He wanted to give Mother Earth new lungs. He wanted to replant two billion hectares of dry eroded soil – twice the Sahara – with 400 billion trees. ‘Green musketeer’ Pieter Hoff was almost obsessed with it.
“He thought planting trees was the only salvation of the earth, the rest was bullshit,” says his brother Matthie Hoff. An own invention had to make that possible. The Groasis Waterboxx was a reusable intelligent plastic bucket that ensured that all the water reached the roots, which, as a result, went deeper into the ground. That worked much better than the well-known drip system in which water is given from above and partly evaporates. He then developed the Growboxx, an intelligent bucket made of paper pulp that made it possible to grow vegetables in dry areas as well as trees. He has planted more than 3 million trees in this way – a first start.
Hoff died April 13 of cancer, a disease he never talked about. He was 67 years old. Matthie: “He worked so incredibly hard that it almost broke it.” The work is continued by his son Wout.
Hoff was the oldest in an agricultural family of nine children in the village of Hem in West Friesland. When Pieter took over the company together with his brothers Gerard and Matthie, it focused entirely on lily cultivation. Pieter threw himself into the breeding of new lily varieties.
He was a Willie Wortel, always looking for new methods for tillage and the development of new machines. For years he wrote about this in the trade journal Flower Bulb Culture (later Flower Bulb Vision) under the pseudonym Jan Zift. In the meantime, together with his brothers Hoff, he developed Quality First into a large lily exporter. During his travels, he was confronted with water shortages and the falling groundwater level as a result of deforestation. The lily farm, which was transferred to Steenbergen in West Brabant at the end of the eighties, was sold in 2003.
Pieter could then focus on his ideals and founded Groasis. ‘He had seen on the world map that five billion hectares of land had dried up or turned into deserts. It had to be possible to reforest two billion hectares there again. With 200 trees per hectare, that’s 400 billion trees worldwide, ‘says Wout Hoff. Pieter was successful with his technology in 46 countries.
‘In Saudi Arabia he was allowed to start with a hundred trees, then it became a thousand and now tens of thousands. Ultimately, the goal is to plant ten billion trees there alone. Unfortunately my father will not be able to experience this anymore. ‘ The Middle East wants to plant 50 billion trees, Europe also wants three billion in the next ten years.
Groasis has now attracted more than three hundred investors who regard the projects as promising and who see the sale of the Waterboxx and the Growboxx as a business model.
Pieter Hoff was not a scientist, but rather an autodidact who cared about the fate of the world. Nevertheless, he won a whole series of prizes with Groasis, such as the Popular Science Best Innovation 2010, the World Leadership Award, the Accenture Innovation Award and the Boskalis Water Award, and his company became ‘National Icon’ of the Netherlands in 2016. Except a son he also had two daughters from his first relationship.