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Greenhouse investors lured to Greece:

"I expect 50 hectares of new greenhouses to be built in Greece in the next few years"

Greenhouse projects are luring investors around the world. If you ask a consultant or turn-key greenhouse constructor for information on interesting markets regarding large scale greenhouse projects, including the adaptation of high end techniques, he will probably name some locations in Eastern Europe or another country that wants to become self-sufficient regarding fresh fruit and vegetables. If you're aware of the country's current economic situation, Greece is probably the last place you'd think of when talking about a positive investment climate. But against all odds, investors have been drawn toward Greece to invest in high-tech greenhouses, especially in the northern part of the country. "This is not about becoming self sufficient on quality produce, it is just about making money and doing business," said consultant Christos D. Katsanos from DKG Group.

As a total greenhouse management consultant, Katsanos has many years of experience in the Greek horticultural industry. He started the DKG Group more than 18 years ago with two other Greek agronomists. Now the company has several other enterprises under it's umbrella, including a consulting wing, a supplier for greenhouse growers, an arm that deals in vertical hydroponic walls and a research center dedicated to sustainability. That experience and those extensive ties to the Greek horticultural industry provide him with a good vantage point from which to judge where the industry is going - and Katsanos thinks it's going up.

“I expect 50 new hectares of greenhouses to be built in Greece in the next few years,” said Katsanos. A big part of the reason he's so bullish about the industry's prospects has to do with the country's high consumption per capita of greenhouse vegetables. With the average Greek citizen consuming 65 kilograms of greenhouse vegetables per year, the idea was to compete with imports on the basis that local production wouldn't have to deal with import and transportation costs. Next to this the country welcome more than 16 million tourists each year that also consume an impressive amount of their Greek salads.

For a long time, the majority of the country's need for greenhouse vegetables was being fulfilled by import from Western Europe and by domestic produce from polyethylene greenhouses that were located on the island of Crete. But as is the case with many islands, scarcity of land, as well as competing demands from the tourist industry, drove up land prices. The country's northern region offered cheaper land, but just as important, it offered the prospect of cheaper energy costs (natural gas, geothermal energy, biomass).

“The Greek government had an old contract to import natural gas through a pipeline from Russia,” explained Katsanos. “This resulted in attractive gas prices, also for greenhouse growers and the proximity to natural gas from Russia initially brought increased development up north.” In North Greece there is a different climate than on Crete, and the investors that were lured to Greece, started to build state of the art Venlo-type greenhouses, including Pad and Fan cooling systems. Over the years many modern greenhouses where build in Greece, including recently a Photovoltaic Greenhouse. The low gas prices also was a reason that growers started to use Combined Heat and Power installations (CHP). “Just like in the Netherlands, they first are busy with selling the electricity back to the grid, and selling the produce comes second,” Katsanos jokes.

Because the government recently made some changes in the natural gas market, the growers are also looking to adapt other sustainable and economical ways to heat up their greenhouses. “In the North of Greece, geothermal energy is sustainable and free, so it's a good option,” said Katsanos. Unlike in Western Europe, geothermal energy is far more accessible. “You just have to drill 100 meters and you get excellent results,” stated Katsanos. He said that the emergence of geothermal energy as a viable energy option has spurred even more growth.

“There's cheap geothermal energy and there's lots of flat land that's cheap to develop in the northern region,” pointed out Katsanos. “I think more people will invest in the greenhouse industry because it presents a very good opportunity right now. I am not sure if this will help us to recover from the economic situation, but for sure it will bring new jobs in our country.”

For more information:
Christos D. Katsanos (e-mail)
5 b, Ioustinianou street
551 34 , Thessaloniki
HELLAS (Greece)
Τel: +30 2310 488.915
Fax: +30 2310 488.916