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Réunion: A small island with hundreds of horticultural opportunities

Last week at the GreenTech in Amsterdam we had the chance to speak with Aurore Ferrante, an agricultural consultant from the Réunion Island, one of the overseas departments of France between Madagascar and Mauritius. Its area is just over 2500 km2, however the horticultural activities are blooming. Locals members of the cooperative cultivate fruit and vegetables on more than 500 hectares and yes, there are also 15 hectares of greenhouses for the time being. The island exports mainly pineapples, passion fruit and citrus, but the main target is the domestic market. Now that this demand is on the rise, the country is looking to implement more hydroponic production.

Aurore Ferrante and Bertrand Guillerm are agricultural consultants on the Island of Reunion.

Aurore Ferrante is one of the four agricultural consultants on the SICA Terre Réunionnaise Cooperative. “Our association SICA TR is made up of 150 growers. They produce in open field and in greenhouses, but we can find mixed systems as well.”

Aurore mentioned that the plastic and polycarbonate greenhouses on Reunion do not need any heating because of the hot climate. “Here at the GreenTech we are looking for the latest developments that we can implement in our production technology. We are not interested in advanced heating systems or glass greenhouses, but solutions like gutter systems, substrates and irrigation technology comes right in place”

The association and the growers are continuously trying to develop them for more efficient production. “We have had numerous projects on the Island, and that is one of the main reasons we are visiting such important events as the GreenTech. Currently our main interest is the installation and use of gutter systems both in greenhouses and in open field. Moreover, we are also interested in diverse small greenhouse technologies and particularly in NFT system for lettuce and aromatic herbs.”-she explained. “We already have installed gutter systems of P-TRE for strawberry cultivation.”

Aurore also mentioned that these developments play a very important role in the agriculture of the Island. “The population of Réunion is continuously growing, thus we have to supply more and more people with fresh, local produce.” The improvement of technology is also important because of the workforce shortage. “It is quite difficult to find workers for agriculture, hence we need to find technologies which reduce the need for manual workforce.” She added that greenhouse production itself is also an answer for their challenges. As she said, due to the small size of the lots (around 5-8 hectares/grower), open field production can provide producers with a less satisfactory income. “I see a really good opportunity for greenhouses now, I am sure their number will be growing quickly in the following years.”

“One more important development is the introduction of biological protection on the Island”-she said- “For instance we are familiar with IPM and we try to use different insects in the production. Even though we cannot import bees for pollination to the Island, we can import other types of insects. Protection against mites and white fly is particularly important for us.”

Aurore concluded that the GreenTech plays an important role in sharing new technologies. “Our association has high hopes for further cooperation with the suppliers that we have at this trade show!”.

For more information:
SICA Terre Réunionnaise

Aurore Ferante

By: Luca Utassy and Boy de Nijs