Tom de Jong, son and successor of Dutch eggplant grower Peter de Jong: "It is of added value if you can offer your customers product all year round. There are two ways to realize this: producing in the winter with the aid of artificial lighting or importing product during the winter." A number of factors play an important role in this choice. Lighted growth has various challenges and the costs per kilo of eggplant are higher. Is the customer willing to pay? Or will the supermarkets choose for eggplants from abroad?
Tom: "As was mentioned, the costs per kilo are higher for lighted eggplants. Competition on price will be difficult, but we can make a difference on quality, continuity, and sustainability, and offer added value for our customers". That is why Purple Pride has chosen to continue the lighted cultivation test, started in 2016, this winter.
Adjusting growth strategy: lighting is not sunlight
Two years of research have been conducted in a research center. Last winter season was the first year that lighted growth took place on the location in Dinteloord. Tom: "Lighted growth is a completely different way of growing than unlighted growth. At first glance it seems the same, but the sun can be much more powerful and can emit much more light at once than an assimilation lamp. The growth strategy has to be adjusted for these factors. A dark winter could cause problems for example, because sufficient outside light is still required."
Last year's learning experiences are applied in this year's new growth to achieve better results. Purple Pride believes in the opportunities to achieve a production with lighted growth that is profitable. Tom: "The largest challenge is to change the way of thinking at the supermarkets, so that more supermarkets choose for quality, sustainability, and Dutch product, instead of price."
First lighted growth in about two weeks
Meanwhile the plants are beginning to flower, which means there will be eggplants on the plant in about two weeks. As soon as the eggplants weigh 300 grams, the first eggplants of the lighted growth are harvested.
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