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The Hague-based startup receives substantial REACT EU funding to develop carbon-neutral greenhouse

9 December 2021

The Hague-based startup receives substantial REACT EU funding to develop carbon-neutral greenhouse

Large-scale European funding of over 1.2 million Euros will contribute to the building of a carbon-neutral greenhouse in the Westland area. The Hague-based startup BBBLS developed the technology that underpins it. BBBLS makes smart use of soap bubbles between its reinvented greenhouse’s double-walled foil layers. The bubbles serve as a dynamic isolation method leading to groundbreaking energy efficiency. The Municipality of The Hague is keeping a close watch over the promising initiative.

“In essence, it’s very simple,” Anton Paardekooper, founder at BBBLS, says, “we use soap bubbles between two foil layers. The bubbles create stagnant air, which proves to be great in terms of isolation. We can turn the bubbles on and off to influence the greenhouse’s climate.”

“This REACT EU funding allows for us to build a 1,000-square meter demonstration greenhouse to experiment with, along with our valued partner Koppert Cress, a major player in the horticultural business. Together, we’re going to be able to prove its efficiency. This really is a big step,” he says.

Great advantages

The innovation’s benefits manifest in two directions. “The biggest advantage for horticulturalists is the fact that, when the weather gets colder, they can save up to 80% of energy input to keep their greenhouse heated. A second advantage is the fact that our soap bubbles can also be used during the day when there’s an abundance of sunlight, in order to prevent plants from overheating or burning altogether,” Anton explains. “Our technology serves both as dynamic isolation and dynamic shade that can be turned on and off when needed.”

“What’s more, it’s a net zero greenhouse, which means it doesn’t account for any CO2 emissions,” his colleague, Jan-Willem Kruijt, adds. “It’s a result of running the greenhouse on electric power entirely. If renewable energy is used, this yields an entirely different footprint as compared to traditional horticulture where the use of gas is still common.”

Demonstration BBBLS at Koppert Cress


After five successful pilot projects that have resulted in fully functional greenhouses, BBBLS is now ready to scale its technology. Anton says, “We have demonstrated that our technology is legitimate. We’re now ready for its further development so we can introduce it to the market. That’s what we aim to achieve with this project.”

BBBLS’ collaboration with major horticulturalist Koppert Cress makes the initiative unique. “They’re one of the only parties in the market that really is putting its neck on the line by freeing up space, capacity and time to contribute to these kinds of initiatives. Koppert Cress is one of the frontrunners in this field, for sure,” according to Anton.

“Together with Koppert Cress, we aim to demonstrate that our technology works and to show it to other players in the horticultural industry. After that, we can start using the greenhouse for trials with other horticulturalists,” Anton paints their picture of the future.

Rob Baan, CEO at Koppert Cress, is equally excited about the collaboration, “We feel that the horticultural sector plays a big role in solving the global issues around food security and sustainability. In this light, we gladly look for collaboration with startups.”

“Startups come from outside the industry and have an entirely different perspective on the challenges we’re faced with. They tend to come up with surprising uses of technologies that are sometimes already being used in other industries,” he says. “Also, it’s an inherent part of the horticulturalist mindset to be as sustainable as possible, as the increase of energy efficiency leads to lower costs, by definition.”

Regional collaboration

There’s plenty of room for innovation within the horticultural sector and the greater region has an important role to play here. “Because it has access to capital as well as talent, The Hague has the unique opportunity to build a bridge towards an industry that is only a mere 3 kilometers away. There’s tons of opportunities to connect the different ecosystems,” Anton says.

Frank Puchala, who was involved in the preparation of the funding request on behalf of Kansen voor West, confirms this. “BBBLS’ reinvented greenhouse is a great and tangible example of how regional collaboration can contribute to increased sustainability in the horticultural industry,” he emphasizes. “What’s more, the project fits perfectly within the European ambitions as expressed in the Green Deal.”

Demonstration BBBLS at Koppert Cress

Saskia Bruines, alderman of economics in The Hague, also underscores the importance of regional collaboration. “Innovation doesn’t stop at the municipal borders. This project is a great example of that. Within the region, we need each other to take further steps towards a sustainable economy. I’m happy to see that BBBLS has found its place within ImpactCity and that this European funding will enable it to scale its technology.”

Jolanda Heistek, director at Greenport West-Holland, agrees, “This project makes an innovative contribution to the energy transition that we’re working on within the larger region. We can only make it happen by joining hands. We applaud the beautiful interaction between The Hague and the Westland region that this project showcases. What’s more, the project fits perfectly within our ambition to remain the world’s leading horticultural cluster.”

Towards the future

BBBLS’ decision to settle in the City of The Hague was a deliberate one. “We’re on the verge of transitioning from the startup to the scale-up phase. This means that the search for capital is important to us. With the help of ImpactCity, we have found a number of great contacts within the capital market, both private and public,” Anton says. “At startup hub Apollo 14, we have found a fitting home base. We’ve entered a great network that fits our current needs.”

“The Hague has had a big say in our project. By actively engaging with these kinds of collaborations, by really fleshing them out, The Hague is achieving something very special. This is really something,” Anton emphasizes.

“1,000 square feet is only small in horticultural terms, so we really have to step it up as a scale-up. Nonetheless, it’s large-scale for a pilot project, so it’s a courageous step forward in relative terms,” he says. “It’s our ambition to serve a quarter of the horticultural sector a few years from now. We have big aspirations, we really want to have an impact.”

From left to right: Anton Paardekooper (BBBLS), Jolanda Heistek (Greenport West-Holland), Rob Baan (Koppert Cress), and Saskia Bruines (gemeente Den Haag)

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