Local innovators | A chat with Jari of Jarvenkyla Oy
Jari Suominen is a man who has always sought to figure things out for himself. Already in his twenties, he traveled abroad to investigate how the farm inherited from his family could be revitalized. As CEO of Jarvenkyla Oy, Jari has significantly improved the industry’s products and farming processes. We chatted about the latest ozonated water project and what is great about being an entrepreneur in Sauvo.
● Information about the company: Jarvenkyla Oy s a garden supply store that promotes berry farming and conducts research to develop new, more ecological farming solutions. The farm operates as its own business and serves as a testing ground for continuous experimental activities.
● Founded: 1984.
● Team: five people work in the office, and ten permanent employees on the farm. In the summer, the number of employees increases to around two hundred.
● Location of the offices: The store is at Sauvo’s Timperintie, and the Järventila farm is in Sauvo’s Järvenkylä.
● Recent accomplishment: Research conducted with the University of Turku on the control of plant diseases using ozonated water and the commercialization of this method.
● Random fact: Jari was Sauvo’s driving force when refugees started to arrive from Ukraine to Finland. The farm can again employ newcomers in the coming summer.
When we walk through the doors of the garden supply store on Timperintie in Sauvo, we find ourselves in a true green thumb’s paradise. Jari Suominen, the company’s CEO and brainchild, is here to greet us. He apologizes for having to deal with an urgent issue at the start of our interview “Come tell me when those municipality people will drive into the yard,” Jari calls out to a coworker. In no time, we’re introduced to his company, his latest ozonated water project, and his story as the founder of Jarvenkyla Oy.
From the beginning, Jari has had a burning desire to develop the farm business he inherited from his family. That’s how sugar beet cultivation has changed to berries. About 30 years ago, Jari discovered that they could use transparent plastic containers, the likes of which had yet to be seen in Finland’s berry business. When they finally found the supplier from Italy, Jari had to gather good references and travel there to be interviewed. At the end of the long restaurant dinner, the deal was done. This is how Jari’s commercial career and the story of Jarvenkyla Oy started.
Sauvo as a place has come to Jari as a blood inheritance: he says that his ancestors have always been local farmers. The farm he inherited from his parents, Järventila, is still in Sauvo’s Järvenkylä. Strong roots are why Jari has stayed in Sauvo as an entrepreneur.
Why should others start their business in Sauvo?
“In Sauvo, everyone knows each other, and the distances are small. Here, I immediately know who to ask for help or talk to if there are problems. It’s so simple to do business in a small municipality.”
Jari is grateful to both the Sauvo municipality and for its residents for their genuine desire to assist local entrepreneurs. One of the standout aspects for Jari when starting his business in Sauvo has been the exceptional moral support. Entrepreneurs tend to wish that they are really heard, and one does not have to navigate a maze of bureaucratic obstacles to get things done.
“When someone starts a business here in Sauvo, you will get help.”
Sauvo is conveniently located near the Helsinki highway, making logistics simple and efficient. In terms of freight transportation, it makes little difference whether the company’s headquarters are in Turku or Sauvo. However, Sauvo stands out due to its significantly lower price point, which gives businesses a competitive advantage.
Jari considers Sauvo to be an excellent place to live. In this tight-knit community, cooperation takes on a personal touch that’s hard to come by in larger cities. Sauvo’s ease and safety get Jari’s praise: families with young children feel shielded here from the troubles of urban areas. The school bus runs like clockwork, and the beautiful Archipelago Sea beckons with its sandy beaches for idyllic leisure time. Plus, if you crave the bustle of the city, Turku is just a quick 30-minute jaunt, while Helsinki is a mere 1.5-hour journey away.
Jari finds Sauvo’s architecture to be a beautiful blend of old and new. The area boasts modern schools, a sleek municipal hall, and even a freshly built residential area in Osmalahti. But there’s much more than meets the eye here: “not everything has that flat rooftop,” as Jari says. Sauvo is brimming with history and character. With its stately mansions, the area bears the mark of the nobility that once held sway over it.
Jari is one of many who prefer Sauvo. Sauvo’s charming Rantola area was voted the neighborhood of the year 2022 in the competition organized by the residential area service Know Your Hoods.
What kind of support has the Turku region offered to Jarvenkyla Oy?
Jarvenkyla Oy’s latest innovation is utilizing ozone in farming. Although ozone has been known for its hygienic properties for over a hundred years, it is only now that it can be used to combat plant diseases. With ozonated water, chemical pesticides are rendered unnecessary, offering a cost-effective and eco-friendly alternative. This innovative technique has even earned recognition in Spain, where it is classified as an organic farming method.
Thanks to the successful partnership with the molecular biology department at the University of Turku and funding provided by Business Finland, the project is no longer – to quote Jari’s words – just an experiment of Gyro Gearloose but a published and validated method accessible to all. The University of Turku has agreed to continue collaborating on this innovative approach. Further extensive studies on this topic are currently underway globally. The next crucial phase is commercializing this method, supported by ample unbiased research data.
“About five years ago, the EU set out to reduce the use of chemical substances in agriculture and horticulture, leading to increased research into alternative methods. That’s when the project started. I believe I first heard about the potential of ozone during my visit to the Strawberry Conference in the Netherlands. So, I began to read up on the subject, and soon after, our development work began, equipment was built, and we got down to business..”
In the beginning, Jari tested the effects of ozonated water on his farm. When we ask where this enthusiasm for trying new things independently comes from, Jari answers without hesitation with a slight grin:
“Out of stupidity. I only went to high school, and I’m not a professor. But I have always wanted to find out for myself why things are like they are. I can’t simply believe what the other person is saying. I want to internalize it all myself.”
In Turku region, there are resources like business counseling and growth programs available for innovative companies, especially those looking to expand internationally. Check out the Turku Business Region website to learn more.
What else does Jarvenkyla Oy do, and what does the future look like?
Jarvenkyla Oy has collaborated with various firms in the past, including Felix. The company was once Finland’s first and largest grower of open-field cucumbers. Jari has been dedicated to improving cultivation methods. For example, he mentions designing growing tunnels that can handle Finland’s harsh weather conditions. Over the years, Jari has diligently tested all kinds of other impressive innovations at Järventilla.
If you’re from the Turku region, you might have spotted Järvenkylä’s refrigerators at Prisma, stocked with tasty local berries and peas. Come summertime, you can’t miss the vibrant red market stalls outside the stores.
Last year, our berry pickers included a mix of regular pickers and refugees from the war in Ukraine. Jari played a significant role in helping to arrange accommodation for Ukrainian families and collecting clothing donations in Sauvo. While some have since returned to Ukraine, others still reside in the area, renting from either the municipality or private individuals. In the summertime, work on the farm will be waiting for those who need it once again.
“The whole Sauvo started collecting clothes. After all, Ukrainian families didn’t have time to take anything other than the essentials with them.”
Jari also reveals to us his next project, in which he is representing a commercial farmer. The ambitious goal is to increase the number of domestic pollinators.
“The number of bumblebees and bees has decreased, and Finland still lacks decent pollinator production – we buy them from all over the world. The project includes, among others, the Association of Berry Growers, the Natural Resources Center, the Beekeeping Association, and universities. Our farm will again be a ground for experiments, like how to make good use of our Finnish pollinators. More information about this project can be found on the website of the Beekeeping Association (Mehiläisliitto).”
With all the hard work being done to improve strawberry cultivation and lighten the environmental load in our region, we can savor those sweet berries with an even greater appreciation!
Text by: Susanna Lahtinen | CYF Digital