One of the most extraordinary horticultural companies in the world is undoubtedly Emsflower, owned by Bennie Kuipers. Emsflower is based in Germany and consists of a nursery, a garden centre, an experience centre, a restaurant, etc. Today we are taking a look at Emsland Gemüse, where bedding plants are grown in winter and cucumbers and tomatoes in summer.
Click here for the photo reportTon Peters by the entrance of Emsland Gemüse
Cucumbers with the label "Gurke, Regional"; boxes for cocktail tomatoes marked with "Frisch und Lecker von Emsflower". In the packaging area of Emsland Gemüse it is all extremely clear: the nursery's production is for the regional market. There is good demand for regionally grown vegetables in Germany, although for Bennie Kuipers, owner of the firm, this was not the reason to start growing vegetables, as explained by the cultivation manager Ton Peters. The bedding plant greenhouses were empty in the summer. "In the summer, we cannot grow bedding plants, so we introduced vegetables; for rotation, of course." The greenhouses of Emsland Gemüse are part of Emsflower, a complex with a total of 100 hectares of land in Emsburen, just across the border with Germany. There is space in this location for 60 hectares of greenhouses, of which 38 are already constructed. Of this, 13 hectares are suitable for the growing of vegetables and bedding plants.
Cucumbers with regional produce label
Tomatoes and cucumbers
Tomatoes and cucumbers are planted in mid-April and thus the company arrives to the market relatively late. No problem, as in the regional market, it is important to be the first on the market. In the greenhouses of Emsland Gemüse, tomatoes are grown on 9 hectares (6 hectares for Lyterno, 3 hectares for cocktail Delioso) and another 3.8 hectares are devoted to cucumbers (Cadence) and snack cucumbers (Mewa). In the past, Emsland Gemüse also had cherry tomatoes, but "they didn't do so good in Germany," points out Peters. "Maybe the product is still unknown." There is a higher demand for snack cucumbers, which has led to an increase in harvest volumes. Expanding the range with peppers is not on our agenda, as April is simply too late to plant this crop.
Bedding plants and vegetables
On the top of the greenhouse, an additional structure is placed to assist in the carrying of materials during the bedding plant cultivation period. The greenhouse is provided with strong additional posts to support all this. Around the posts, there is a slightly perceptible difference in climate and the construction results in less light for the greenhouse. "But in the summer we have enough light, so the loss is not too bad," says Peters.
Furthermore, the heating system is equipped with specially designed hooks that raise the entire system. The crop rotation of vegetables takes places very rapidly: "On Monday the bedding plants are out; on Friday the vegetables are in," says Peters. In November, the entire complex is switched within one month from vegetables back to bedding plants. First, a decontamination process takes place and then we work in two shifts seven days a week, 24 hours a day, to make all the necessary changes as quickly as possible. In just three days, 1.5 hectares are already full of bedding plants, and in three to four weeks, the crop rotation has been completed.
Cucumber production carried through the tomato plants
The greenhouse is equipped with diffused glass and dual screens. One is used during the vegetable production period, and sometimes both with the bedding plants. Three quarters of the heat within the complex is supplied by a wood boiler (steam turbine) of 8mW. The rest of the heat is filled with a small CHP, with an energy price that has been fixed for the next 20 years. "We are working on a geothermal project, 5.5 km deep," says Peters. "And eventually also on second wood boiler."
Emsland Gemuse is growing: last year we worked on 4x1.5 hectares; this year, 8x1.5 hectares. There are still 18 hectares available. When will it be full? "Bennie says it will be finished within five years," replied Peter, "but we first need to perfect what we have before we continue expanding."