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Over 30 Kg per square meter in Alma greenhouse structure

Asia: Record breaking yields for ‘Take Me Home Tomatoes’ in Thailand

Some serious production records have been achieved in the new Alma greenhouses of the Dutch agro-entrepreneurs from Take Me Home Tomatoes in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The production of 30 kilo per square meter is now officially a fact in the ‘Alma’ greenhouse.  But they still have a month of production left before the end of their crop season. Their estimation, with what is still hanging on their healthy looking plants, is that they will reach the 32 kilo per square meter. “If we reach that, it means we’ll open a bottle of Champagne! And then get back to business, because next years target will be 35 kilo!"

Thomas Ruiter and Menno Keppel of Take Me Home Tomatoes informed us about the results they achieved last year with the help of the special Alma greenhouse design of Malaysia-based greenhouse supplier Asian Perlite Industries. This special greenhouse design enables them to achieve fantastic results, even-though the farm is located in the highlands; the climate is not optimal during all months of the year. In some months it is simply too hot or too humid for a good tomato fruit setting, which would result in lower yields. High-Tech growing techniques, such as cooling/screening/fogging or forced ventilation could be used, but are relatively costly for Thailand.

Take ME Home ships their harvest to Thai retailers that demand a very high and consistent quality the entire season; Tesco Lotus, Big C, The Mall Group and Tops Supermarket. They grow the De Ruiter Seeds truss tomato variety 'Althes F1'

The best measurements that could be taken according to Thomas and Menno, was finding a greenhouse structure with the best natural cooling features, without having to invest in high-tech solutions. This is where their relationship with Luuk Runia, founder and director of ‘Asian Perlite Industries’, took off.

Together with the University of Wageningen, Asian Perilte designed the 'Alma' greenhouse construction: a greenhouse that is designed specifically for the tropical climate. The structure enables ventilation at all times, even when there is no wind. Because of the design features of the  greenhouse, the ventilation surface at the side and top of the greenhouse are 100% larger than the ‘old’ greenhouse Take Me Home is using. This resulted in significant production improvement.

Thomas Ruiter: "In the Alma greenhouse we have a more 'active' climate, that results in a far more active plant. What I mean by active climate is that, first of all there is a lot of ventilation through the design features... basically there is a constant air movement without 'forced' ventilation. You can be in the middle of our greenhouse, far from the sides with the netting, but you can still see the leaves of the plant moving through the movement of the air... besides this movement of the air, the Alma greenhouse is a lot taller then the old ones, which results in a huge buffer of air above the crop... this buffer of air does not react/change immediately when the weather changes suddenly.... this goes more gradually... it just takes a lot longer before this buffer of air changes in temperature or humidity... this results in a more even and gradual change of climate through the day, which is a lot more comfortable for the plants...

"In that ‘old’ greenhouse design, the temperature inside is about 2.5 degrees Celsius higher than the temperature outside", said Menno Keppel when comparing the structures. "In the ‘Alma’ greenhouse, we have  been recording average greenhouse temperatures that are 1.5 degrees Celsius lower than the outside temperature. This is a reduction of 4.0 degrees in comparison with our old greenhouse. This huge improvement  has been clearly noticeable in the crop health, crop growth and production yields!"

Thomas Ruiter, Luuk Runia and Menno Keppel

“Every week we receive the yield calculations for each greenhouse, and every week we look forward to seeing the results of our Alma greenhouses” Thomas added. “We can’t wait to do the final calculation” Menno said.  “But one thing we can already say” Thomas continues, “we are breaking all previous records for our own company, but I’m pretty sure we are breaking the record for the whole of Thailand as well!”.

“We are still in full production and most of the plants still look incredibly healthy in the ‘Alma’ greenhouse, compared to our conventional greenhouses”, said Menno Keppel. “Coming out of the most difficult growing season, the hot season, this is something we have never experienced, it’s hard to believe!”.

Take Me Home normally produces 2 crops per year. "The first crop is a relatively short crop, that we grow through the rain season. The sowing we did in the beginning of June (2014), transplanting in July and the first harvest we started in mid August until the end of October. In November (2014) we cleared the greenhouse and planted the long crop, with an interval of 2 weeks that we used for clearing and disinfecting . The sowing date of our long crop was at the end of October and we transplanted the plants to the greenhouse at the end of November. Our first harvest from our long crop was at the end of January 2015 and we are still harvesting at the moment. So, the long crop season is from the end of the rain season, through the cold season and with the Alma greenhouse also through the hot season!"

The good results with their first Alma greenhouse are the reason for Take me Home Tomatoes to place an order for 2 more Alma greenhouses. "The results with this special greenhouse structure are so satisfying that we are planning to gradually replace all of our greenhouses with ‘Alma’", Thomas concluded.

By: Thomas Ruiter & Boy de Nijs

For more information on Take me Home Tomatoes:
Thomas Ruiter (e-mail)
Menno Keppel (e-mail)

For more information on the Alma Greenhouse Structure:
Asian Perlite Industries Sdn. Bhd. (Greenhouse Solutions Asia)
Luuk Runia, Director
72B Persiaran Camellia 4,
39000 Tanah Rata,
Cameron Highlands,
Pahang, Malaysia

Publication date: 5/18/2015
Author: Boy de Nijs



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