia. Growers in all these growing areas are faced with questions and challenges in daily practice,” Smolders outlines the potential of his services.
Comprehensive advice from cultivation to market strategy
As an independent consultant, Smolders will mainly focus on the cultivation side of the asparagus. Nevertheless, the added value of his services, he says, lies in the “total picture”. “The grower benefits from comprehensive advice, all the more because the sector is constantly changing. Not just the regulations with regard to cultivation are changing, but also the delivery times and the criteria from the consumer. The added value of my method of operation compared to that of local advisers is that I have a better overview of the entire international market. My advice will therefore mainly focus on the long term.”
Living in Limburg and working for employers there for years, Smolders knows the nearby German market like the back of his hand. He cites Germany as an example of a market with a traditionally strong tendency towards direct sales from growers to consumers. “The market-technical side of the sector will not remain underexposed in my approach either. The advantage of direct sales is that as a grower you have direct influence on product marketing,” says Smolders.
Ton Smolders will be present for the first time as a visitor in a personal capacity at the expoSE trade fair in Karlsruhe on 18 and 19 November. In addition, he is placing his brand new company in the spotlight through mailings, customer visits and social media.
Opportunity in the sector
The asparagus sector has faced major challenges in recent years, partly as a result of increased scaling up and the recent corona crisis. “My prediction is that the sector will have to reposition itself, whereby it is not so much the size of the area, but the grower's drive for innovation that will be of decisive importance. It will be very difficult to survive for companies that are not open to new concepts and market strategies.”
At the same time, according to Smolders, “there is definitely still opportunity in the asparagus sector. There is still a lot of potential, especially when you consider green and purple asparagus. There is still a lot to be gained there in the coming years. ”