Tommies producer well on the way towards entirely residue-free cultivation

Is 100% residue-free cultivation possible? And if so, is it necessary? Atthe Dutch company Greenco, the founder and producer of Tommie snack tomatoes, they believe it both possible and desirable. The company set itself this ambitious goal in 2010. The finish line is already coming into view; the only remaining obstacles are the tomato russet mite.

Greenco has five companies in the area around Someren in the Dutch province of North Brabant and in the Westland region. It also rents an operation (totalling 30 hectares) and runs several companies in Spain. The majority of the products go to supermarket chains in the Netherlands and Germany. The company has built up a reputation with regard to corporate social responsibility. As early as 2010, the Dutch sales organization The Greenery awarded the company the designation ‘Nature Counts’ for its efforts in the field of sustainable crop protection and protected growth. Thanks to its cultivation methods, the products of Greenco reach the market in ‘ready-to-eat’ form. In 2011, Greenco also won a major prize for its proven desire for innovation. The company is certainly innovative. Thanks to a strong product concept - in fact, a whole new market segment was created - and good marketing, millions of packs of Greenco snack tomatoes are sold to consumers every year, whether under the name Tommies or under different names.

Chemical-free for three years already

‘We are ambitious where sustainable cultivation is concerned,’ explain Crop Director (and joint-owner of Greenco) Henk van der Loos and Crop Manager Jules Klessens. The company carries out a lot of research itself and permanently registers all kinds of cultivation variables, including by individual variety if required. The ambitious approach is paying off. Greenco has been producing its crops without using a single gram of chemicals at its premises in the village of Helenaveen in Brabant for the last three years. This wonderful achievement is unfortunately not possible everywhere. Spider mite, thrips, white fly, and leaf miners can usually be combated effectively using biological methods, but no effective form of biological control has yet been found for tomato russet mite. This pest thrives in crops grown under artificial light and also causes problems for Greenco. ‘No natural enemies are available as yet to combat tomato russet mite,’ says Jules Klessens. ‘In the event of an outbreak, we have to use chemicals. It’s a great pity, because otherwise we would be very close to being 100% chemical-free and residue-free. Now we are at 95% for all our sites as a whole. Hopefully we will soon find a good natural enemy for this mite.’

Opting for biological control

The economics of crop protection are also important, says Henk van der Loos. Greenco is willing to do a lot, but like any other company it also has to take production costs into account. ‘If the biological approach to an infestation is more expensive than the chemical process, we need to stop and think about it. If the difference is too great, it might be difficult. On the other hand, we have a very good reputation among our clients, and we want to maintain that reputation. If at all possible, we always opt for the biological approach. That can be seen in our working methods in Helenaveen, for example.’

Using NatuGro for a strong and resilient crop

NatuGro is important to Greenco. The company does not grow its crops on stone wool but on coconut fibre, and also uses coconut pots. ‘Coconut already has its own soil life,’ explains Jules Klessens. ‘The basis for the plant is therefore better, as a consequence of which we can use NatuGro in a modified way.’ Greenco alternates between the various products in the NatuGro range, and determines doses depending on the light and the corresponding plant activity. Henk van der Loos continues: ‘Our crops are stronger, their root systems are better developed, and the plants have greater resilience. Even the taste is a little better. These are NatuGro’s strengths.’

For more information
Koppert B.V. The Netherlands
T: +31 (0)10 5140444
F: +31 (0)10 5115203

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