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Robert Grootscholte, 4Evergreen

"I am curious how the new generation sees autonomous cultivation"

Robert Grootscholte, general director 4Evergreen: "I am very curious how young people think about autonomous cultivation, in which the computer reads the plant by using big data, and in which the greenhouse becomes completely self-regulating."

The bell pepper company is investing in sustainability on multiple fields. Since 2005 organic cultivation is used for the American market. The greenhouses are being heated by waste heat from the industry. Continuous innovation is also important on product level, such as the discovery of the red/yellow striped bell pepper 'Enjoya'.

Because of the rapid developments more highly educated employees are being hired. Robert Grootscholte, general director 4Evergreen, is curious how the new generation views these developments in the greenhouse horticulture, and therefore participates in the project Markt Match. During this event on October 4 and 5, young people are challenged to come up with creative ideas for a healthy future of the food sector.

Industry heats the Westland
Since 2005 organic cultivation is used for the American market. Robert Grootscholte: "We grow in a maximum sustainable manner without pesticides and artificial fertilizers, with little use of energy and environmentally unfriendly products. We also make use of the CO2 from the industry around Hoek van Holland. In the coming years we will be warming half our area, about 50 hectare, with waste heat. We are looking to the future construction of a heat roundabout for our locations in Hoek van Holland, so the industry heats the Westland. For our location Steenbergen, which does not have access to a heat roundabout or waste heat, we want to generate energy from biomass. In cooperation with a number of companies, a biomass plant is being developed. Our various cultivation locations will be completely energy neutral next year when the transfer is made to solar panels.

Experiment with new varieties
4Evergreen continuously innovates to increase quality and production. Together with a number of other companies, the yellow/red striped bell pepper, Enoya, was brought onto the market. "In 2014 we found a mutated bell pepper plant. We have tried to sow them again, but the plant mutated into a yellow bell pepper plant. We have bred the plant vegetatively, and a new variety was born. We are the only grower to grow Enoya in Europe.

"Sometimes we try to grow other vegetables in the greenhouse. We can basically grow everything in a greenhouse, because we can simulate climates from abroad. Some vegetables have been bred to the degree that they cannot be grown in greenhouses. We are researching how we can breed these vegetables so they can be grown in a greenhouse."

Scale enlargement required more personnel
In the greenhouse horticulture little space is required for a high production of vegetables. More and more food is produced on smaller surfaces. Scale enlargement leads to the hiring of the new personnel according to Robert Grootscholte. "We have more and more highly educated employees in the research, cultivation, administration and management. We maintain lots of contact with schools to facilitate hiring. I would like more schools to come for a tour, so students can have a clear picture of the sector and can make an informed choice. In the end, they will be the new employers and employees that will come up with innovations and will change the world." The initiative Markt Match young people get acquainted with the food sector. For two days they will focus on a problem that is important to the future of the vegetable and fruit sector. Robert Grootscholte on his expectations of Markt Match: "I am very curious how young people think about autonomous growing, in which the computer uses big data to read the plants, and in which the greenhouse could possibly be self-regulating. In the end I hope that a number of participants will apply for an internship or respond to a vacancy."

4Evergreen's greenhouse

Rather cooperating than competing

With the project Markt Match 4Evergreen is cooperating with other vegetable and fruit companies. Grootscholte: "This is not new to us. Cooperation makes us stronger, and enables us to know what is going on and share our information. In practice our cultivation specialists join other growers to learn from each other." In total 200 bell pepper growers grow on 1400 hectare in total in the Netherlands. The Dutch horticulture companies are known for sharing knowledge and in that way make more progress that competitive companies in other countries.

For more information:
Zoekweg 20
4651 PS Steenbergen
T +31 167 - 56 81 00
F +31 167 - 56 81 01
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