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Jorn Poelman (Veggiehouse) aims to bring change to the fruit and vegetable trade:

"No opacity, but establishing honest chains"

After spending over a decade in the hospitality industry, Jorn Poelman entered the fresh produce trade five years ago through his father Wolter. After working for several years as an employee, the Poelmans decided to start their own business on January 1: Veggiehouse. "I saw so much opacity in the fresh produce trade. No one knows where the products come from or what the earnings are. I experienced selling peppers from a Dutch cooperative to a Romanian, who then sold them to a Dutch exporter. I felt things had to change."

And so they did. Poelman rented a 30 m² office in Borger, Drenthe, and explained his business approach to the customer. "I started with a Czech customer and explained that we could work in two ways: either we do business the traditional way, or we lay everything out in the open. So, I tell him exactly what product he's getting, how much the grower should earn, and what my margin is. At first, he found it strange, but we did so much business! He knew exactly what I was earning, I knew exactly where the products were going, and we could build on each other. From that moment, I knew it had to work!"

Jorn Poelman.

"At another major supermarket, where I never managed to get in before, I had a big contract in my email within 24 hours. He wondered how we could offer such sharp prices. Well, I could tell him, we don't have the costs of an expensive warehouse or building. The car I share with my father. In Bleiswijk, we have a loading and unloading location, where we pay per pallet. That saves a lot of costs. Ultimately, we want to be cheaper so that the grower can earn more. They have to work their backs off 24 hours a day, while most of the profit goes to other parties in the chain. I'd like to break that cycle."

Honest work without hidden agendas
Veggiehouse began in the field-grown vegetables trade but has also become active in greenhouse vegetables and pear sales. "With pears, it happens a lot that traders help growers at the beginning of the harvest with an advance to finance the harvest, but in the end, they receive a too low price and get caught in a vicious cycle they can hardly escape from. The supermarket always comes out on top. I want to break that by working openly and honestly without hidden agendas. That's the exact opposite of how things currently work in the fresh produce world, where growers are under high pressure, and there's a lot of uncertainty."

And all that from Borger, of all places. "We're true Drents, and for business, it doesn't really matter where I am. Do you always need to be with your product, or do you need to know your grower and customer? The latter is much more important to us. All the information is on the phone, and we load as much as possible directly from the grower to the customer. Then you don't need to be in Barendrecht or the Westland. We pay a few hundred euros in rent a month and laugh our heads off," says Jorn.

Jorn says he has not yet encountered opposition to his transparent way of working. "But many people say it's a nice idea, but they don't know if it will last. And honestly, I don't know either. But I hope that if this works, growers will start wondering what on earth is happening with their products and that more growers will join us. It may sound cliché, but I believe in a fairer world, and I believe that by setting up fair chains, we can contribute to making the world a bit fairer."

For more information:
Jorn Poelman
IJzertijdstraat 13
9531 RA Borger
Tel: +31 180 794 151
Mob: +31 620 358 772
[email protected]

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