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First greenhouse hops from The Westland

You hear that there is a shortage of hops, you have green fingers and you like beer. What are you going to do? Exactly, you get to work. Dutch tomato grower Joost van der Voort, together with product developer Bart van Meurs and greenhouse builder Hans Bransen, have cultivated hops in the Westland during the past period. Now they are checking whether their product can be marketed as Westland Hops.


 
Everyone knows that hops are an indispensable ingredient for beer. It is cultivated in Germany, the US, China and the Czech Republic is perhaps less known. The fact that it sells for tens of euros per kilo and that there is a shortage was enough for Joost, Hans and Bart to get started. "Special beers and hobby brewing are also on the increase. These are markets that value quality and origin. However, hardly any hops are grown in the Netherlands," says Bart. "Sufficient opportunities, then."
 
With Hans as expert of the greenhouse and its facilities, Bart as a marketing expert and creative brain and Joost as a plant specialist, two tests were done: one in the open field and one in the greenhouse. "Of course, we are horticulture minded and inevitably make the comparison with the tomato. You want to know if you can do the same trick, if you can achieve a different level of quality and production compared with open field cultivation", says Bart. Joost explains: "Generative and vegetative growth, this is applicable to all plants, but how do you trigger that? That you have to find out. Our experiments proved that the plants in the open field did just as well as those in the greenhouse. Growth however was quite different, but the yield was the same. You can see that the current varieties suit the outdoor cultivation: they are resistant to wind and cold."

From the harvested hops, the men had their own beer brewed. An RPA - a Rye Pale Ale. Which tastes good - but that's not the final goal. Now that the hops cultivation is successful, they go for the next step: can we make a business model out of this? "We are now working on it. The cultivation is going well, but it is a very labor-intensive process," says Bart. "Per kilo, hops are expensive, but it's also a terribly light product and it becomes dry as well. You have to harvest a lot to get a little weight. There's a lot of labor involved. Of course there are solutions: in traditional cultivation, harvesting machines are used." They did not have them for the tests and so they worked on Saturdays on a regular basis. "That's not a problem, but we know that doing blindly the same thing again does not add value. Automation of harvesting is a prerequisite. Before we invest, we look for the market opportunities." This is what we are doing now."

The reactions so far are positive. "It fits the concept of hobby brewing and the interest for special beers. You are looking for a regional product with a story behind it - that's what we do. Besides we now can also focus on cultivation with maximum content. Also there are a lot of possibilities." Now they are investigating whether the project with this set-up will also generate real money. "As a hobby it is indeed too expensive," laughs Bart. "We are looking for buyers with interest and the best student to calculate the business case. Someone who also gets excited about the product - a beer drinking student? That should not be too hard to find, right?"


For more information:
Westland Hop

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