Ontario greenhouse business enhances its competitive edge with Growing Forward 2 funding

This story comes to us from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Andrew Hendriks Jr. in the greenhouse

Andrew Hendriks Jr., General Manager of Hendriks & Sons Greenhouses in Niagara, Ontario.

Niagara Region – Andrew Hendriks Jr. knows that in his business, he must constantly evolve. It’s the only way to stay competitive in the greenhouse industry.

Since 1953, the Hendriks family has operated Hendriks & Sons Greenhouses in Niagara, Ontario. Andrew is the grandson of business founder Peter Hendriks and is now the general manager of this family greenhouse operation after taking over from his father, Andrew Sr.

Like many family operations, Hendriks began quite modestly: of pears, peaches and cherries, and a small greenhouse for tomatoes. As markets changed and opportunities presented themselves, the business expanded and adapted by moving into vegetables and then potted plants. Today, the operation spans 240,000 square feet of greenhouses producing indoor floral gardens that are shipped across Canada and throughout the United States.

When Andrew Jr. was stepping up to the plate as the third generation of Hendriks to run the business, he was working 18 hours a day.

“That wasn’t a life,” he says. “About that time was when we first engaged with a business advisory firm to evaluate our business and provide management advice. But it was going to cost an entire year’s profit. It was still my dad’s business so I asked his advice. He knew we couldn’t afford not to do it. “

Since that first consultant, Andrew estimates he has made beneficial changes to business practices at least seven times over the past 25 years, looking to outside business advisory firms for advice.

“Margins are tight and we can’t afford to put investments into our business without understanding the payback time,” he says.

Andrew was first introduced to funding assistance from Growing Forward 2 through the company’s current business advisors. They have successfully developed a number of successful projects that have focused on business and leadership development, and labour and productivity enhancements.

Growing Forward 2 is a great program,” he says. “If there are improvements you know you want to do, this is one way to get them done. The cost-share component helped us reach our goals; and through some of the improvements to our business process, we’ll be able to shorten our payback period from five years to three years.”

Growing Forward 2 offers workshops and a comprehensive guidebook to help businesses through the application process.

“We are fortunate to have a staff member whose job it is to know all the funding programs available and help with the applications using the online portal,” says Andrew. “We had staff attend the GF2 workshops and that really got them fired up about the possibilities for making changes to our business.”

Andrew’s advice to other businesses looking to improve and evolve, including accessing cost-share funding through Growing Forward 2, is simple:

“Do your homework. That’s part of a successful application. Do an analysis – whether it’s internally at your company or through an outside firm. We hire professionals to do that and were able to use some of the funding to offset the costs of having an external review.”

Growing Forward 2 helped the Hendriks’ business continue to adapt and change.

“If your competitors are assessing these funds, your business will be at a disadvantage if you are not participating,” he says. “Growing Forward 2 is a great program that I really hope will continue. I don’t think we’d be here today if we hadn’t made changes to our business.”

In Ontario, Growing Forward 2 is a project based cost-share program for producers and food and beverage processors. A program guidebook is available at www.ontario.ca/growingforward2

Editor’s note:

Growing Forward 2 is a 5-year federal-provincial-territorial initiative aimed at encouraging innovation, competitiveness and market development in Canada’s agri-food and agri-products sector. Growing Forward 2 ends March 31, 2018. In Ontario, Growing Forward 2 supports farm, food and other agri-businesses to help grow their profits, expand their markets and manage risks. Producers can submit applications for the next intake period from February 5 to February 25, 2016.

Photo courtesy of Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs