ROB VAN DER WOUW

WORKING TOGETHER
WITH MUTUAL TRUST
INCE 2000

‘WE ARE STILL LEARNING FROM EACH OTHER’

Jong Fruit has been supplying the national and international markets with the highest quality strawberries for years. The strawberries are grown year-round in 24 hectares of greenhouses, spread over five locations in Dongen, in the Dutch province of Brabant. This year, production will exceed three million kilos. Managing director Rob van der Wouw joined the partnership in 1990, and Jong Fruit was born. He recently sold his stake to the business SurExport, which is based in Spain. Arian, Rob’s younger half-brother, continues to be part of the board as a shareholder.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND LEEKS

The history of Jong Fruit goes back to 1963. That’s when Piet de Jong and his father started a company that produces Brussels sprouts and leeks outdoors. Rob’s mother married Piet, which is how Rob ended up in Dongen forty years ago and discovered the world of Brussels sprouts and leeks. But Rob didn’t see himself becoming successful and growing old in a world in which a lot is demanded from you physically. Rob: “Way too cold and wet to always have to work outside, and it’s definitely not recommended for your back! But I did see a future in soft fruit, and luckily my stepfather liked that too.”

FROM 6,000 M2 TO 24 HECTARES

Rob’s vision turned out to be a fruitful one, and in 1990 he entered into a partnership with Piet. Finally, in 1992, they made the definitive switch to raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. Rob: “We started with a greenhouse of about six thousand square metres. Over the years, we acquired a cucumber, tomato, sweet pepper and blackberry nursery, mainly in order to grow strawberries. This is how we grew to more than 24 hectares by 2024, spread over five locations in Dongen. The packaging lines are also located at one location, because Jong Fruit now also delivers directly to retailers. Our customers are located in Scandinavia, England, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.”

NO MORE BLACKBERRIES AND RASPBERRIES

It wasn’t that long ago that Jong Fruit decided to stop growing blackberries and raspberries. Rob: “That still proved to be a tricky market; we couldn’t find sufficient continuity in it. That’s why we shifted our focus fully to strawberries. We now supply large volumes of strawberries of consistent, high quality all year round. We do it with a combination of our own specialist knowledge, data we collected ourselves, techniques developed in-house and years of experience. We’ve also been using Legro’s coir substrates for decades, to our complete satisfaction.”

FIXED CONTACT PERSON

The relationship with Legro started in the late 1990s. Rob: “At that time, peat and turf were still widely used in cultivation. A good friend of mine was already convinced of the quality of coir. He brought Legro to our attention, and after some conversations and gathering advice, we switched to Legro’s strawberry coir in the early 2000s. That was a special time, with many pioneers in the business. There were many stories going around and plenty of experimentation with the coir substrates. We also took a brief detour, I think it was to steamed coir, but that didn’t work out. We came back to Legro and haven’t ever left! Since Dorus Verhoeven started at Legro, he has been our fixed contact person.”

SHARED ATTITUDE, STANDARDS AND VALUES

“Legro is a big company, but it’s a family business, and you notice that in everything,” says Rob. “Jong Fruit is also a family business, and I think our shared attitude, standards and values are the basis for our great partnership. Everyone understands that nothing happens by itself and that you have to work very hard to get everything done. Especially when you want to do as much as possible in-house, like we do. We need to be able to rely on our suppliers. Legro gets that better than anyone! Even when there are problems on the supply side, such as when the Suez Canal was blocked and the international supply came to a standstill, Legro still manages to find a solution. It’s great to be able to rely on each other that well.”

LEARNING FROM EACH OTHER

“Growers can always learn from each other,” Rob goes on. “For example, we know that natural raw materials are never 100% the same. This can lead to challenges in achieving the trusted quality. In times of scarcity, Legro has developed new mixes, for example coir combined with perlite. No matter how challenging the circumstances, Legro will find a solution! And they do so in consultation with us. I think that’s important, because in order to keep the entire process under control, from cultivation to harvest, we like to chart our own course. We are real perfectionists and leave nothing to chance.”

FOUNDATION FOR FURTHER GROWTH

Now that Rob has transferred his stake in Jong Fruit to SurExport, he has gradually started handing over his responsibilities in terms of general business, permits, energy and cultivation techniques, among other things. He expects to continue to be intensively involved at Jong Fruit in the next few years. Rob: “I have great confidence in the company’s future. In the coming years, we’ll get everything on track and provide a solid structure that will form the foundation for further growth. And SurExport and Arian both have plenty of ambition to achieve that. I think it’s great!”

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