History of BVB

What started as being an intermediate for cattle farmers grew to become an internationally renown, reliable supplier of substrates. Our company was founded in 1908 by Maarten van Buuren. By now, over 100 years later, BVB Substrates has more than 250 employees working in multiple locations.

1908: From a cattle farmer to animal feed producer

Maarten van Buuren, a son of a cattle farmer, was born in 1875. Years later, in 1903, he succeeds his father and takes over the heavy and intensive cattle farming business. Trading livestock used to be commission based: a part of the proceeds was paid to the trader as a commission. The trade wasn’t always done fairly because both farmers and traders wanted to keep as much money as possible for themselves. Often at the expense of their reliability and honesty. Maarten van Buuren strongly disliked this way of doing business and wanted nothing to do with these unfair methods. Ultimately he was known to be an honest and trustworthy partner, which became the base of his success. When Maarten turned 30 he suffered from a severe case of rheumatism, which forced him to abandon his profession as a cattle farmer.

 

Operating horse and carriage under bad conditions had taken its toll.

Maarten temporarily worked for one of the traiders in animal feed to support his wife and their 10 children. He repaired bags that were used for transportation and storage. On the job he came up with the idea to start selling straw. In 1908 Maarten made a new start. He became a forage traider himself. To draw attention to his new trade, Maarten bought 25 postcards and sent them to the farmers in and around Maasland. The relationship of trust with these farmers that “unfortunate” Maarten had built in his years as an honest cattle trader greatly benefited him. Business went well and when he saved enough money, Maarten van Buuren bought a horse and carriage for his growing business. The horse and carriage were used for transport in the following years.

1928: Expanding activities

The first truck was purchased in 1928. In addition to straw, Maarten van Buuren also started supplying his customers with potatoes and other forage items. Most of his business focused around the port of Maassluis, which was a flourishing trade area at that time. To keep busy in the quiet summer period Maarten decided to go into horticulture. He started growing several different crops on the piece of land next to his house. Partly due to the stock market crash in New York, however, this part of the business remained small.

 

From 1930 Maarten’s rheumatism was getting worse. He used to travel to Maassluis in all weather conditions, using his carriage that was customised to meet his disabilities. But from that moment on active labour was no longer an option. In 1940 Maarten had to quit the family business entirely. He and his wife Cornelia move to Maasland, where, a year later, Maarten van Buuren died at the young age of 64.

 

1940: Horticulture or trade?

Maarten van Buuren wasn’t alone in the business. Four of his children ( Big Maart, Little Maart, Bas and Jan van Buuren) were involved as well. The departure of Maarten in 1940, puts his children at a crossroads: Do they continue in horticulture, of prefer to focus on the trading business? They decided to go with the latter, which made Bas van Buuren in particular very happy. Bas was born in 1912 on the Westgaag in Maasland. As a child he already fell in love with the trading business. At the age of ten he could often be found in the port in Maassluis to watch the traders. He was there after school, nearly every single day.

Maarten and Cornelia noticed how fascinated Bas was by his fathers trade and Bas got to help his father out quite often. Bas was a great help to Maarten, who at that time, already suffered from his rheumatism rather badly. By participating in the business at a young age Bas learned the tricks of selling and soon started taking a lot of pleasure out of the profession.

It turned out to be a good choice to focus on trading.  All throughout the ’40s and 50s, even after Jan van Buuren (who started his own business in 1942) left the family business, turnover continued to grow.

In 1956 however, things changed. Lots of farms in the area were sold which caused a dramatic drop in the number of customers of the van Buuren family. Big Maart didn’t feel like the business was sustainable enough and indicated, twice, that it might have been the time to stop.

 

1960: Potting soil: a great success

Around 1960 the three brothers decided to take the business into a different direction. Through frequent visits to growers, Little Maart noticed the need for good potting soil. He saw many opportunities for the family business.

Bas was enthusiastic about the idea from the start, but Big Maart was a little harder to convince. Eventually his skepticism ceased as well and they decided to take the plunge. The brothers decided to keep the trading business, but to start supplying potting soil to gardeners as well. The soil was made directly from the ground. Their new adventure became a great success!

