Sign up for our daily Newsletter and stay up to date with all the latest news!

Subscribe I am already a subscriber

You are using software which is blocking our advertisements (adblocker).

As we provide the news for free, we are relying on revenues from our banners. So please disable your adblocker and reload the page to continue using this site.

Click here for a guide on disabling your adblocker.

Sign up for our daily Newsletter and stay up to date with all the latest news!

Subscribe I am already a subscriber

"Hydroponics is our main business"

Offering one herb - basil - year-round, locally cultivated. The goal, however, is to ramp it up to four herbs by 2028, and Niek Monden of De Kruidenaer in the Netherlands has a good reason for this ambitious plan. "Dutch consumers seem to increasingly prefer locally grown products over imports. We're still exploring the options for fulfilling this. But we're determined to succeed."

Jacqueline, Niek, Luc, Marijn en Christ Monden.

Christ and Jacqueline Monden and their three children, Luc, Niek, and Marijn, try to market locally grown herbs for as many months of the year as possible. They cultivate products like dill, coriander, curly parsley, and mint, but also tarragon, lemon thyme, and lovage - a total of some 20 varieties - outdoors and in cold and heated greenhouses. "In the winter, we import from Morocco, Spain, and Italy to provide our customers with uninterrupted produce. By combining outdoor and indoor unheated greenhouse cultivation, we can even supply chervil, which enjoys year-round constant demand almost all year. There's only from mid-December to mid-January," says Niek.

Quality argument
Besides client wishes, he uses the quality argument for putting their full effort into a continuous supply of locally grown products. "Overseas herbs take several days to arrive, which causes some anxiety around quality. So, stretching one's season as long as possible is beneficial. Kenya, traditionally a major herb supplier, has the disadvantage that the product must be flown in. Both consumers and retailers increasingly want to stop flying in fresh produce. That's also why, rather than that East African country, Morocco is now our biggest competitor in winter."

Niek adds that the farm's greenhouses and fields begin coming back to life in mid-April. "We start planting many herbs then. We've already done the sowing. This year, too, we're sticking to our basic assortment, which by now includes some specialties. The top seller is, of course, basil, which we can offer year-round. It's also the only herb we grow in the lit, heated greenhouse in winter. Demand is high and still increasing, partly due to the popularity of pesto," he says.

Mint in high demand in the summer
Most of De Kruidenaer's herbs are annuals, except mint, chives, and rosemary. "We grow mint partly in tunnels for an early harvest, and partly outside. In summer, when demand is highest, we harvest mint mainly from outdoor cultivation. To spread the risk, it's good to have both covered and uncovered cultivation. Rosemary, though, is a robust plant that lasts for many years. You'll find that in our cold greenhouse."

Marijn, Niek en Luc Monden.

They grow basil, the top seller, on water. "Hydroponics is our main business," Luc adds, citing the advantages of - paradoxically - low water consumption and limited use of plant protection products. "There's also outdoor cultivation, as mentioned, but we're trying to modernize there too. This year, we'll be doing mechanical weeding. That reduces our dependence on laborers working outside in the fields, which are increasingly difficult to find these days. Some of our products lend themselves very well to further cultivation automation."

Grid congestion makes lit cultivation challenging
Along with the labor shortage, the strain on the power grid forms a challenge for De Kruidenaer. "Grid congestion is a pretty big problem for us because we do a lot of lighting in the winter. To reduce gas consumption, policy is pushing us toward electrification, but grid overload complicates things," says Luc.

The growers have built a strong position in the retail market thanks to longstanding partnerships. Niek proudly announces that they began supplying a major food service customer in May. "We've released an exclusive brand for them, for which we chose sustainable cardboard packaging ", he concludes.

For more information:
Niek Monden
De Kruidenaer
21 Banken Street
4874 ND, Etten-Leur - The Netherlands
Tel: +31 (0) 614 624 974
Email: [email protected]