Eight Belgian companies combine their strengths in sales collective Tomeco. The affiliated growers have set the goal for themselves to grow customer oriented, which requires a consistent quality throughout the entire year. In the summer, for specialties like Coeur de Boeuf and San Marzano, this can be quite a challenge. For this reason VW Maxburg, the nursery of John and Mitch Vermeiren, has been equipped with a high pressure mist installation by MJ-Tech. This will allow them to take the sharp edges off of the heat during the summer, and they will have an extra tool to control the temperature and humidity in the greenhouse.
The Tomeco group unites more than 80 hectares of high-tech tomato growing. The produce will go through Coöperatie Hoogstraten to customers in Belgium and various European countries. The main goal of the group is customer-focused growing. “In total we have about ten different types of tomatoes in the collective,” says John. “Indeed, we try to deliver on what the customer asks of us as a group.” This attitude means that delivering high quality produce all year round is of the utmost importance, as is a stable production.
John grows together with his son Mitch at VW Maxburg. On more than ten hectares they grow Coeur de Boeuf, San Marzano, and medium sized vine tomatoes. “We grow with SON-T lights and plant fairly early,” says Mitch. “This batch has been planted on September 15th. This means that the plants will be in the later stages when the summer starts. Last year during the hot summer, with high daily temperatures, much of the Coeur de Boeuf produce was smaller than we would have liked. This can cost you precious kilos, as well as lower the prices, and you won’t be able to meet the customer demand. On top of that, both Coeur de Boeuf and San Marzano are susceptible to stem rot, and this also plays a big role during the summer. So for this period in particular we were looking for ways to take the next step in quality.”
This is the reason they had MJ-Tech provide them with a new high pressure mist installation. The installation, connected to the climate system, will independently take care of the moisture deficit by spreading a thin mist in the greenhouse. The higher humidity will improve growing conditions and the mist will at the same time reduce the heat in the greenhouse. “In strawberry greenhouses in dry and hot climates this installation can reduce the temperature up to 10 degrees Celcius,” according to Ruud van Aperen of MJ-Tech. “With certain crops this makes it possible to ventilate less – but this also depends on the location, the type of crop, and the circumstances of the nursery. In tomato growing there are already a lot of crops in the greenhouse and on top of that the climate is obviously different for strawberries. In any case the temperature will go down, and thanks to the mist it will be easier to control humidity levels.”
This combination is exactly what is important at Tomeco. “Especially with Coeur de Boeuf you grow with relatively little crops. Because of this the plants are less resistant to more extreme circumstances. They thrive in consistent temperatures and with the installation we have the possibility to realize this. On top of this we expect to be able to lower daily temperatures during warmer periods and this will increase the quality and product security.”
The greenhouse is divided into nine compartments and so the high pressure mist installation also features nine pumps and nine outlets. In total the capacity per hour equals over 400cc/m2 – 409 to be exact.
The system was produced only a few kilometers away from the nursery: MJ-Tech is located in the Dutch city of Etten-Leur and produces the system in its entirety at their own facility. “This is related to the quality we want to deliver,” says Ruud. “This is what it’s all about with an installation like this, you want an equal distribution of the mist and you need gossamer droplets, of only a few micron, for this, so that the effect is the same everywhere, and remains the same for longer periods of time. The quality is, among other things, dependent on the nozzles through which the water is squeezed, and also on the high pressure pumps. Conceding on those factors is not an option, so we keep the entirety of the production in our own hands.”
Captured rainwater is used to mist the greenhouse. “We have three basins to capture rainwater,” shows John. “All three are covered with a floating cover in order to counter the formation of algae. One of the basins we keep completely separate for the misting installation.” For the misting the water is treated with a cloth filter, also made by MJ-Tech. “We have looked at the various options for water treatment,” Mitch says. “For groundwater and reversed osmosis the costs would be increased. Now we are researching whether condensation water from the heat power coupling can be added to the water for the misting installation. The first few analyses seem promising.”
The greenhouse, which is 6.8 meters high and outfitted with diffuse glass with AR coating, was built in 2016, which means that it is currently in its third season. “Up to now interplanting was used, but this October we are going completely empty. This also has to do with the focus on the customer: interplanting brings extra costs with it and can lead to peaks in production.” On top of this the nursery will be empty at the same time as the neighboring 13.6 hectare company that was recently acquired by the company. “Especially in humidity we notice the difference between the greenhouses with and without the mist,” said John. “But for the time being we only had to deal with individual warm days this year, and not with longer periods of uninterrupted heat. It will be a year of learning for us, but we expect to increase the product quality in the coming years, especially in the summer – and in the end that is what counts.”