1965: The first crane

In the Netherlands, during the late 50s, the potting soil industry started to grow strongly. During a harsh winter in 1963, production declined temporarily, only to flourish afterwards. Around that time most growers manufactured their own potting soil themselves. They mixed fertiliser (made of old, composted farmyard manure) and their “own soil” by shovel and used that. Due to the increasing demand and larger sizes of growers more growers switched to ordering their potting soil from the van Buurens. To be able to meet the demand they decided to install a crane to make their production process more efficient.

The new crane was used to load the bulk orders. Fertiliser was still added manually, but potting soil was moved around on a conveyor belt and processed using a mill. Lime was added to the potting soil. This still was manual labour and employees went around with bags of 50 kilos. The soil and lime were mixed and stored for a while to improve the composting process. This also improved the quality of the product.

Raw materials were still supplied and transported with trucks that were loaded and unloaded by hand. The production of potting soil was both time-consuming and physically intensive. It required a lot of manpower.

 

1967: BVB - the brand

Big Maart decided to leave the family business. Little Maart decided to do the same. They proposed to sell the company. Bas however wasn’t ready to quit the trading business and decided to take over the company from his brothers. At the first of April 1967 the company was officially sold to Bas van Buuren. With the help of his wife Neeltje van Nierop and his son Maarten (Mart) Bas continued the business.

 

With this sale the family business became Bas Van Buuren limited, or in short BVB. The amount of work that came Bas’ way was immense and soon the pressure started to affect his night’s sleep. His son, Mart realised what was happening and decided to help his father. At the age of 20 Mart took over some of the more intensive tasks of his his father and started to manage the drivers that were experienced and, in most cases, a lot senior to his age.

 

1968: Bagged soil

The potting soil BVB produced was on bulk orders only. In 1968 BVB started producing bagged soil to expand the business. The main part of production focused on peat bales (growing bags) for horticulture.

The first steps towards retail were also taken when BVB started to supply packaged soil to garden centers.

At first the bagging of the soil was manual labour. The entire family, young and old, was involved in packaging the soil. They used big shovels to scoop the soil into bags. After filling a bag they had to close up the bag with a thread.

1975: International acquisition of raw materials

Due to a considerable rise in automation in the grower’s industry in the early 1970s, which caused a lot of BVB’s customers to strongly increase in size,  BVB Substrates experienced a substantial growth in demand for press potting soil in particular. While peat supplies in The Netherlands had been sufficient up until then, the demand soon turned out too large. BVB started looking for additional peat supplies outside of The Netherlands.

Germany appeared to be an interesting country when it came to raw materials for peat production. The country had high quality peat that was suitable for the high quality product BVB wanted to create to offer. BVB started to import raw materials from Germany. The limited presence of unspoiled nature in Germany, however, led to limitations in the availability of clean white peat. Soon the availability of the raw materials didn’t meet BVB’s demand anymore.

For this reason, around 1975 BVB started to import raw materials from the Baltic States (which at that time were still part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)). The 300 liter pressed packs were initially transported by ship to be delivered by truck from the port of Maassluis. At a later stage, the products were delivered exclusively by truck and ships were no longer involved. The collaboration with this large state led to many new challenges for BVB Substrates. Mainly because the supply from the Soviet Union was very difficult to organize. Some times there were no deliveries for weeks, and other times they would just turn up unexpectedly in the middle of the night with large numbers of trucks. This proved to be a highly interesting period in the history of suppliers of raw materials.

During the second part of the 70s the availability of peat from Germany, which still was BVB’s main supplier, declined because German companies started to produce potting soil as well and took up a large part of the available resources. At that time Sweden and Ireland became the largest suppliers of turf. From 1980 white peat was no longer imported from Germany at all, but turf was still purchased from Germany.

