14.6 hectare greenhouse Belagoriya harvest it's premier crop:

"Russia: "A crop doesn't stop growing when you take a weekend off"

As a greenhouse consultant that is active worldwide, former cucumber grower Dick de Jong has a good overview of what is happening in the global horticultural industry. Currently Dick is helping to set up a 14.6 hectare state of the art greenhouse operation in Belgorod, Russia. In an interview with HortiDaily, Dick talks about the challenges of growing in an area where the development of greenhouse cooperation is still in its infancy.

Local workers preparing the greenhouse before planting the crop
Before going to Russia, Dick has been active as a greenhouse consultant in countries such as Mexico, Turkey and Greece. For 5.5 years now, he has helped foreign companies to set up their greenhouse operations and get them familiar with modern technology. "I landed into this work due to the fact that I was a cucumber grower myself for many years", he said. "There was a demand for experienced growers that could teach the tricks of growing to people that have not much, or any agricultural background, and they asked me if was interested in this opportunity."

Self propagated cucumber plants in own plant raising department
The former cucumber grower immediately grabbed the chance to share the experience he gained at his own 6 hectare modern cucumber and tomato nursery. After helping Rijk Zwaan to set up a seed-production facility in Mexico, Dick helped growers in Greece and later in Turkey to set up their greenhouse operations. Since late 2012, Dick has been involved in the start up of a 14.6 hectare greenhouse operation in Begorod, Russia.
"Belgorod in one of the regions in Russia where a lot of horticulture related things are happening at this moment", Dick stated. "As you read in the newspapers, there is a big demand for local food production in these regions, and the operation where I am currently active, named Belagoriya, is a direct result of this."

Overview of the cucumber crop
The construction of Belagoriya was started in 2012 by Dutch greenhouse builders from AP Holland. The company consists of 14.6 hectare modern greenhouse, divided into multiple departments. "The operation is divided in 4 blocks, each of 3 hectare", Dick said. "The original plan is to use 2 x 3ha to cultivate hydroponic tomatoes and 2 x 3ha for hydroponic cucumbers, but currently we are growing cucumbers on a total of 9 hectares. In total, 6 hectares are equipped with assimilation light, so eventually Belagoriya will be able to deliver to their customers year round. Next to this there is 7,000 m2 that is outfitted with a salad floating system for the production of hydroponic lettuce and 7,000 m2 is reserved as a plant raising nursery for our tomato and cucumber crops. These facilities are also equipped with growing lights and we use a gas combustion heating boiler to heat the greenhouses."

From left to right: Jos van Opstal, technical director of AP Holland, Anatoly Tarasov, director of "Belagoriya" and Dick de Jong.
"So far, there is no lack of technology on the plant", said Dick. "However, there is something else we fall short off: knowledge and experience, and that is why I am here. Since my arrival late in 2012, I am teaming up with a group of local workers who I am trying to give some Dutch growers' mentality." According to Dick, one of the major challenges is teaching the locals that they have to deal with a crop 24/7. "When you are a grower, you can't simply take a weekend off or go to sleep without being aware of the crop. If you work in a shop, the shop closes at night, and goes open the next day. In a greenhouse it's different, a crop doesn't stop growing when you take a weekend off. You always must be aware of it, night and day. That is something that some newcomers in horticulture are often struggling with."

The first harvested cucumbers, that will be marketed by retailers in the bigger city's

As the first tangible result of Dick's work, last week the growers from Belagoriya harvested the first cucumbers from their new greenhouse. "This is a real milestone for the growers and the owner of the greenhouse, Mr Anatoly Tarasov", said Dick. According to him, the local growers will be able to stand on their own feet very quickly. "They are getting more and more aware of the fact that the greenhouse operation needs to continue night and day, that's a good thing. The upcoming season will be dominated by fine tuning their skills and eventually I will transfer the process into their hands so they will be completely independent growers who can share their knowledge to others in the region."

Scale model of the nursery

For more information:
Dick de Jong
Klein Ambacht
Tel: +31 6 53 38 13 76
RU Tel: +31 7 909 200 45 93
mail: kleinambacht@home.nl
skypename: dick.de.jong6

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