Arjo de Koning is an adviser at Versland Selection B.V. This position could not be more suited to Arjo, who laid the foundations of the company together with the four shareholders and helped it grow into the
international player it is today. He is ‘old-fashioned,’ as he says so himself. Despite this, he has a healthy entrepreneurial vision in the potato, vegetable, and fruit sector. Armed with years of experience in the retail sector, he knows precisely what goes on in the minds of consumers and retail managers. And while he also knows other larger customers through and through, such as processors and packagers, he never loses sight of the most important parties in the chain – the growers.
Growers receive their money within one week of supplying the products.
In light of the low margins on potato, vegetable, and fruit products and the often lower liquidity of growers, it would be entirely unreasonable to apply longer payment terms. ‘Growers can go bankrupt if they have to wait for months to receive payment,’ says Arjo. Versland’s policy is based on a pre-agreed compensation for marketing radish, leaf vegetables, vegetables, varieties of cabbage, herbs, and fruiting vegetables. Growers benefit directly from positive developments such as higher yields per products or higher sales. They also receive cultivation support to help them strike the balance between supply and demand. ‘Our cultivation specialists regularly visit the growers in order to provide support in terms of sowing, fertilizing, and harvesting. We think it’s important to build up a rapport and understand each grower’s circumstances.’
This down-to-earth entrepreneurial vision is what makes Versland an excellent partner for growers, retailers, processers, and packagers.
Versland’s healthy growth is evidenced by the 120 growers, 53 of whom grow year round, and its customers throughout Europe. Arjo is understandably very proud of the fact that the development of the company’s building was financed from the company’s own funds. The company’s building was handed over on 2 March 2015, after which a start was made to thorough development and reconfiguration works.
All partitions were removed in order to create one space and simplify logistics and compliance with regulations.
After building two new refrigerator units, a decision was made to quickly expand the refrigerator capacity. This currently stands at approximately 2,000 pallet spaces, distributed over nine cooling cells with their own climate control. Thanks to this, it is possible to create the best climate for each products in order to supply the highest-quality products. The building also features a sustainable refrigeration method, whereby an automated heat exchanger uses condensation from one cooling cell to cool the other. Another three refrigerator units will be built in the future, which will increase the current capacity by 600 pallet spaces – taking the total to 2,600. Alongside the cooling cells, there is a production floor cooling and a vacuum cooler, so that products entering the building can be quickly refrigerated to the desired temperature.
View the photos of the renovation
The dated office space and canteen have been modernized, bringing the building’s outward appearance in line with the company’s modern working techniques.
The outside of the building has also been renovated with new cladding. The back of the building has been entirely closed off, creating extra space for packaging, rubbish containers, and the vehicle fleet. The renovation of the forwarding office is still ongoing and will be completed within a few months. Compared with the old situation, one big improvement is that the forwarding office has been moved to an upper level, giving employees a better view of all loading docks. As many of our drivers come from overseas and drive long journeys, we installed showers in the building so that they can freshen up. The routes for drivers are now more clear-cut, meaning the logistics proceed more efficiently.
Quality control has also been centralized.
With five inspectors checking the incoming and outgoing products in order to ensure quality. If the quality is found to be substandard in terms of quality or the products are for export, then these are repacked. As this is an intensive, manual process, we have arrangements with a specialized temping agency that supplies very good workers. This centralization has not only boosted efficiency, it has also improved safety, as risks from moving forklift trucks have been controlled.
The washing lines for rocket, lamb’s lettuce, and radish have been modernized by installing lift systems.
The lift system tips tubs with agricultural products into buffers on the washing line. This limits the use of forklift trucks in the wet space, improving safety and enabling employees to work more efficiently. Another large improvement in the washing line comes in the form of an organic cloth filter. This machine filters product residues from the rinse water, meaning the rinse water remains clean and is used efficiently.
The sorting and packaging lines are also being upgraded
We will soon be able to deliver more sizing options for radish, so that we are even better able to respond to customers’ demands. In the coming months, the packaging machines will be replaced by more modern packaging machines. These are much easier to set according to various packaging materials and sizes. This enables Versland to respond more flexibly to changes in the market and implement new product concepts more easily. For instance, we will be able to offer standing holders for radish, replacing the paper cones. The conveyors will be replaced by buffers, which will be filled with lift systems in order to limit damage to the product, says a very proud Arjo de Koning.
Versland has experienced healthy growth and the outlook is bright for the coming years. Versland Selection supplies top-quality products, works continuously on further improvement, provides maximum services, and is customer-oriented. In the processing industry, various colours of lettuce are cultivated on request from customers, who have the vegetable products supplied according to their wishes. We aim to achieve long-term relationships and satisfied customers.
Versland Selection is a proactive player in the market and anticipates customers’ demands. We actively develop innovations in the fields of cultivation methods and vegetable varieties. Our vision for the future is to maintain our top quality and maximum service. Where necessary, we carry out further improvements in the whole process, from cultivation to delivery.
You are always welcome to visit our premises. Please make an appointment with one of our sales representatives in advance.
Written by: Youandi de Blooy