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Spain: Dutch Agrifast-Tom System users visit Almeria's greenhouses

During the first week of October, four of the main Tom System clients from the Netherlands were invited by Agrifast to visit several greenhouses in Almeria.

In this way, Vincent Van Niel from the company Zadelaers Boogeart Kwekerijen (located in Naaldwijk), Dave Vijverberg from C&A Vijverberg (located in Berkel en Rodenrijs), Jan Reijm from V.O.F. Reijm & Zn (located in Berkel en Rodenrijs) and Robert Van Rijckervorsel from Kwekerij De Lies BV (located in Breda), together with Dirk-Jan Haas of DJ-Products (distributor of the Tom System in the Netherlands) were able to have their first experience visiting Almeria.

“We have been working with the Tom System in the Netherlands for the last four years already, and these growers have helped us a lot. When we started in the beginning of the 2012 season, the Tom System was a completely new product and it was not easy to convince the growers to try it,” explains Alberto Lizarraga, Product Manager of the Tom System. “Now at the end of the 4th season, we can say that the Tom System is a consolidated product. These clients have helped us a lot to develop and improve the tool, so when we visited them last summer, we offered them the possibility to visit the 30,000 hectares of greenhouses in Almeria, Spain.”

The “plastic sea” of 30,000 hectares very much impressed the Dutch growers

For the Dutch, Spain and specifically Almeria, is one of the most important competitors when talking about greenhouse produce: “it is true that their growing cycle is different, but it affects us a lot. For example, when we finish our season in autumn (October-November) they start in Almeria. So there is an overlap of both seasons. And this is also happening in spring time, when Almeria finishes and the Netherland starts,” explains Jan Reijm.

This is for example what happened this season in September and the beginning of October. Due to the heat wave in Spain during summer time, most of the crops were damaged or the new plantations were delayed, so there was a gap in production and therefore an increase of prices in most of the greenhouse crops, mainly in tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. So in this time Dutch growers were able to benefit from better prices.

Looking for beneficial insects released in pepper crops to fight pests reducing the use of chemical products

In summer time Almeria is not a big competitor for the Dutch growers: “then we have more problems when there is an oversupply from countries producing during our same season, like Belgium, Poland, etc…. We are in a global market, so every market is interconnected,” points out Dirk-Jan Haas.

The technology of the greenhouses and its evolution was another important question for them. According to Robert Van Rijckervorsel, there have not been big changes over the last few years in most of the greenhouses: “I visited Almeria greenhouses 15 years ago and I can say the typical Parral greenhouse remains quite similar, especially in small family owned businesses.” But there is also another more competitive sector, the big private companies owning high-tech greenhouses.

Visiting a high-tech plastic greenhouse producing cherry tomatoes

The group were able to visit one of these greenhouses and see how they could control the windows opening, climate, humidity …much more than in a traditional Parral greenhouse. “These growers are much more professional and produce very high quality products, so therefore they are bigger competitors for us,” comments Vincent Van Niel.

But when the grower of the greenhouse was asked if most of the greenhouses in Almeria would follow him in developing the technology of the greenhouse, the answer was clear: “Almeria will keep on having both markets in parallel: the small, low tech and family owned greenhouses producing through the cooperatives (which is at least 75-80% of the total area) and the new more modern and efficient greenhouses which are able to produce a high quality product and sell it directly to international clients.”

Another interesting topic for the Dutch growers was to learn how beneficial insects are being used to control pests in the greenhouses. Nowadays for example, 100% of the pepper growers use natural enemies against the pests (swirski mite is the most common one for peppers). Most of the visited growers explained to them how the insect works against the white fly pest, and the problems they had this year due to the heat wave: it was too hot even for the beneficial mites!

Regarding the Tom System, they were able to understand why the current tool is better designed for working in a high-tech Dutch style glasshouse than in a small Parral greenhouse, “but we are working on improving our tool in order to have in the future a more appropriate one for these kind of greenhouses!” explains Alberto Lizarraga from Agrifast. 

Video of the Tom System:

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Alberto Lizarraga

DJ Products

Dirk-Jan Haas

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