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Belgium: December strawberries that taste like summer strawberriesWelroy Fruit is a family company in every sense. Brothers Frank and Jurgen Royen began running it in 2005, and Frank’s son Sven joined them in 2014. Today the entire family put their heart and soul into making the daily operations run smoothly and productively.
Welroy Fruit is a mid-size company that sells about 200-250 tons of strawberries a year. March is a key month for them. After a long cold winter, consumers are eager to get fresh sweet strawberries that signal the start of spring. In this period, Welroy Fruit sells about 60% of their strawberries to local markets – via outdoor farmer’s markets, local supermarkets and fruit vending machines – for a higher margin than the crops sold in the fruit auctions to retailers. But the competition among Belgian strawberry growers is fierce because they all come to market at the same time. To get a jump on the crowd, Welroy Fruit looked at using LED lighting in its two greenhouses which span 5000 square meters. Their aim is to get the Sonata variety of strawberries to the more profitable local markets earlier, and to grow sweeter strawberries than are usually available early in the spring.
The company evaluated high pressure sodium (HPS) and LED grow light options for their existing greenhouses together with Philips Lighting, their horticultural partner, Agrolux, and advisors from the Delphy agricultural institute. “Usually HPS lighting would be the most economical option for our size of greenhouses, but calculations showed it was more economical to install a full LED grow light system. We preferred that, because HPS grow lights produce less sweet tasting strawberries and would require the installation of a costly Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system,” says Frank Royen, co-owner Welroy Fruit.
In summer 2017, Agrolux installed a full LED system with Philips GreenPower LED toplighting for their two greenhouses. Jurgen Royen, co-owner Welroy Fruit: “We are very happy with the support we received from all of the parties in this project. They helped us pick the most economical and effective system for our situation.”
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Publication date: 1/29/2018
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