15th June 2022
CEO Adri Pols talks about BOAL Group’s emergence from a family-owned aluminium company to a global player in the horticultural industry & their drive towards sustainability.
Originally BOAL was a family-owned business. In 2018 BOAL Group was acquired by a private equity firm, helping BOAL achieve its growth ambitions. BOAL Group continues to grow rapidly based on a buy-and-build strategy.
Over the past four years, BOAL Group has acquired several companies, the aim being to integrate innovations by combining a group of businesses under one umbrella. These businesses offer designing and manufacturing systems, solutions, and components for the construction of greenhouses.
One of the drivers of BOAL Group’s growth and transformation and a recent addition to the company is CEO Adri Pols: “I joined the company in January 2021. During that time, I learned the ropes and got to know the business and the market”.
Pols subsequently took over the CEO role in January 2022. He has a clear view of what responsibilities his role entails. “I see myself as a general manager who provides the vision and the strategy with a team covering operations, commercial, finance, digital and HR. My personal passion lies with our customers and our employees. It is key for us to work with both groups simultaneously to continuously transform our business to be future proof “ Pols states.
The main focus for the company to be future proof is actively addressing sustainability. BOAL’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy has led to ambitious goals to lower its carbon footprint and that of partners up and down the broader value chain.
Over time, the need for large scale horticultural solutions has significantly increased. “Horticulture or Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) is a vital part of the solution in solving the global challenges of how to sustainably feed the growing population.”
Pols breaks down why this is so important and asks an important question “There will be almost 10 billion people in the world by 2050 and the arable land surface is stagnant. In addition, scarcity of freshwater will further increase. We will need to produce as much food in 40 years as the world has been able to produce in the last 8000 years. The question is how can we ensure all these people are fed?”
The company is using its experience in horticulture to improve agriculture around the world as part of a larger collaborative effort. “We are a member of the Dutch Greenhouse Delta, an organisation dedicated to helping countries build their horticultural infrastructure. At the recent World Expo in Dubai, we spoke about how people in the Middle East, Africa and other parts of the world can benefit from Dutch horticultural craftsmanship” Pols further explains.
He believes the answer lies in the collective experience behind the Dutch Greenhouse Delta (DGD) project. For that reason, he also joined the DGD as a supervisory board member. “Rather than reinventing the wheel, we believe in a holistic solution. It is our purpose to partner with global players to enable safe and sustainable food production locally. No other region can deliver a holistic solution to the horticultural industry as effectively as the Dutch Westland region” Pols proclaims.
Pols goes on to illustrate how this can be achieved. “If you grow tomatoes outside, then you can produce 3-8 kilos per square metre a year. With controlled environment agriculture such as in a high-tech greenhouse, this increases to 80 to 100 kilos per square metre per year. The other issue with sustainability is water preservation. Growing tomatoes outdoors requires 200 to 300 litres of water per Kilo, while growing the crops indoors can reduce water usage by up to 90 per cent” he details.
In the past decade, 3000 hectares of new greenhouses were built using BOAL roof and sidewall systems. “If we only focus on the tomato crops, we enable growers worldwide to produce 1 billion kilograms of tomatoes per year and save up to 200 billion litres of water every year on irrigating their tomatoes”, he proudly explains.
The company has won praise for its commitment to sustainability. “Over the last months, we have been working closely with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), specialised in ESG. At the end of this project, we have had a renowned independent ESG agency conduct a detailed rating process on 60 different criteria. We are extremely pleased that we have been found to be an absolute top performer in our category. Of the more than 15.000 companies audited BOAL scores in the first percentile.”
“One of the key success factors of our business is the passion and drive of our people. Some of our employees have been with us for more than four decades and they still feel that this is their company, despite the fact we have grown significantly and now employ more than 500 dedicated people. Most of our team members have strong roots in the Westland region and all are experts in our field, “he further explains.
Pols explains what is needed, next to passion and craftsmanship. “We are looking for leadership. Not only in management-level staff, but throughout the company at every level. Our company is built by people with a can-do mentality who take ownership” he states. While some companies have had issues with staff shortages, Pols has even experienced the opposite. “Recently we have been able to attract high-quality new talent to the horticultural industry because people are keen to answer global challenges. It is astonishing how many people have applied as we recruit for more roles in the team” he further states.
“The horticultural industry has seen a rapid period of transformation over the last years. The BOAL Group applied a buy-and-build strategy early on. Therefore, we are one of the front runners in a race to consolidate and globalise the business. We are now one of the largest players in the Westland region with more than 90% of our business being export” he explains. “The depth and breadth of our offering are significant, and we ensure that we provide integrated solutions to our customers. We lead in our industry, and we plan to stay ahead. I am confident that we have got all the necessary ingredients. As a result, our greenhouse solutions will continue to provide a major contribution to sustainably feeding the world.”