After extensive research and on-site inspections, bogs in Finland turned out to be better suited for producing peat. From that moment on, fine materials were also imported from Finland and transported by ship in containers from 3,500 to 6,000 m3 to the port of Rotterdam. 

At the end of the 1980s, the Iron Curtain came down, which symbolised the end of the Cold War. The Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania became independent in the early 1990s, making them more attractive and accessible as a supplier. In the years before, BVB Substrates already bought loose peat from the Baltic countries through a Dutch importer. After a tour on site, BVB Substrates decided, to start importing multiple other raw materials from these countries as well. This came with economical benefits as well.

As the availability of resources from Germany kept on declining, Finland proved to be a good back up in general. But due to the climate turf could not be imported from Finland whole year round. Once again BVB Substrates had to look for alternatives. The solution appeared to be found in Latvia, but due to the harsh winters the quality of the peat was affected. The turf wasn’t as firm as it should be. Sweden did offer the desired quality, and so did Poland and Lithuania. Later on a Dutch production company in Latvia offered better quality materials. BVB decided to accept their proposal, but started of careful, still using Sweden and Germany as backups. Later on Latvia became BVB’s main country of origin of high quality materials.

1976: Mart van Buuren

Mart van Buuren was taking on a leaderships role more and more and in 1970 Mart became a business partner to his father. In 1976, Bas van Buuren, who was 63 years old by then handed over the family business to his son Mart. With his father’s experience and name as a guide, Mart turned BVB into a globally recognized name. In 1976, one of the last years at the Koningin Julianaweg, the first machine for bagged soil production was purchased. This packaging machine from Aquarius sped up the production process considerably and therefore also increased production capacity.

However, shortly after purchase this machine was sold again; an overcrowded power supply caused peaks in power, which meant that the machine could not be used safely.

 

The purchase and use of a second machine for packaging soil in bags proved more successful. The machine took over some of the heavy labour and made production with less manpower possible. Skill became more and more important in the production process. The machine was used for many years afterwards to deal with the still increasing demand for packed soil and peat bales.

 

 

1977: The move to "De Col"

At the end of the 1960s, the municipality of Maasland indicated that they wanted to change a couple of things in the infrastructure where BVB Substrates was located on Koningin Julianaweg in Maasland. They wanted to construct a roundabout and the company sheds were in their way. Due to plans of the municipality Bas van Buuren was “forced” to look for a new location for the company. This resultsed in a trip to many farmers and growers who were not always interested in Bas’s proposals. Bas van Buuren got multiple proposals as well, which he rejected because he wanted a location near the A20 motorway at all costs.

After an intensive search Bas van Buuren decided to contact local farmer Leen Sonneveld who owned some hectares of land around Coldenhove. At first mister Sonneveld wasn’t willing to sell even one meter of his property to Bas. However, two weeks later he changed his mind and contacted BVB again. Although the price he asked for his land was relatively high, Bas was willing to negotiate, because he knew about some plans around the expansion of the motorway. The A20 was goining to be turned into a double lane motorway and a viaduct at Coldenhovelaan would be constructed. Although mister Sonneveld wasn’t willing to change the price for the land, he did offer the option to purchase an extra hectare of his land within three years, for the same price as the first hectare. Bas van Buuren decided to go for it. BVB Substrates changed it’s location to Coldenhove and grew intensely for the next one and a half year. At that time the second hectare of land was purchased. By then the general price level of land in that area had increased strongly and it turned out to be a really good deal.

Four years later, the roles were reversed, now Bas van Buuren was offered the option to buy an additional 2 hectares of land. Despite the high price, he decided to accept the offer. This turned out to be a great decision. BVB Substrates was located at Coldenhovelaan at a great location near the A20. The company was easy to reach and it was a great location to transport from and to as well.

Due to the renewal and modernisation of resources the production capacity kept growing. But that wasn’t the only thing that improved. Moreover, the quality of the production and thus products produced is considerably improved. Constant attention to quality improvement leads to research into new possibilities. BVB Substrates, for example, was one of the first to use peat that is formed under water, but above ground water level, as a raw material. Unlike peat from below ground water level or peat form Vinkeveen, which was the main resource at that time, the peat from above ground water level was of better quality and had a greater value for the substrate. This focus on great quality was how BVB Substrates distinguished itself.

