The retailer intends to use this investment to safeguard the local Belgian supply of some organic vegetables; a decision that is also driven by rising demand from customers. The purchase also triggered the search for a passionate (organic) farmer to establish a new and sustainable partnership and that person has now been found: Niels Trybou, the son of a horticulturist from Staden. Going forward, he will operate Het Zilverleen on an independent basis, working closely with Colruyt Group.
Combining expertise and drive
Niels grew up at his parents' horticultural business. "I was born and bred in the horticultural sector and I'm familiar with what is involved; from working in the fields to managing a business. After exploratory discussions, we've jointly designed a collaboration model that works for us. A lot of mutual and transparent effort has gone into this in recent months and I'm really looking forward to getting started," says Niels Trybou.
Colruyt Group is equally enthusiastic about the collaboration. Stefan Goethaert is Managing Director at Colruyt Group and responsible for the group's agricultural policy: "We felt positive about Niels right from our initial discussions with him. He has experience in the sector, which is definitely what we were looking for. Niels is enterprising, ambitious and full of energy; someone 'with drive and passion'. We very quickly felt that Niels was also genuinely interested in getting to know Colruyt Group, which is essential if you want to be able to build a relationship and a partnership."
Getting started as an independent operator
As Het Zilverleen is the first venture of this kind for both parties, they have worked together constructively to design a practicable model that suits both partners. Stefan Goethaert adds: "It is essential that we are and remain independent parties; in other words, there is no relationship of subordination. Niels is thus an independent operator".
A collaboration agreement schedules several operational meetings about business management every year and also covers issues like the cultivation plan and product specifications. Cultivation will be demand-based wherever possible, in response to the requirements of Colruyt Group's customers. Niels Trybou: "The previous owners spent years developing and optimising a cultivation plan for Het Zilverleen, but I'm already brimming with ideas for updates and innovations. But I want to start by immersing myself in the business and getting a proper grasp of how things are done at Het Zilverleen."
Safeguarding the local organic range
For Colruyt Group, this initiative is part of the drive to innovate its in-house supply chain and offer customers sustainable Belgian products. By setting up new collaboration models and partnerships, the retail group is playing its part in helping to make the agrifood sector even more sustainable. Stefan Goethaert: "Colruyt Group has the leverage to make this purchase and we want to offer a new and motivated partner the opportunity to manage a healthy business without having to make a significant investment in (organic) land. We are looking forward to an ongoing fruitful collaboration".