8 min

Meet Sven Duijvestijn: Vertical Farming Sales Consultant with roots in tomatoes

Sven Duijvestijn grew up in the tomato greenhouses of his father's company. In addition to tomatoes, innovations and sustainable developments are also sprouting up there. Today, Sven works as Lead Sales Engineer and Sales Consultant Vertical farming at Artechno Growsystems, where his work ethic reflects his background.

How would you describe yourself?

"First of all, as driven. Besides that, I can be serious and have a lot of fun with friends. My drive shows in everything, like the renovation I did next to my full-time job. I stripped and rebuilt my entire house, from the pipes to the tiling.

I also like to do spontaneous things. On vacations, I plan as little as possible, and I roughly pick out some fun activities, and then I’ll see how it plays out."

You grew up among tomatoes; what kind of business does your father have?

"My father's company is called Duijvestijn Tomaten. In 2015, the company was voted the best tomato grower in the world, partly due to their efforts in geothermal energy and the development of an entirely new energy-saving greenhouse concept: the ID greenhouse®. I am super proud of that!

Duijvestijn is a combination of several companies. Among them is a packaging company that innovates in sustainable consumer packaging. But the main focus of Duijvestijn is the tomato nursery with innovation and sustainability as the two central pillars of the company."

How can we see those pillars reflected in the company?

"You can see that, for example, in the use of geothermal heat, they use this resource to heat the greenhouses and complexes. They also launched a sustainable innovation in 2014: a new type of greenhouse that is much more energy-efficient and water-efficient than a standard greenhouse. Furthermore, they develop sustainable packaging made from tomatoes and do many other things in innovation and sustainability."

What was it like for you to grow up in such a company?

"I learned an awful lot from that. I'm from the Westland, from the area around Artechno Growsystems. As it often goes in the horticulture industry, we lived on the farm, and I only had to walk 50 meters to be in the packhouse or the greenhouse.

Because of the company's enormous growth, we moved from Wateringen to Pijnacker when I was ten. It was in Pijnacker that I first started working in the greenhouse. After a year or two, it was clear that the attraction to technology within the company was stronger than the work in the greenhouse, so at the age of 13, I entered the technical department."

Why engineering?

"My affinity for technology started small, repairing internal transport carts. I kept developing myself, and so I started maintaining and connecting packaging lines. The jobs became broader and broader, and eventually, I was maintaining and installing all the technical installations in and around the greenhouses.

While working full-time at Artechno Growsystems, I still took care of the maintenance in my father's company on Saturdays. It was only when I bought my house that I stopped doing that."

Do you only have a love for engineering or also for the plantlet?

"Definitely also for the little plant. At a young age, I had an affinity for vegetable production. But when I look back, the technical installations that made the cultivation possible attracted me the most.

Based on that interest, I decided to study Mechanical Engineering. But I have always had a broad interest, and plants continue to fascinate me. That is why working at Artechno Growsystems suits me well. So, you see, you come back to your roots.

Do you see an overlap between your father's company and Artechno's?

"The sustainable developments and innovative outlook show the spirit of my father's company, and I also see this spirit at Artechno Growsystems. In addition, both companies focus on the processes and the quality of the vegetables to be grown.

There is, of course, an overlap between the vertical farming and horticulture markets. They are all plants under one roof, but only one roof lets light through and the other not, haha."

How has your career at Artechno Growsystems progressed?

"About five and a half years ago, I started as an intern at Artechno Growsystems. It was such a good match that I stayed. I grew from Mechanical Engineer to Product Engineer, to Sales Engineer, and finally to Lead Sales Engineer and Sales Consultant Vertical Farming.

Because I have held all these different positions, I know the company inside out and have followed all the processes from beginning to end. From the development of the farms and the associated machines to the customer contact once the farm is up and running."

What is your current position?

"I hold two positions: Lead Sales Engineer and Sales Consultant Vertical Farming. Those two roles are intertwined, though. Some of my activities include:

  • Developing the content of projects
  • Work out the objectives with customers
  • Starting research when an innovative project is launched
  • The technical development of the project
  • Getting insight into the operational costs
  • Analyzing whether it is a good business case. In other words, whether the output of the total investment matches the customer's market.