1978: Baggers became operators and bulk turns into tailor made

Packaging the soil in bags was further developed at this new location. New machines were purchased and the ones already in use were renewed and modernised. As a result of this modernisation in the production of soil the amount of physical labour required was decreased strongly. For example, 750 bags per hour could already be produced by just 3 employees at that time.

 

The demand for substrates was still increasing at that time, but so did the requirements regarding the quality of the mixtures. Customers needed a homogenous mixture with a stable amount of fertilisers. This was especially important for growers of vegetables. In order to meet these customer needs, and to remain the number one in quality mixtures, BVB made some changes in it’s production processes. In 1978 BVB took the first mixing installation into use. With that machine the fertiliser didn’t have to be added manually anymore.

The crane that was bought in 1965 was replaced by a shovel which added the posibility to work more detailed. This way both capacity and control were doubled.

1979: Building more warehouses

In order to be able to store products more efficiently and to be less dependent new warehouses were built over the years. This way the production process could take place indoor, which made BVB Substrates able to guarantee quality and consistency.

1980: Export keeps increasing

Because BVB Substrates was the first company in the Netherlands to produce exclusively with peat from above ground water level, BVB had built a good reputation in the field of compressed soil in the Netherlands. The Dutch seed selection companies that already had a large turnover throughout Europe at that time, and often encountered poor potting soil along the way, started to get to know BVB Substrates as well. They started to spread the name across the border and promote the great quality soil BVB could provide. Partly due to their presence at the international trade fair (NTV), export increased enormously.

The first international sales took place in France. Joop van Nierop worked at a company in France and asked BVB Substrates to produce and deliver peat bales for tomatoes. With a production area of ​​35 hectares (which was rather large at the time) the French company was not only attracting local but also international attention. This way the collaboration with BVB Substrates got international attention. As a result, BVB Substrates was approached by the English VHB (with an area of ​​50 hectares) to deliver peat bales as well. At that time, the English company had been using locally produced peat bale of moderate quality for years.

 

BVB Substrates started adding styromull to the mixtures around that time, which meant a strong improvement in quality for the peat mixtures. After getting success in Great Britain, BVB received more success in the Dutch market as well. These great local and international sales encouraged BVB Substrates to look for new opportunities “across the border”.

In order to do this right. BVB Substrates opened a separate export department with specialized people. Countries like Denmark, Greece, Turkey, France, Belgium and Spain became regular customers. BVB Substrates grew to be one of the largest suppliers of substrates in the world. Today, BVB Substrates does business with over 85 countries worldwide.

BVB continued to see new opportunities for growth. From Europe to the United States and from South Africa to the Middle and Far East, BVB Substrates pushed boundaries!

1981: Collaborating with DCM

Ever since the 80s BVB Substrates was expanding towards retail as well. BVB Substrates owned various well known retail brands like Edelmé en Aardgoed. An important reason for the increase in activity in retail was the start of the collaboration with a major Belgian company: De Ceuster Meststoffen (DCM) in 1981.

A certain moment in BVB’s history the company produced around 50 different retail brands! This was caused by the acquisition of Vriezeveen and Haasnoot (2000, 2001), two competitors of BVB. A part of these brands, like Powerpotgrond, is still sold in foreign countries to this day.

1985: Growth in import

Around 1985 BVB Substrates started to acquire bark from France. Bark used to be used as a aggregate in substrates. Due to the increasing popularity of phalaenopsis, bark played a bigger role. It was an essential material in substrates for growing this particular type of plant. Today most bark is purchased from Portugal and Spain.

At the end of the 1980s, the Iron Curtain came down, which symbolised the end of the Cold War. The Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania became independent in the early 1990s, making them more attractive and accessible as a supplier. In the years before, BVB Substrates already bought loose peat from the Baltic countries through a Dutch importer. After a tour on site, BVB Substrates decided, to start importing multiple other raw materials from these countries as well. This came with economical benefits as well.

