Discover the rich history of the Delft Yeast Plant

Jacques van Marken and his wife Agneta van Marken-Matthes were two of the founders of the Dutch business world, alongside the other Dutch patriarchs of industrial development such as Philips, Plesman, Fokker, Stork, etc.

The Van Marken couple founded a number of important Dutch companies: the Nederlandsche Gist- en Spiritusfabriek [Dutch yeast and methylated spirits factory] (which later became Gist-Brocades, now part of DSM), the Nederlandsche Oliefabriek [Dutch oil factory] (which later became Calvé, now part of Unilever) and the Lijm en Gelatinefabriek [Adhesive and gelatin factory], which no longer exists, all these factories being located in Delft at the time.

Van Marken was also the first social entrepreneur in the Netherlands. Decades before other employers were even considering it, Van Marken set up a works council and introduced an accident and pension scheme, a profit-sharing scheme and share ownership for employees. He was also one of the first to publish a staff magazine: de Fabrieksbode.

From this starting point, the exhibition gives a good overview of the developments in Dutch industry to today’s Biotech Campus in Delft and of the impact of 150 years of heritage on the development of biotechnology and thus on contemporary society.

We hope you enjoy the video meeting between Van Marken and DSM’s current CEO Feike Sijbesma and listen to the memories and anecdotes of some current and former employees.

Back in time

gist luchtfoto
Aerial view of the old Yeast Plant

The Agnetapark

The Agnetapark is an ensemble of small groups of workers' houses, each with its own garden. It is listed among the Department for the Preservation of Historic Buildings and Sites’ Top 100. The park area was bought in 1881 for 16,000 guilders by Jacques van Marken (Jacob Cornelis, 1845-1906), director of the Koninklijke Nederlandsche Gist- en Spiritusfabriek.

In 1884, Van Marken founded the 'NV Gemeenschappelijk Eigendom'. The company’s objective was as follows: ‘To build and rent out healthy homes, boarding houses, workshops, shops, washrooms and bathing establishments, on land of the Agnetapark to be purchased by the company’. In doing so, Van Marken started off a new social and urban development that also led the way outside the Netherlands.


Beijerinck Lab

In 1885, Martinus Willem Beijerinck joined the Koninklijke Nederlandsche Gist- en Spiritusfabriek in Delft, where a bacteriological laboratory was founded for him. In the years he spent at the Gist- en Spiritusfabriek, he worked on countless important research projects. Finally, he discovered Schizosaccharomyces octosporus (1894) while investigating different types of yeast. He also discovered the nitrogen-absorbing tubers on the roots of legumes.

In 1895, he was appointed professor of biology and bacteriology at the Technical University in Delft. During that period, Beijerinck continued his research. He has several discoveries to his name. For instance, he discovered the Spirillum desulfuricans as being the cause of sulfate reduction (1896), thus identifying the main cause of the stench from polluted city canals.

beijerinck lab
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