Bonny Heeren, Managing Director of Saint-Gobain Cultilene, makes it not only in Tilburg. As part of a global organization, his impact and that of Cultilene is many times greater. The Saint-Gobain holding company stretches across 67 countries and has around 170,000 employees. With Cultilene, they produce products and services for the greenhouse horticulture sector that enable more sustainable, faster and better cultivation. Following his appointment as Impactmaker of the quarter, we are curious about his story. As an experienced executive, he has been working for this company for 24 years (!). But he is never bored. "We - and the world - still have great challenges ahead of us!"
In Tilburg, stone wool is cut and cut into three products to help plants grow better, with less water consumption than you would grow in the ground: plugs, blocks and mats. Bonny: "Our spearhead is the optimisation of the "water footprint"; using as little water as possible for the highest possible yield in kilograms of end product. With our focus on providing innovative solutions for growers, we help optimize business processes and save on fertilizers, water and energy. For example, in Spain, where there is still a lot of soil cultivation, the yield per m2 of tomato is approximately 30 kilos with a water consumption of 80 litres per kilo of tomato. With the Dutch high-tech greenhouses, we are able to grow more than 100 kilos of tomato per m2 with 6 litres of water per kilo of tomato with some varieties. In addition to the water, you also save a lot of fertiliser."
"In addition to substrates (of stone wool) and Albarino glass, we are also working hard to contribute to a more sustainable cultivation through Artificial Intelligence (AI). With various climate computers and sensors, the greenhouse horticulture sector has for a long time been collecting a great deal of climate data, such as temperature, air humidity, in- and radiation and water and fertiliser levels in the substrate. Calculation models enable us to better control the plant. The next step is to use Artificial Intelligence to predict harvesting, labour or disease pressure. And that's a good thing, because in the next 30 years we will have to produce more food than in the past 10,000 years. We will have to work on the way we produce food. With smart AI software and big data, for example, we can reduce the water footprint. Digital transformation will increase transparency throughout the food chain."
"To make a success of the digital transformation, different companies have to start working together. I see three types of suppliers in digitisation. Companies that specialise in wireless sensors, the digital platform where all data comes together and suppliers that offer apps and/or widgets that use data to offer various functionalities. A standardization battle has yet to take place. A second challenge is to convince the entire sector of these new technologies. The Dutch high-tech growers are already aware of the need for digitisation and AI solutions and the competitive advantages in the long term.
"Tilburg is particularly interesting for Cultilene because of the large logistical possibilities in the area. We have a seasonal product, deliver worldwide in 50 countries and also large volumes. As a result, we need to be able to rely on good logistics partners who think along and are flexible. We have been working with local companies for many years and are now well acquainted with each other. The Brabant mentality also fits in well with our corporate culture. It is not for nothing that many Saint-Gobain companies in the Benelux are located in Brabant, such as Isover, Weber Beamix and Raab Karcher. But also our shared service centres Finance and HR!
The golden tip from Bonny
I have two golden rules that I use in my daily business:
- When in doubt, don't catch up;
- Better a short pain than a long nag.
Take advantage of it!