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    “Richel Group and Priva are natural partners in bringing horticulture to a higher level”

Richel Group

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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  • 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 it."

    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 schedule.

    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 backdraft.

    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 other."

    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 solution suppliers."

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