Speciality tomatoes must have flawless quality

Optical sorting line for Beef tomato nursery A+G van den Bosch

Tholen - Beef tomatoes are a speciality and therefore, according to Bart van den Bosch from A+G van den Bosch nursery, the quality has to be flawless. A+G is the biggest supplier of beef tomatoes in the Netherlands and has therefore made some important changes in the cultivation, processing and packaging of their tomatoes.

A+G van den Bosch nursery was founded 64 years ago and has been fully focusing on the cultivation of beef tomatoes for years now. This area has had a turbulent past. After a hit of popularity in the '80s, acreage dropped sharply. Since then the acreage has remained relatively stable and quality is becoming more and more important. Bart van den Bosh, one of the three owners of the largest beef tomato nursery in the Netherlands, notes the improvement. This is why the company decided to make some important changes. Production lines have been tightened. The tomatoes are directly put into the packaging after being harvested and the new selection lines allows specific orders to be made ready.

A+G van den Bosch cultivates beef tomatoes on 26 hectares

Harvests in final packaging
Up until last year gutters were used to transport the tomatoes to the packing area at A+G van den Bosch. "In the box, in the gutter, in the cart, in the dryer," Van den Bosch sums up the route. "It worked, but overall there were eight steps." That meant that there were eight chances where damage could occur. Through directly placing the harvests into the final packaging these risks have been ruled out. The tomatoes are harvested to order and are put directly into the required packaging. This also makes it more possible to harvest with the stem. "Sometimes in the summer we had to let that go. You will do everything you can to avoid damage during transport, especially transport to far off destinations. This may mean removing the stem, or the 'crown' of the tomato from the 'kings tomato'," says Van den Bosch referring to a German retailer that named the beef tomato the 'kings tomato'.

Harvests directly put into the final packaging. Under the wagon you can see the gutter that is not longer in use.

Production line

Starting this season all the beef tomatoes will go through a production line that was designed by A+G. The system evaluates the production with the help of a video. The idea here was to be able to directly pick out damaged tomatoes and to be able to distinguish bigger and smaller tomatoes. There appears to be many more possibilities with the camera. Thanks to the video footage and projections of the tomatoes it is possible to prepare accurately weighted orders. There are various boxes totalling 7 kilos that are ready to be used: one box with 15 tomatoes, the other with 35 tomatoes. "Those are extreme cases," says Van den Bosch. "If that is what the customer wants, then that is what we will deliver."

The production line, on the basis of the projection and camera technique

Left: sorting tomatoes by size. The first box in the picture contains around 500 grams of tomatoes. The second box in the picture contains around 210 grams. Thanks to the projection these tomatoes can now be selected for special customers.
Right: King beef tomatoes, with the stem (or 'crown') of course

Shelf Life
Changes have not only been made in the processing and packaging of the tomatoes but also in the technical steps made during cultivation in order to improve the uniformity in production. Van den Bosch uses a weighing system in order to keep an eye on the production. Also, how ripe the client wants the tomato is kept in mind during harvesting. That improves the shelf life for the client. "For far off destinations the tomatoes need to be able to be transported for four or five days," says Van den Bosch. "In Spain there is demand for the tomatoes that are still green for the tart dishes there. We are focusing more on the growth and harvest." This requires a lot more work, recognizes the grower. "But the beef tomato is a speciality. The quality must be flawless in order for the product to satisfy the expectations. Sales are showing that this strategy is working. "We are seeing an increase in orders. You do not hear often that the quality of an order exceeds expectations. Complaints generally move quite quickly. But in the demand and orders we are seeing an impact."

Bart van den Bosch.

Sold using The Greenery

For more information:
A&G van den Bosch BV
Petuniaweg 28
2665 NK Bleiswijk

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