German greenhouse grower Steiner has installed supplemental lighting in its greenhouse. Following its colleagues in Holland and Belgium, Steiner is the second German nursery that is now able to grow tomatoes year-round.Photos: Nursery Steiner
The South-German nursery Steiner operates on an acreage of 20 ha and grows strawberries, bell peppers and tomatoes. The company is heated with geothermal energy and supplies its product to retailers Penny and Rewe under a sustainable, regional brand. For this brand it receives a surcharge that helps its higher production costs stand up to Dutch product. Thanks to the new lighting installation Annaisa (cherry vine) tomatoes and Aromatica (roma vine) tomatoes will now be found on German supermarket shelves year-round.
Lit cultivation on the rise
To date German growers haven't been very interested in lit cultivation. Energy costs are high and if CHP is used a substantial tax had to be paid over the energy generated. However, late last year Neurather Gärtner became the first German nursery to switch the lights on. The LED lighting is installed on 2.5 ha of their nursery that is powered by a biodigester.
Growers outside Germany, in countries that are important export markets for the Dutch winter production, are also increasingly opting for lit cultivation. Austrian nursery Perlinger Gemuse, for example, is installing lamps in part of its new greenhouse (10 ha extension to 30 ha) because customers are increasingly asking for regional product in winter.
With less than 5 hectares of lit cultivation in the whole of Germany this can’t yet be called serious competition for the Dutch growers, but the rise of year-round German cultivation may become a threat to Dutch tomato exports. German consumers often choose regional product first and German product next. If both are unavailable, the Dutch offer is preferred over the Spanish one and the additional cost is also gladly paid. The emergence of lit cultivation and year-round German product can certainly be a threat to this.