In almost all areas, controlled environment cultivation offers higher production at a better, consistent quality. And that is exactly what is asked worldwide by retail producers. Ton Habraken travels through Europe frequently for Ludvig Svensson, and he can also be found regularly in Australia and New Zealand. "We see that in many countries there is a shift from semi-covered and open field cultivation to cultivation in a protected environment, such as greenhouses. It is a development that is motivated by various factors."
Diseases and fewer resources
"Naturally, nature has a substantial influence on outdoor cultivation. Many diseases are related to liquids. The temperature and the supply and discharge of water can be better controlled and regulated in protected cultivation. In addition, supermarket chains require products that involve as little crop protection products as possible. We see this strongly in Europe, but an Aldi that expands to Australia will maintain similar requirements. Local supermarkets will follow the trend. They see that the competitor has products available of stable quality all year round."
Guarantee of year-round production
Nature can also have far-reaching consequences. Long periods of drought or rain can cause the harvest to fail. Ton: "More than a year ago, there was a whirlwind in a tomato production area in Queensland that has caused many open field cultivations of tomatoes to fail. This storm, in combination with some pests in other production areas, caused a shortage of tomatoes. The growers who produce tomatoes in greenhouses in Victoria benefited from high prices. From retail there is a signal: we do not want this anymore, because this costs us too much money. In many areas we see a shift to covered cultivation. Where in Mexico previously mainly investments in acreage were made, the focus has now shifted to constant quality and a higher yield per square meter. The costs for this are considerably higher, but the investment does result in a larger production and a higher yield."
Shortage of labor
"In America, the shortage of labor is a big problem. That is also what we see in Europe. Nowadays, in the Netherlands there is so much work that migrant workers make choices based on working conditions. If you can work in a distribution center of a web store for the same wages, why would you go for picking strawberries on your knees in the pouring rain?"
"In a greenhouse the productivity per square meter is higher than in open field cultivation. But this does require people with the knowledge to control the cultivation. Especially internationally, we see a hiatus there. In well-known horticultural areas there is still plenty of growth and there are still good growers to be trained and to be put to work. In the more distant areas such as Siberia, this constitutes a problem."
Advising at a distance
Of course, Svensson provides the customer with product information when purchasing climate screens. "But in terms of climate we are increasingly moving closer to the grower. Consultancy+, we call this. It is a far-reaching way of providing services that we provide at replacement or new construction. Not only do we recommend a climate screen based on the needs of the customer, we now also remotely advise when the screen can be opened and closed. In doing so, we take into account other technologies in the greenhouse, such as lighting or a high-pressure spray. Not that we know everything about it, but we can point out the direction."