Pepper grower Gemapa: step for step towards sustainability

Composting the full crop at the end of the season

When the Lambrecht family started their Gemapa bell pepper nursery in 1990 in the Belgian town of Nevele, Marc considered going organic. In the end he decided against it. "I thought the risks were too great, especially the aphids," Marc says. He did the math. "If you grow organically, in Belgium you have to cultivate in the soil. Your yield will be lower, the risks are higher and the CO2 emissions remain the same." Marc opted for an integrated cultivation. "From an ecological perspective, I think this is the most ideal way of growing, with the lowest CO2 emissions."

Currently the construction of a new greenhouse is underway. The bell pepper nursery will expand from 5 to 8 hectares, and a large compost storage will be built. This is yet another step in the direction of sustainability.

"Sustainability is difficult to quantify, everyone has their own definition and everyone will approach it differently. Our goal is to produce as little waste as possible." At Gemapa the plants are composted at the end of the season. "All residual production that is processed within the company does not fall under waste", Marc explains. The compost is used on the 3 hectares of farmland that the company rents out with a seasonal lease.

Bio-degradable yarn
In the greenhouses they use Bio Twine, a yarn from Lankhorst Yarns that is completely biodegradable. When emptying the greenhouses at the end of the season, the wire can simply be included in the compost. After a few months, the yarn can no longer be found.

The Lambrecht family with Siep Dijkstra and Joris van Calcar from Lankhorst Yarns at the HortiContact in Gorinchem.

Strict rules
The recipe for an ideal compost is as follows: a temperature of around 60 degrees and a composting time of 6 months. Oxygen is regularly added so that the process can continue. "There are strict rules for composting," says Marc. "It has to be done on a concrete floor and the juices that are released have to be drained via gutters into a septic tank. The tank should only be emptied during the growing season, not in the winter."

Marc calls composting a wonderful solution for horticulturists and farmers. "A lot of farmland has too little compost, and nitrate can leach easier. If you add compost every year, you can prevent this problem." However, it is difficult to implement this concept on a larger scale. "In Belgium, we have to deal with strict legislation in this respect. The waste from one company cannot simply be taken over by another, and requires all kinds of permits, but we are working on it. It is an ideal solution where horticulturists and farmers can help each other."

For more information:
Bvba Gemapa

Lankhorst Yarns

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