The Richel Group is Europe's market leader in building and
outfitting plastic greenhouses. Christian Richel, CEO, visited some
of his suppliers and partners throughout the Netherlands, including
a visit to the Priva Campus in De Lier. This visit created the
opportunity to talk to Mr Richel about Richel Group, the future
development, the challenges in the cultivation sector and the
partnership between Richel Group and Priva.
Becoming a market leader doesn't happen overnight. Richel Group
started forty years ago, and by coincidence in fact. "Given the
circumstances, my father was forced to stop breeding livestock in
the early sixties", says Christian Richel. "He then took over a
company that produced small, 30 centimeter-high plastic
greenhouses. That was in Eygalières, near Saint Remy in the
Provence, where our head office is still situated today."
The modest company steadily grew and by the early seventies, the
first breakthrough came along: the multi-span plastic greenhouse
(8.00 meter with a 4.40 meter vent). "It was in the middle of the
energy crises and growers wanted to save on energy usage in any way
possible. With the multi-span double inflated plastic greenhouse,
my father gave them the means."
Focus on greenhouse cultivation
Richel Group's growth is a result of ongoing 'thinking, making
and perfecting' in close cooperation with customers, and careful
takeovers of other companies. In 2001, Richel Group integrated
French greenhouse builder Marchegay, thus adding glass greenhouses,
garden centres and storage buildings to its portfolio. In 2007,
DIMAC was added, and gave Richel Group the means to develop and
sell greenhouse equipment like irrigation, water treatment, heating
and cooling systems.
Richel Group will now focus on building international relations
in the plastic and glass greenhouse cultivation sector, explains
Christian Richel. "Parts of the company that focus on the building
of garden centres and photovoltaic constructions are becoming less
important; these activities are being limited mainly to France.
Greenhouse cultivation, including building and equipping
greenhouses, is being developed internationally. That's why we
cherish the relationships with suppliers that can help us with
Bringing and taking knowledge
Being close to customers is another key factor in the Richel
Group's success. Christian Richel emphasizes that "growers invest
heavily in the latest technology to optimize their company and
their crops. That's why we don't deliver a greenhouse filled with
equipment - we deliver growing tools that suit our customers' needs
and equipment they can use to obtain the best quality and the
highest revenues. For that, we're there every step of the way, from
the earliest designs to the last bolt, and afterwards as well. Just
to ensure everything is going according to plan and to the time
It is what customers expect from us. Moreover, it binds us to
daily practice. Our sales executives and service employees - we
usually have more than 30 people out in the field each day - bring
knowledge to the growers' doorsteps, but they also take their ideas
back from the market. Growers talk to them about everyday life in
the greenhouse, thus aiming our research in greenhouse and
cultivation solutions in new directions.
For example, many growers experience problems with condensation
on greenhouse windows - some without even noticing the surplus of
moisture. We then developed a new venting window, the butterfly
window, which fixed the problem. Growers, suppliers, partners - we
all have to work together to expand our knowledge and come up with
great new ideas to get us all another step forward."
The need for the Dutch
Richel Group partly depends on incorporating foreign technology,
especially in recent years. "We started activities in Venlo
greenhouses recently", says Christian Richel. "Thanks to our
international span, we can bring the technology to growers that
have previously lacked the possibility to build glass greenhouses."
The Dutch have the most advanced technology when it comes to
greenhouse cultivation - no question there, says Richel. "I think
it is their constant struggle for keeping the water off the land,
finding more arable land and the urge to raise production per
square meter that made it that way."
A lot of technology sold comes from Dutch partners and
suppliers, he continues. "Priva is one of our most precious
business relationships. Though we have only been doing business for
no more than two years now, I consider Priva one of our 'natural'
partners. We're both key players in the greenhouse market, we both
have a strong name and reputation, and we're both sturdy companies
strengthening each other in a world that faces economic
And there are more similarities, as I realized speaking to Mr.
Jan Prins, Meiny's father. It was a delight; he reminds me of my
own father. We both acknowledge that in our family-driven companies
the human factor is most important. We both have the ambition to
bring our knowledge and service as close as possible to growers
around the globe. I believe we can learn a lot from each
Local production is key to success
Growers, according to Richel, are not the luckiest people alive
right now. "The economic crises certainly pose a challenge. That
is, if growers are unable to adapt. For me, local production is one
of the keys to their success. That's why I think the developing
countries - in horticulture, that is - have a great future ahead of
them. The growers in those regions hold the key to meeting the
demands of local populations consuming more and more fruits and
vegetables. We must to be of service to them where they want to
grow, in any sense of that word.
And that's exactly what we do, both Priva and Richel Group.
Take, for example, the Eastern European market. We're both striving
to support growers there, mainly on a relatively small scale. Local
for local, with local support and service. That's where we'll be
able to make a difference, in particular when we join forces as
Richel Group employs some 370 people, more than 30 of them
working in its three R&D departments. The company is present in
more than 80 countries across the globe. There are Richel Group
offices in France, Germany, Italy, Thailand, China, Russia, Serbia,
Ukraine, Colombia, Mexico and the USA. Over one hundred agents are
stationed in other countries.
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