International Sales Manager Arjen Janmaat of Ridder:

‘The Indian government needs to steer growers in the right direction’

India has long been the promised land for food production, but there are still big steps to be taken in the field of food safety and food security. This is all happening far too slowly, according to Arjen Janmaat of Ridder.

Ridder Arjen Janmaat

“The Indian government should push growers more and make subsidies available to steer them in the right direction. The Dutch Greenhouse Delta (DGD) can seek contact with the Indian government in order to raise greenhouse horticulture to a higher level. ”

Arjen Janmaat has been visiting India for 25 years and has seen that developments in horticulture have either progressed slowly or not at all. He knows the examples. “In 1996, Ridder supplied a climate computer for a rose greenhouse, at a location some 150 km from the capital New Delhi,” the sales manager recounts his first experience. “There was no electricity, everything ran on generators. The electronics were connected in such a way that, when the there was a demand for power, the generators were switched on via the computer. This system worked really well. Nevertheless, due to logistical problems, the cultivation of roses didn’t take off. The roses were transported to the airport by truck, but the cooling system failed so often that the project ultimately failed.”

Awareness still needs to grow

Ridder, with Dutch offices in Maasdijk and Harderwijk, offers technical solutions for the covered horticulture in the fields of climate & energy, labour, water, analysis & management and system integration. The company supplies drive systems, screen cloths, climate computers, water treatment systems and labour registration systems. “As an international family business, Ridder has been involved in developments and solutions in horticulture for 68 years,” says Arjen. “We work globally, and one of our partners in India is Blistech. Ridder also supports parties through sharing their knowledge and experience. Sharing knowledge is very important to us.”

As International Sales Manager, Arjen is responsible for India, China, South Korea and Vietnam. “In China and South Korea, developments in covered horticulture are happening much faster than in India. In China, for example, we have a branch with seventeen colleagues. India, however, has long been the promised land: we have been doing business there for years. With 1.3 billion people in that promised land, all of whom need to eat, something has to start happening in horticulture.”

Food safety and food security are important issues, says Arjen. “Indians are not good at handling their water. About seven years ago, a Greenport Holland International mission visited a number of companies in India. It was apparent that things could be done much better everywhere. A carnation grower in Bangalore said that he had to literally close down his business because his well was empty. Even though India experiences large periods of rainfall. He could have collected that rainwater and reused it. That sort of awareness still needs to grow.”

Water as a major challenge

In recent years, Ridder has carried out several projects in India around the themes of water and climate. Together with vegetable breeding company Rijk Zwaan, a project was realised in Bangalore aimed at water and climate control. For a project with the Indian retail group DS, Ridder supplied several water units and climate computers. In the Centre of Excellence, a kind of testing ground for the Indian government, cultivation in local greenhouses with local equipment is compared to cultivation in modern greenhouses with Ridder equipment. “The idea is that local growers see what is possible in high-tech greenhouses, so that they can also apply these techniques in their own greenhouses,” explains Arjen.

The water shortage in India therefore requires the reuse of water and more targeted dosing. Ridder offers the Ridder FertiMiX, which allows the grower to regulate their irrigation and fertilisers with greater efficiency and control. The Ridder VitaLite is another of Ridder’s product solutions, for the environmentally friendly and safe disinfection of recycled drain water. “If Indian growers have these techniques at their disposal, they can make very big steps,” says Arjen. “We recommend working with radiation sensors, so that the systems start automatically when needed. We still often see growers working with time clocks, watering every hour for example. Whether it is required or not. Here, too, steps can be quickly taken to save water and fertilisers.”

Indian greenhouse ridder

Fresh and safe food

The supply chain is another issue in the area of food safety and security. According to Arjen, food waste is high in India because of poor logistics and a limited shelf life of products. Food without too many chemical residues is also a concern, he knows. “The shelf life of fresh products in supermarkets is short. The products on the shelves are replaced in the middle of the day by new products, because the quality deteriorates so quickly. That has to do with refrigeration and logistics.”

According to the sales manager, the demand from the growing Indian middle class for fresh and safely produced food is increasing. “This group is willing to pay a premium price for it. The question, however, is how does a producer of safe food differentiate their products in the supermarket from the rest? That requires a bit of branding. That is another area where Indian horticulture faces challenges.”

The government has now started giving subsidies for the cold chain, transport and refrigeration to improve the shelf life of food. The corona crisis has also increased awareness of the need to produce locally. Arjen: “In India, this means producing in the region, because the country is so big. The government also wants to limit the transport of fresh products.”

Enormous potential for DGD

According to Arjen, DGD can bring added value to India by bringing together business, government and science. “There is enormous potential for DGD’s partners in India. After all, there is a need to upgrade existing horticulture, to achieve higher production, use less water and fertilisers, and to provide better quality food,” he summarises. Participation in the PIB (Partners for International Business) partnership in India, initiated by DGD, is very important to Ridder. It helps us to grow as a company in this country and to capitalise on the opportunities that are available. “Ridder is a supplier for greenhouse builders and installation companies. By taking on projects with other partners within the DGD platform, we can use our innovations to jointly lift the Indian market to a higher level.”

“There is enormous potential for DGD's partners in India. After all, there is a need to upgrade existing horticulture, to achieve higher production, use less water and fertilisers, and to provide better quality food,”
Arjen Janmaat
Arjen Janmaat
International Sales Manager Ridder