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growing tomatoes in China & Iran

"Investors often think that one year is enough to learn the trade"

Dutch growers impart their cultivation knowledge all over the world. André Hamel is one of them. "Most of the time it's about a newly set-up greenhouse with new people who are quick to think they can do it all themselves."

André Hamel is in Iran on behalf of Bilancia Horticulture Projects. "It is my fourth year now as head grower abroad. First a couple of years in China, and this is already my second year in Iran."

It concerns a project in the northeast of Iran, about 150 kilometers outside of Mashhad, the second largest city in Iran. The company, Paryas, has 3 hectares of greenhouses at the moment. "They expect to extend to 7 hectares in two years. Only tomatoes are grown in the greenhouse, but they are still looking for the right variety. At this moment cherry is grown on 1 hectare, and regular TOVs on 2 hectares."

André is certainly not the only one who shares his knowledge across borders. "Besides me, there are a number of growers who want to and are able to impart their knowledge about growing abroad, often young people. We are usually available for a project for the term of a year. You have to love doing this, because you are away from home and family for a fairly long time."

Lots of questions during the start-up of new greenhouse horticulture projects
It's often the new greenhouse horticulture projects that require knowledge. "The new greenhouses often swarm with people who are quick to think they can do it themselves. Investors also think that one year is enough to learn the trade. But actually, that is not possible. They want to quickly learn things that take at least three years in Europe to get right, often young people who have just graduated from university. They have a lot of questions and suggestions, but often have no 'green' experience. They do have an agricultural education, if lucky."

Still, André loves it. "There is only one rule: you have to love the project, or else it is not going to work. The intention is to teach people everything about organisation, climate, climate computers, biological crop protection, you name it." André is well aware that an organization which supports you is a big help. "In my case that's Bilancia Horticulture Projects. You don't know everything and you shouldn't want to. The pressure is often high to get everyone up to speed in a relatively short time. You work long days, and luckily you are often not alone in this."

Growers want to meet European requirements
Flexibility is the keyword. "Because you are often the one who 'knows everything', a lot is required of you. It happens that the crop protection products are not available in the country you are in, or that the natural enemies and bumblebees are not available. In that case, you try to find alternative crop protection products that meet the European requirements as much as possible. "And often we haven't even spoken about the challenging climate. "How much irradiation is there, what is the RV outside, and what temperatures can you expect. It is never boring. If you love to teach people to grow, and your family supports you, there is no better profession or calling." André will stop at Paryas in March. "Before, I have done two projects in China, not for Bilancia. Personally, it doesn't matter to me where I end up. I love to learn, teach, and grow. As long as they understand me, and want to understand me."

Because Bilancia received requests from many countries to set up training centers, a start was made with the development of 'blended learning modules' for greenhouse horticulture. The first module is about fertilization. Other modules are under development. Bilancia is also looking for more growers who want to impart their knowledge abroad.

For more information:
André Hamel
Bilancia Horticulture Projects

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