Annually the Dutch Frank van Lipzig grows about 19 million cucumbers per year. Recently, the whole crop has received an eco certification. It was no easy task for Van Lipzig, but it was worth it.

Frank van Lipzig from cucumber nursery Van Lipzig.

"I only started the business in 2007," says Frank van Lipzig (38 years). "My parents already had a cucumber business at another location in the Netherlands, so growing is my second nature. I wanted to do it differently. Therefore, a few years ago, I chose a strategy to aim for the top end of the market. I am a member of the Dutch cucumber growers group Kompany. They take care of sales and therefore have the most client contact. Via Kompany, I found out that there is a demand for cucumbers with eco certification. Therefore, I quickly decided that I wanted to gain the certification.

More difficult than anticipated
The certification process was not easy for Lipzig. "It was more difficult than I had anticipated. I had to go really deep in order to meet the requirements, especially in relation to registrations. I suppose that's also a benefit as it means that the certificate actually stands for something and adds something." The tasks which required attention were mostly in the area of using resources, energy and water usage. "A number of crop protection treatments had to be stopped," says Van Lipzig, "and the use of permitted treatments needs to be carefully planned and justified. If you use a lot at the beginning of the year, then you might come up short at the end of the year, because you have reached your limit. You therefore need to dose with a lot of thought."

High wire
In relation to energy use, Lipzig was already quite good. "Since last year, we have been growing with the 'high wire method'." That means that you allow the stem to grow and when you cut the cucumbers off, you lower the plant on the wire. It is more labor intensive, but through this method, the production per plant increases and you actually save energy per grown cucumber." In relation to water usage, Van Lipzig is in the lucky position that he has access to a sweet water spring and the new glasshouse has sufficient rain water storage. "The only change with the eco certification is that when I am going to sluice the drain water, the amount of drained nitrogen and the phosphate levels must be closely sampled and justified."

Eco certification fits with the strategy
According to Van Lipzig, the eco cerfication fits perfectly with his strategy. "The eco certified cucumbers are slightly more expensive, but the end consumer is satisfied with that. It fits well with my wish to grow for the high end market, where attention to sustainability pays off."

On an area of 8.5 hectares, Frank van Lipzig works among 15 permanent members of staff, who are supplemented during the harvesting season with between 10 and 20 hired staff. Growing takes place twice a year: in January and July they plant and from March to July and from August to November, they harvest. Van Lipzig cucumber nursery uses a Heat Power coupling (WKK) for providing energy. For watering the plants, they use rain water from the reservoirs. The rain water is also sprayed on the roof of the glasshouse to regulate the temperature and humidity in the glasshouse.