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The Fruit Farm Group acquires A.C. Hartman

Strengthening of market leadership in sustainable glasshouse horticulture products

Sexbierum, 30 June 2017 - A.C. Hartman, market leader in organic glasshouse horticulture products, has been acquired by The Fruit Farm Group (TFFG). Wim Hartman, the owner of A.C. Hartman BV and the Belgian businessman Hein Deprez - major shareholder of TFFG's parent company - today signed the agreement under which all of the A.C. Hartman shares were acquired. The takeover will enable A.C. Hartman to grow and become more sustainable, not least by making use of terrestrial heat. The parties have not revealed the price of the takeover.

The company in Sexbierum currently has 72 hectares of horticultural land. During the next few years this will be increased to around 110 hectares, making it one of the Netherlands' largest glasshouse horticulture companies. Founded in 1948, A.C. Hartman has for decades had a successful, exclusive partnership with Albert Heijn and Bakker Barendrecht, in which Hartman supplies organically grown cucumbers, sweet peppers, sweet pointed peppers, chilli peppers, aubergines, cherry tomatoes and vine tomatoes.

Geothermal heat
A new project will be rolled out to heat A.C. Hartman's greenhouses with geothermal energy: heat from the earth. With that aim in mind, an initial well with a depth of three kilometres is due to be bored in the Sexbierum area, from which 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, and so will the new greenhouses, thus delivering sustainably produced vegetables, covering an area of some 37 hectares. This geothermal project is a first of its kind for the Province ofFriesland.

Sharp reduction in CO2 emissions
A.C. Hartman is working on this in close partnership with Fûns Skjinne Fryske Enerzjy (FSFE) and the Nationaal Groenfonds (NGF). The FSFE was established with a view to fulfilling the province's sustainability ambitions. The NGF sets out to contribute to the quantity and quality of the living environment. Both organisations provide funding and know-how for projects concerned with sustainable energy and energy savings. Michel Hendriks, CEO of the FSFE: 'The ground in the Province of Friesland is highly suitable for geothermal energy. 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.

Growth in glasshouse horticulture acreage
To meet the sharply growing demand for sustainable organic greenhouse vegetables the existing acreage is being converted as much as possible into organic land, and the new acreage is being used for both conventional and organic glasshouse horticulture. For this purpose A.C. Hartman has reached an agreement with the Waddenglas project on the purchase of 50 hectares of farmland. The Waddenglas project is a joint initiative of the municipality of Franekeradeel, the province of Friesland and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency. The planned expansion will result in a glasshouse horticulture company covering an area of some 110 hectares.

Fantastic opportunity
Rob Bal, CEO of A.C. Hartman, welcomes the takeover by the Belgian entrepreneur Hein Deprez of The Fruit Farm Group. '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. 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. The takeover of A.C. Hartman by Deprez's The Fruit Farm Group is a rational step and gives A.C. Hartman a fantastic opportunity to continue to grow and invest in innovative production methods for organic vegetables.

Extra jobs
Hein Deprez - who heads a group of companies operating fruit plantations in numerous countries and is the major shareholder of the listed Belgian country Greenyard - is also looking forward to the ongoing development of A.C. Hartman. 'Making use of terrestrial heat and purchasing extra land from the Waddenglas project offers A.C. Hartman continuity and extra jobs. With a thirty per cent market share, A.C. Hartman is already the Netherlands' biggest organic vegetable grower, but this will make it one of the three biggest Dutch glasshouse horticulture companies. Sander de Rouwe, member of Friesland's Provincial Executive, adds: 'We're pleased to see that Friesland will not be losing A.C. Hartman. The company is an important employer in our province and makes an important contribution to sustainable glasshouse horticulture.' Alderman Caroline de Pee of Franekeradeel confirms this: 'We're very pleased that A.C. Hartman is being placed in the right hands. The primary aim of Waddenglas is to retain and increase jobs in our region.