I recently started holding the title of Sales Consultant Vertical Farming, while in fact, I've been holding the position for about 2.5 years. Previously, I worked a lot in the Aqualux area, where I had a whole dealer network under my belt. That was expanded, and given my background, I got all fresh produce projects in addition to that.

As Lead Sales Engineer, I am responsible for the quality level within the department. That implies that all projects we develop, such as calculations, quotations, designs, etc., pass my desk for a final check."

What do you enjoy most about your job?

"I get enthusiastic when I can help customers or potential customers with their business and offering them the best solutions and systems.

I also find it fascinating to delve deeper into the customer's business vision and see which solution best suits the customer. Often customers don't know this themselves. The best part is figuring this out together, using both our input and background for this; I find that really exciting.""

How do you see your background reflected in your work at Artechno Growsystems?

"I notice that I have entrepreneurial blood based on my broad know-how of how a business operates. I was closely involved with my father's company, and with that experience, I have a different mindset and a more comprehensive view. In addition, I work hands-on and clearly understand the processes that take place within our systems.

With my background and experience, I can very well relate to a vertical factory when it's still only on paper. I can foresee how the farm will work in practice and what you might run into. It's the practical side of things that I'm good at."

What is the biggest challenge in your work?

"The evolving market. The vertical farming market is relatively new, so you see a lot of movement, and everyone is still a bit searching. It is starting to move more and more into structured paths, but there is still a lot unknown inside and outside the sector.

For example, cooperation with investors is quite complicated. Investors like to add an innovator to a project and want to know precisely how the project will turn out. But that's just the thing about innovation; you can never exactly tell in advance."

Do you have an example?

"A good example is a potential customer who wants to grow coffee in a vertical farm and wants to know exactly what the output will be. And yes, coffee is a plant, so yes, you can grow it. But we don't have any experience with it yet, and as far as I know, it has never been done anywhere in the world. Hence I must be able to clearly explain that we are dealing with living plants and that it is not a cookie factory where you know you put certain ingredients in and then get a chocolate chip cookie out of it."

What are your goals within your position?

"On the one hand, I want to configure the best possible solution for the customer to ensure that the customer will be successful in the coming years once the factory is operational. On the other hand, I strive to ensure that all our projects and their implementation are in line with Artechno Growsystems.

So my goal is actually to maintain the balance between strategy and the technical possibilities."

How do you experience working at Artechno Growsystems?

"You can almost call me an old hand here because I've been around quite a while. When I started, we still worked from Art's farmhouse, and about eight of us were there. I think it's great that the family feel from that time is still kept up, especially now that we are growing a bit faster.

I recognize that the company is working hard to maintain that connection between all disciplines and departments. I notice that when I walk around here, and I chat with the welder then with the CEO. Everyone talks to each other and knows each other, and that typifies Artechno Growsystems.

Another thing that strikes me is the passion and drive you see in everyone. We have a group feeling, and everyone wants Artechno Growsystems to excel. I think you need that in this type of company. We are innovators and frontrunners, and you need that passion and togetherness to achieve that."

It sounds like you do many things, do you ever relax?

"Absolutely! That is when I go out for a day of boating or just go out and about. I can also enjoy spending an evening at home, but not too often ... I really like to go out, especially to see and experience new things.

I also grow as a person by doing so. You have a specific thought pattern and sometimes look at things from your own perspective. From your own bubble, and I like to step out of that and come to new insights. Sometimes I can refute my own convictions or understand why I ran into a problem. I find that quite interesting."

Do you have a five-year plan?

"No, that doesn't suit me. When I get excited about something, I go for it. I don't plan five years ahead. That is also the way I have grown within Artechno Growsystems.

Artechno Growsystems is growing enormously. New profiles will arise that will be needed, in which I might be able to use my expertise and enthusiasm. So I can't tell you what I will be doing in five years, but I dare say that it will be with Artechno Growsystems."