From a distance, the greenhouse looks quite otherworldly. Among sparsely distributed agricultural buildings, the few-meter-high glass walls make a great impression. This is one of the most modern tomato farms in the Lublin Voivodeship. The two-hectare greenhouse, which the Wicińscy family set up four years ago in Kawka, is fully computerised, while tempered glass protects the crop against hail.
“My parents have started the production of tomatoes. In 1986, my father built the first tunnel in Sieprawice. It was a wooden construction covered with foil,” says Paweł Wiciński.
The Wicińscy built the first greenhouse in Jastków in 2000, which was expanded within the next few years. The greenhouses were heated by a gas boiler room, which was a novelty in those times, and Wiciński’s parents also introduced computers to the farm. All this to increase production efficiency and automate work.
In 2014, a new two-hectare greenhouse was established in Kawka. It was equipped with a boiler room with modern dust removal filters. The object is covered with hail-resistant tempered glass. Green energy curtains have been installed in the greenhouse to protect plants against cold air falling down in the winter, and thus reduce the cost of energy spent on heating. In the summer, the curtains are used to protect the crop from excessive sun. The greenhouse is six meters high, which guarantees very good yields.
“In the old greenhouse in Jastków, the maximum yield is 50 kg per square meter, in the new greenhouse in Kawka - 63 kg,” Wiciński emphasises. “This is one of the best, record results in Poland.”
The Wicińscy mainly grow red tomatoes and as one of the few in the country - plum tomatoes. The plants don’t grow in the ground. All production hangs in the air and the plants are placed in cultivation gutters. Cultivation is based on hydroponics, or soilless cultivation.
“Tomatoes grow in mineral wool,” explains Wiciński. “This type of production allows the excess of the nutrient solution to flow outwards, and the root of the plant gets more air.”
The greenhouse is equipped with computers that can be remotely controlled, for example using a smartphone. They control the climate in the greenhouse, heating and airing, as well as CO2 dosing.
Drip irrigation is used in the greenhouse in Kawka. “The amount of water the plants get depends on from the saturation of the sun on the day and the weight of the plant,” says Wiciński. In addition, each plant gets the same amount of minerals.
The stems of the tomatoes grown in the greenhouse reach up to 12 meters. As they grow, they are lowered from the top and tied at the bottom and moved along, which facilitates harvesting.
The Wicińscy employ biological protection in their greenhouses. “It means that we are trying to fight plant diseases and pests using biological means,” explains Wiciński. “For example, we introduce useful insects that eat pests into the greenhouse.”
Among the predatory insects is Macrolophus, used to eliminate the greenhouse whitefly. The insect searches for the whitefly in all its development stages. It is also used to fight other pests.
“We import the insects that help us fight pests from the Netherlands,” adds Wiciński.
They are not the only arthropods allowed into the greenhouse.
“For example, pollination takes place through bumblebees, which are also imported from the Netherlands,” says Wiciński. “We add bumblebee hives depending on the amount of flowers on the tomatoes.”
This year, additional LED lighting was mounted on a part of the greenhouse in Kawka. - “This is to speed up production and optimise costs for electricity,” explains Wiciński. “This project was carried out jointly with the University of Life Sciences in Lublin. In our greenhouse, LED lighting is mounted on an area of 20 ares.”
The LEDs are only used in winter. “The point is to extend the vegetative period of the plants,” says Wiciński.
In the coming years, the Wicińscy want to extend the lighting to additional surfaces.
“We want to continue testing this type of lighting and modernise this method,” says Wiciński.