CODEMA’s Business Unit Manager Just Roos shares about the central role of service, local expertise and other spearheads of their Chinese branch.
CODEMA's Beijing branch is the central hub for the company's continued growth throughout the APAC region. By carrying out maintenance, project management and sales with a local team, Business Unit Manager Just Roos is further expanding CODEMA's position in this fast-growing region. In this article, attention is focused on the main opportunities and the drastically different market approach of the Dutch specialist in critical cultivation systems.
Horticultural solutions for China and the APAC region
Throughout Asia and particularly in China, the middle class continues to grow rapidly. This goes hand in hand with solid growth in demand for products and thus the local horticultural sector. With the new prosperity, people are looking for better, healthier or safer food and more money is available for luxury products such as flowers or orchids. With CODEMA's market-leading knowledge and technology, entrepreneurs in this region are responding to this growing demand and are quickly realising major projects.
The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region is, in addition to North America and Europe, the third geographic pillar of CODEMA's international growth strategy. CODEMA opened an office in Beijing in 2019 as the head office for the entire APAC region. This will help with further growth in countries such as China, Japan and Singapore. Beijing is not only the political heart of China and the location of several partners but also holds a wonderful position in the region and therefore is ideal as a central hub.
Local expertise and service essential to high-tech horticultural solutions
Service, that's what it's all about. We supply our high-tech cultivation systems from the Netherlands, which we install in China. But you need a local team that has all the expertise to maintain and provide service to large, high-quality systems," says Just Roos, Business Unit Manager China. Service means that you are ready for your customers, available 24/7 and help with everything, preferably even before a customer runs into an issue. Especially when the customer works with our technology and systems for the first time, proper training and guidance are essential. You can't do that from the Netherlands. Only the language and culture is different, but also the distance is a barrier.
From the Chinese branch of CODEMA, not only installation, service and maintenance are realised, but also the project management and the sale of new projects. Recently, Roos has been working hard to recruit the right specialists, so that CODEMA has local specialists throughout China. That had several unforeseen advantages:
"Because we have our own, full-fledged team in China, we were able to build various projects rapidly, despite the unrest and restriction of international travel due to the epidemic. That we were able to build up in such a short time, I'm proud of that. However, that wasn't the reason we opened the branch in China."
Opportunities for high-quality horticulture in China
"At CODEMA, I didn't have to convince anyone of the enormous potential of the Chinese and Asian markets. Within a week, I went to work."
Roos was working on his graduation thesis for the study Asian Trade Management and researched for CODEMA the strategic opportunities and possibilities in China. He travelled across the country in 2018. First, as a member of the Netherlands' largest Chinese trade mission and then independently, mainly to meet the most critical players in agriculture and horticulture.
"Only when you talk to customers face-to-face, you will hear what their problems are or what they are against. Then you will learn how what we as CODEMA can do for our customers. The main findings that stemmed from this is why CODEMA decided to commit to the Chinese market shortly afterwards, with a full-fledged establishment.
And happy coincidence for me; no one within CODEMA focused 100% on China. So I was allowed to start building our team and opening the branch immediately after graduation. That was a huge opportunity that I had to say yes to."
Led by CCO Robert-Jan de Goeij, Just works closely with Export Sales Manager Jelmer Huizing on the realisation of many APAC projects.
Chinese market calls for a unique approach
Unlike Western Europe and North America, where a certain discipline is often central, much of China still needs to be familiarized with what CODEMA offers. This requires a different approach.
"In China, food production is also a spearhead for CODEMA. We are opting for an approach around some 'key crops', crops in which we see enormous potential worldwide. One of these crops, for example, is lettuce. We explain to the market how we see the future and then what role CODEMA has in it. In the sustainable production of these crops, we use a horizon of at least 20 years. For example, we use our years of expertise and knowledge as leverage to move the Chinese market.
Another difference with Europe is that Chinese customers often think many times bigger. They usually have different needs and questions than other European customers. In China, for example, we speak of the principle 'from farm to fork', and we prefer to develop entire Agri parks of hundreds of hectares. CODEMA's role in that chain goes beyond our critical cultivation system and calls for partnerships and partnerships with other A-class companies in the sector. Together we deliver the very best, complete solution."
Largest and most high-tech rose production facility in the world
"At the moment we are working in Lanzhou, China, on integrating cultivation and irrigation systems into the largest, high-tech rose project in the world. This is a project of 34 hectares in Lanzhou, China. It’s facility covers 34 hectares and is entirely conceived, on behalf of a local property developer and in close cooperation with the Chinese grower, AiBiDa. From young plant to consumer. We work closely with other technology suppliers, BOM (greenhouse builder) and Priva (climate control/automation), to provide all the knowledge and expertise to start production in the short term.
The great thing is that all the suppliers involved in this project have been considering the Chinese market as a top priority for years. Over the years, each party has built strong local teams, ready to realise sustainable high-tech projects throughout China. The market is professionalizing at a breakneck pace, and we like to participate in that!"
In addition to having local expertise, local sourcing is another focus for CODEMA China. The objective is to produce or source 80% of all parts, machines and raw materials locally. This makes CODEMA faster, prevents unnecessary costs and reduces environmental impact by limiting unnecessary transport. Only components and technologies that you don't find in China come from the Netherlands. That fits precisely in Roos's view of the future:
"Chinese speak about 'the Chinese dream': they think big, in the long term and build a prosperous, sustainable future. I see that, although we used to bring particular knowledge and technology, we can learn a lot from China. Digitisation, robotisation and artificial intelligence are hot topics in China. I think for sure that our branch in China ensures that CODEMA quickly embraces these developments and is committed to its customers in the rest of the world. This makes CODEMA future-proof worldwide."