 

As the availability of resources from Germany kept on declining, Finland proved to be a good back up in general. But due to the climate turf could not be imported from Finland whole year round. Once again BVB Substrates had to look for alternatives. The solution appeared to be found in Latvia, but due to the harsh winters the quality of the peat was affected. The turf wasn’t as firm as it should be. Sweden did offer the desired quality, and so did Poland and Lithuania. Later on a Dutch production company in Latvia offered better quality materials. BVB decided to accept their proposal, but started of carefull, still using Sweden and Germany as backups. Later on Latvia became BVB’s main country of origin of high quality materials.

1987: First laboratory

Once again, the company experienced strong growth and opened its own professional laboratory in 1987.  Both raw materials and end products were carefully checked in this laboratory. Research was continuously carried out for BVB Substrates itself and for customers. Today, BVB Substrates has two laboratories and its own greenhouse used for testing substrates and raw materials.

 

1988: Acquisition of Euroveen

In 1988 BVB Substrates acquired Euroveen.

In the early 60s Euroveen, which was still called Vriesveen at the time, started to produce casing soil for mushroom growers at its location in Arcen. Local peat from De Peel and Vinkeveen was the main component of the casing soil. Later on peat from bogs in Drenthe was used as well. About ten years later the name was changed into Euroveen and the company moved to Venlo. From that moment on Euroveen also imported turf from the North of Germany. This material was transported by ship and unloaded at the harbor in Venlo.

Many years later, in 2008, Euroveen was the major user of this harbor and transfered over 150 ships a year.

When BVB Substrates acquired Euroveen in 1988, Euroveen covered a surface of over 30.000 square meters and was the leading expert in casing soil for mushrooms. This expertise was a real addition to the knowledge and skills of BVB. Euroveen also produced several different types of pressed soil, which was mainly stored outside at the time. Raw materials were also stored outside. The machines that were used for loading trucks with casing soil and potting soil were rather old and worn out. The machines used to produce the potting soil were, however, really modern and advanced machines from Slootweg. Euroveen used 10 trucks to transport their products to customers and harbors. They were all in the company colours: orange, brown and beige.

 

 

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the South East Netherlands, and mainly the North of Limburg, turned into a strongly developed area for tree nurseries. The number of tree nurseries grew strongly and while most growing used to take place in open soil, a movement towards growing in containers could be seen. The area near the German border specialised into pot and bedding plants and Erucaceas. With these local developments in mind BVB Substrates decided to invest in covered storage, modern machines and qualified employees at Euroveen. The product range of Euroveen was also expanded with all products BVB Substrates had to offer.

In 1990 the construction of two large storage and production areas was completed and mushroom soil and substrates could be produced without being dependent on the weather.

1990: The rise of coconut

In the early 1990s the use of coconut increased strongly worldwide. Coco peat was a residual product of the fiber industry, which made using it attractive as a sustainable material. What made the use of coco peat even more interesting was that it added new physical properties to the mixtures. This way a wider application could be realised. In Indian production company introduced BVB Substrates personally to the benefits of coconut as a raw material. Not long after, the first containers with coconut products were shipped from India (and later Sri Lanka) to The Netherlands. A very big step; guaranteeing quality at such a great distance meant intensive monitoring and many visits to these foreign production sites.

BVB Substrates is the first company to have a RHP approved location outside of Europe. BVB Substrates made a name for itself and received more and more offers from suppliers from all over the world. This included Caribbean countries and Ghana, where coconut is still imported from. BVB Substrates even has its own production location for coconut in Ghana, today.

The number of Indian suppliers grew from one to four and even today India is still the most important supplier for coco peat.  Coconut is also purchased from the Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka, Ghana and Vietnam.

