Heyde Hoeve story

Heyde Hoeve

Bert Rijnen has been a pig farmer in the Dutch town of Oirschot for some 20 years, and is a member of the Heyde Hoeve cooperative together with four other pig farmers in the south of the Netherlands.
In 2006 Bert Rijnen was inspired by a professor saying: “Sustainability is not a hype, it’s here to stay and you’d better start organising your company along these lines.” As time went on, the cooperative became aware there were opportunities to be seized in creating value from residues.

What does your circular earnings model look like?

Farms in this country are obliged to have 60% of their surplus manure processed by a certified processing company. Fermented manure still contains a lot of usable minerals, and we turn these into fertiliser pellets, which we sell outside the Dutch agriculture market or to foreign agricultural players. A whole new ball-game for us was the production of biogas, which sees us bring together our own pigs’ manure and a number of residues or by-products to the biogas plant. We’re talking large amounts of leftover grain, as well as rejected feeds for livestock or domestic animals – and we quite deliberately refrain from using residues that could still contribute to food production. Sixty days of fermenting should have released all the methane, which adds up to 15,000 megawatt hours of green energy. This helps us to supply green energy to 6,000 families in the Netherlands every year, via utility company Greenchoice. I’d say that’s a profitable earnings model, wouldn’t you?

Where do you find these residues?

We resolved to just start somewhere, and our collaboration with others just happened as we went along. Today, we’ve been working together with collaborative biogas platform Biogas Zuid-Nederland for four years.

What has circular economy enterprise brought you?

In the early years, it was a massive struggle and required lots of investment in knowledge and technical aspects. We’re now reaping the rewards, though: we supply locally produced quality meat, achieve massive carbon savings and meet the electricity needs of one-third of the town of Oirschot. Our approach has also brought publicity and potential new customers. In 2012, Foodlog.nl gave us an award for the country’s most sustainable and tastiest pork. And let’s not forget communication: people are always welcome to come and have a look at our farms. They typically leave feeling good about our product – which means they’re the best ambassadors we could wish for, while our employees are as proud as I am to be part of such a forward-thinking company.

What’s your biggest challenge going forward?

We’d like to close the loop completely but this requires across-the-board collaboration. Retailers serve as a catalyst, as they translate consumer wishes to production companies in the supply chain. So how can we create value in the supply chain that benefits all players? We’re really talking business cases here.

What role do you see for ABN AMRO in a circular economy?

ABN AMRO is a key facilitator, as it straddles the entire playing field: it does business with all players in the supply chain and can bring them all together, getting producers to engage with other stakeholders for instance.

What tips do you have for your fellow entrepreneurs?

  1. Look beyond your own business. Astute entrepreneurs see opportunities and identify changes in external demand. 
  2. When operating in markets with falling revenues and rising costs, you’ll need to be pro-active and stay one step ahead of changes if you want to stay in control. 
  3. Carefully select your markets and customers. Who do you want to produce for? Will you try to be the cheapest or do you plump for creating added value? We’ve gone for the latter.