Netherlands-based fruit producer The Fruit Farm Group (TFFG) has acquired local organic greenhouse vegetable producer A. C. Hartman, a supplier to Benelux retail giant Ahold Delhaize, in a deal which will make the group one of Netherland’s largest glasshouse horticultural companies.

The takeover will enable A. C. Hartman to grow and become more sustainable, by using terrestrial heat, the companies said in a joint statement. Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed.

To meet the growing demand for sustainable organic greenhouse vegetables, A. C. Hartman, which has a 30% share of the organic vegetable market, will see its existing 72 acres of horticultural land increased to 110 acres over the next few years. The new acreage will be used for conventional and organic glasshouse agriculture. 

TFFG, spun off from Univeg three years ago, has ambitious plans to heat A. C. Hartman’s greenhouses with geothermal energy. An initial three-kilometre deep well will be bored in the Sexbierum area, from where hot water will be pumped up to heat the greenhouses. The cooled water will then be pumped back into the soil through a second well to heat up again.

The existing 72 hectares of A. C. Hartman will be largely heated using geothermal energy, as will new greenhouses, thus delivering sustainably produced vegetables over an area of some 37 hectares. This project is the first of its kind for the Friesland Province.

Rob Bal,  A. C. Hartman’s CEO, described the takeover as a “rational step” and one that gives A. C. Hartman “a fantastic opportunity to grow and invest in innovative production methods for organic vegetables”.

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Bal also pointed to the working relationship between A. C. Hartman owner Wim Hartman and Hein Deprez, a major shareholder in TFFG’s parent company, Univeg, which is now part of Greenyard Foods.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to start a new chapter in the life’s work of Wim Hartman, the driving force behind A. C. Hartman,” A. C. Hartman CEO Rob Bal said. “Wim has always maintained a good business and personal relationship with Hein Deprez because he feels very strongly about the environment, health, sustainability and human values.”

A. C. Hartman is working closely on the geothermal project with Fûns Skjinne Fryske Enerzjy (FSFE) and the Nationaal Groenfonds (NGF). The FSFE was set up to fulfil the province’s sustainability ambitions. funding and know-how for projects concerned with sustainable energy and energy savings.

“The ground in the Province of Friesland is highly suitable for geothermal energy,” FSFE CEO Michel Hendriks said. “The transition from natural gas to terrestrial heat will eventually lead to a sharp reduction in the province’s use of fossil fuels, thus making an important contribution to meeting its sustainability targets.”

A. C. Hartman has supplied both Albert Heijn for decades, with organically grown cucumbers, sweet potatoes, sweet pointed peppers, chilli peppers, aubergines, cherry tomatoes and vine tomatoes.