 

1994: Euroveen moved to Grubbenvorst

In 1992, local authorities decided that Euroveen could no longer “remain alone” between the meadows and farmland in Venlo, Sevenum and Grubbenvorst. Adjacent to Euroveen, a large area was designated as a so-called Eco Park where, among other things, waste was stored, rubble was being broken and horticultural waste was stored and composted. An unpleasant situation that did not coincide with the production processes and the focus on quality of Euroveen. After a year, not long after the official opening of the brand new warehouses, Euroveen was brought out to continue production elsewhere.

 

In January 1994 10 hectares of land were purchased on the Californischeweg in Grubbenvorst, in April 1994 building commenced and on October 1st, 1994 the first potting soil was produced.

Not long after, the production of casing soil was started as well and an office building was constructed.  The production site had an area of ​​more than 55,000 m2 and was equipped with the most modern production machines and facilities. Euroveen is still located at the Californischeweg today. It has experienced constant growth which resulted in multiple expansions of storage capacity and loading, packaging and mixing facilities. The total surface area that Euroveen covers has grown to 190,000 m2 of which more than 135,000 m2 is in use.

 

1998: Alternative raw materials

At the end of the 90s pumice stone made it’s entrance at BVB Substrates. This light, porous volcanic rock was used in bricks, televisions, abrasives and even in toothpaste. But of course, pumice stone was also used in growing media from then on. Mainly cucumber growers started using this material more and more.

 

 

2000: Acquisitions

In 2000 BVB Substrates acquired potting soil producer Vriezeveen. Shortly after BVB also acquired Haasnoot in Zaltbommel. With these expansions BVB became a major player in the area of soft fruits.

2002: Launch of Jardino

In 2002, BVB introduced retail brand Jardino to the market. This turned out to be a successful move and BVB’s Jardino soon became popular within The Netherlands and abroad.

Due to the acquisition of Bogro in 2008 the product range of retail was expanded.

 

2006: Digital Substrate Advisor

BVB Substrates had a lot of knowledge and digitalised data the sales consultants used to calculate which mixes are suitable for which growers. This knowledge and data was processed in the Digital Substrate Advisor (DSA). With this system, BVB Substrates can show the customer what the effects of different materials to the properties of a mixture is. for example, when adding 10% coco peat or perlite to a mixture it might influence air capacity or the speed of water uptake.

 

 

2007: Introduction FMTM

In 2007 BVB Substrates introduced Fertilising-Made-to-Measure (FMTM ).

With this system, substrates can be fertilised exactly to the wishes and needs of the customers. BVB Substrates is the first and only company in the world that can produce under the EN volume standard. A big step forward for every substrate user!

 

 

2008: Acquisition Bogro

BVB Substrates acquired Bogro in Hardenberg. At this site BVB mainly produces products for retail.

2009: Acquisition Merholz GMBH

With the acquisition of Merholz (Bedburg, Germany) BVB Substrates gained a substantial expansion in product rage. In addition to substrates for retail Merholz also dealt in charcoal, birdhouses, fertilisers and other gardening supplies. One of their well known brands was Novasan.

2010: A new substrate: BVB Sublime

BVB Sublime, a new type of substrate, was made of polyurethane foam. As an alternative to rockwool, it was especially developed for professional, international vegetable growing. After three years of testing at several research facilities and over 70 grower sites, this substrate was officially launched at Fruit Logistics in Berlin, in 2010.

BVB Sublime enables growers to control their crops better and get more yield. Independent research confirms these findings.

 

2013: BVB Urbanscape

In collaboration with Knauf BVB Urbanscape was developed. It is a light weight system for constructing green roofs. This is a roof that is covered with plants, which makes it an organic roof. In BVB Urbanscape this layer of plants is made up by several different types of sedum plants.

 

 

2014: Veenbaas & Florasan

After a couple of tough years sales and demand are picking up again. BVB Substrates decided to expand further. With the acquisition of Veenbaas and Florasan BVB Substrates became one of the biggest names in retail.

2015: BVB Impress

BVB Impress is a new type of pressed soil made from white peat. BVB Impress ensures the stability and consistency in quality. BVB Impress is entirely made up from organic materials, which makes it fully degradable.