The company Harkboot in Roden has developed a successful method for cleaning up waterways. The niche market they are tapping with this has considerable growth potential due to the new guidelines of European exotic species legislation. Applications are pouring in, even from abroad. To accelerate the company's growth, entrepreneur Leon Sterk raked in funding from the NOM.
The rake boat principle came about by accident, when self-employed Leon Sterk was still dredging marinas and boathouses and was asked to tackle the proliferation of aquatic plants. He developed a rake construction that removes aquatic plants root by root. A lot more effective than mowing, which encourages proliferation. Sterk's raking method gained momentum as a result of new EU directives for dealing with invasive exotic species that threaten water quality. Water boards, provinces and municipalities know how to find Harkboot, although the company is also popular with angling federations due to its fish-friendly approach.
Because of the growing interest in the deployment of rake boats, Sterk knocked on NOM's door earlier, but at that time he still had homework to do. 'His unique invention and hands-on mentality made an immediate impression, the only thing missing was a business plan,' says investment analyst Veronique Jeunhomme. 'The discussion with NOM inspired Sterk to a more well-founded approach and he came back, this time with his organization well in order and a short but substantive business plan. Sterk is a go-getter and we like to see that. We provide funding in the full confidence that Harkboot can grow healthily'.
Harkboot's founder plans to use the funding to strengthen the company's foundation. Strong: "I started on my own, but now we work with four permanent employees, a flexible worker and several self-employed people. That requires a very different approach and we want to arrange that well; from training, insurance and work preparation to sufficient machines and tools. Soon we will expand the fleet with a fifth boat, while our premises are already too small. After all, we also need trailers, hoists, welding equipment, a forklift and whatnot. The plans for expansion are already ready; we hope to start this winter.'
To develop the rake boats, Sterk previously partnered with Conver, a manufacturer of mowing boats and amphibious machines. "I assembled the first rake boats myself, but it seemed smart to develop the design further with a professional boat builder," Sterk says. The rake boat team is also working with a biologist to study the effects of the raking method. 'We will monitor several areas after cleaning up and use the results to further refine our method.'